MN: Ice abounds, albeit some not in fishable condition
Wayzata, Minn. – You can go anywhere in the state and find walkable, fishable ice. But it doesn't seem to matter what direction you head, you'll also find a few lakes with some problematic ice conditions.
The ice that's been in place for more than two weeks is getting thicker each day. But rain and warm temperatures last week re-opened some areas and caused pressure ridges or cracks to form on select lakes.
The good news is that people are fishing and, in some northern regions, small vehicles are being used. The bad news is that in certain areas, people are limited to the spots they can fish due to varied ice depths and conditions.
Bob Sonenstahl of Wayzata Bait and Tackle says most of Lake Minnetonka skimmed one week ago. Some areas of the lake had up to five inches of ice early this week, so he suggests anglers continue to exercise caution as they travel on metro lakes.
"We're not losing the ice we've made and we need a couple more nights before everything becomes accessible," Sonenstahl said. "After that rain last week we had spots open again, but they've healed so people are just kind of fishing the spots that are safe to walk on."
There were several reports of people falling through the lakes south of St. Cloud this week. One case involved an ATV pulling a wheelhouse on Lake Waconia that went though, although it was close to shore and in an area noted for poor ice even later into the season.
But Jim Mase of Mase's In-Towne Marine on the shores of Waconia said that anglers willing to walk out have had no problems on the ice. As of Tuesday morning, the lake was covered with pretty consistent ice depths of seven inches.
"We're happy how the ice is holding up given the rain and warm weather we've had, but we're telling people to pay attention to those areas that always cause problems," Mase said. "If they go about their business intelligently and use some common sense they'll be fine and shouldn't encounter any problems with the ice."
Towards Faribault, all the lakes are covered with ice, but the depth of it really varies. On Tuesday, Andy Nagel of Nagel's Bait said he's found no more than five inches of ice on area lakes, but people were starting to walk out and fish.
The lack of thicker ice has kept many anglers off the lake and he's hoping for improved ice conditions and more angler traffic this weekend.
"It's been a slow start down here and there isn't a lot of guys going out at this point," Nagel said. "But we're getting ice now, we can walk out, so I expect people to hit it hard this weekend."
Even up north, where most small lakes now have enough ice for ATV use, many of the big, deep lakes continue to show signs of spotty ice conditions. The warm weather has caused cracks and heaves to form on some of the state's more noted lakes, so getting around on them remain a dicey situation.
Strong winds last week blew the northwest end of Mille Lacs open again. It's since firmed up and some fishing close to shore is likely by the weekend, but caution is still advised throughout the entire lake as ice depths vary greatly.
The best fishing options early this week were in the bays, according to Steve Johnson of Johnson's Portside on the east side of Mille Lacs. He noted that most bays now average 10 to 12 inches of ice, but he, too, urges people to use common sense this weekend.
"For most people the ice isn't forming fast enough on the lake, but there are spots that people are getting to," Johnson said. "You'll still have to watch yourself on the main lake, but we'll have people fishing on it this weekend."
Reports from lakes Winnibigoshish, Kabetogama, and Leech all indicate a solid layer of ice this week. While there is some fishing taking place, there are cracks and varying ice depths to deal with on all three lakes.
Cory Brock of Reed's Sporting Goods in Walker pointed out that Leech Lake, for example, has as much as 10 inches of ice in some spots. But other areas of the lakes only have a thin layer and there are cracks and ridges to deal with.
"The small lakes in this area are good, they'll probably be driving on those this weekend," he said. "But you really have to watch Leech at this point because there's plenty of trouble spots in the bigger bays and around some of the points."