Abrupt finish to the Minnesota ice fishing season
‘Only in Minnesota could everything change so fast.’
Bena, Minn. — Last weekend was busy at bait shops and lakes across the state, and 60-degree weather made for fun fishing. Unfortunately, it also marked the last chance many of those anglers had to ice fish this season.
After a week of record-setting warmth, the shorelines and access areas on the state’s lakes took a beating. In many locations, the ice will be gone by the time you read these words.
“It’s amazing how much everything can change in just a few days,” said Roger Croaker, of Nodak’s Lodge on Lake Winnibigoshish. “We went from plowing roads to closing our access within a week.”
Croaker said the combination of high temperatures and some rain on Monday really took a toll on many of Winnie’s access points. Vehicle traffic was no longer an option early in the week, and Croaker called his customers and told them to bring four-wheelers for this weekend.
Anglers should still find spots to access the lake this weekend, but with the continued expected warmth, he’s not sure how much ice fishing will exist after that.
“We’ll use wheelers this weekend, but I’m not guaranteeing anything beyond that,” he said.
Even at Lake of the Woods, where the wind and cold caused blizzard-like conditions last Thursday, most resorts have pulled the plug on their ice-fishing season.
Brian Ney, of Adrian’s Resort, said it warmed too quickly, causing a rapid melt of snow and extremely muddy conditions on Pine Island, which many resorts use to access the main lake.
As a result, Ney – like most resort owners at Lake of the Woods – scrambled to pull rental fish houses from the lake. Roads were closed and calls were made to clients to let them know they shouldn’t come up this weekend.
“It was a good winter season, but we’re not supposed to have 60 degrees up here this time of year, so it came to a quick end,” Ney said Monday. “The (main lake) ice is solid at the moment, but we’re canceling rentals because I doubt any roads will be open this weekend.”
Carl Adams, of Timberline Sport in Blackduck, said ice conditions were good as of Tuesday morning in his area, although he was concerned about the upcoming weekend.
He was hoping ATVs or foot travel would be options at least through the weekend, but it’s been so warm that he’s been telling people to check ice conditions and shorelines every day.
“Hard to believe, but we’re going day-to-day at this point,” he said. “Only in Minnesota could everything change so fast.”
In the southern half of the state, the ice-fishing season has already ended in many areas. You’ll still find lakes to get on this weekend from St. Cloud and points farther west, but you’ll likely be walking.
Bob Sonenstahl, of Wayzata Bait and Tackle noted that most shorelines on metro-area lakes have pulled away too far to get on. He believes if it gets as warm as forecasted there will be more open water than ice in this region by the weekend.
In the Waterville area, the ice that remained looked black and soft, indicating that it will soon be completely gone. There has been some open-water fishing already taking place in this area, according to Axel Streed, of Axel’s Tackle Box.
“The ice is going out quicker than I’ve ever seen it,” Streed said. “Most of our lakes down here should be ice-free by the weekend.”