Ice makes headlines offshore and onshore

Isle, Minn. — As ice-out progresses north, those with a vested interest in fishing might see this weekend something they didn’t in many places during last weekend’s fishing opener: fishermen in boats, on open water.

Several key ingredients for ice melt were lining up as Outdoor News went to press earlier this week. Heat in the 80- to 90-degree range had descended on much of Minnesota. And typical spring winds and rain were beating on the remaining lake ice, much of it on larger bodies of water like Mille Lacs, Winnibigoshish, Leech, and Vermilion.

“It’s coming along,” Agate Bay Resort’s Dean Hanson said of Mille Lacs ice on Tuesday. “There’s still quite a bit of it out there … it’s getting pushed around depending on the wind direction.

“I think it could be gone by the weekend,” Hanson said. “It’s looking a lot better than it did a few days ago.”

Still, there was enough of it for Hanson to worry winds across the big lake could push ice floes ashore, potentially damaging resort property the way it did along other lake sections a week earlier.

That encroachment of ice upon the shore meant damaged trees, homes, and other buildings along Mille Lacs’ south and southeast shores last Saturday, where that morning, lake ice began a slow march ashore.

Some of the more impressive areas of ice movement were near Brandt’s landing and Bay View Bar in the Cove area of the lake, according to Bill Lundeen, of Lundeen’s Tackle Castle. Also experiencing the power of the ice surge were townhome owners at Izatys, on the lake’s far south shore. In some locations, the ice “came in flat,” Hanson said. In other areas, it piled up to heights nearing 30 feet.

Lundeen said it came ashore at least 100 feet in some locations.

Tuesday, wind was pushing some ice ashore on the lake’s west end, according to Casey Anderson, of the Holiday in Garrison. She said a minor road north of Garrison had been closed because of lake ice crossing it.

Lundeen said the ice that moved landward last Saturday came at a “walking pace.” YouTube videos document the “Mille Lacs tsunami.”

Meanwhile, the “late spring” has been a record-setting one, according to Pete Boulay, DNR climatologist, when it comes to ice-out. Several record-late ice-outs – in many cases breaking marks set in 1950 – have occurred, and some could be ahead.

“We’re on that level of 1950,” Boulay said. Among the lakes setting ice-out records (for tardiness) this year were Lake Minnewaska (Pope County) and Green Lake (Kandiyohi County), and also Mille Lacs (Mille Lacs County, May 7, 1965).

Lake Osakis (Todd County) missed a record by a day, according to Boulay, while Lake Minnetonka (Hennepin County) missed one by a few days. Most southern Minnesota lakes were a few days shy of new late ice-out records, he said.

Boulay now has his attention on an area north of a line from approximately Duluth to Brainerd to Otter Tail County, regarding the ice that remains.

A record could be set on Winnibigoshish. Lakes such as Bemidji (May 22), Leech (May 23), and Vermilion (May 23) likely won’t see records fall this year.

Boulay said the department’s climatology office added a Facebook page this year, on which ice-out information may be posted. It’s allowed people across the state to report on ice-out on some of the smaller lakes not usually monitored.

“There are (reports on) hundreds of lakes – lots of little lakes we didn’t have before,” he said. View that website via

In the Bemidji area earlier this week, Denelle Hilliard, of Visit Bemidji, said Lake Irving was open, but Lake Bemidji remained mostly ice-covered, though the south end was opening up some.

“I’m hopeful for (ice-out by) the weekend,” Hilliard said Tuesday.

Doug Fure, of Acorn Hill Resort on Leech Lake, sounded equally optimistic earlier this week. He said small bays were open, and much of the lake could follow suit by this weekend.

Upper Red Lake doesn’t have a bay situation like Leech, but folks there were projecting open-water fishing for what might be more like the fishing opener than the actually opener in northern Minnesota, this weekend.

“The ice is gone,” Georgieann Mortenson, of Mort’s Dock and RV Campground, reported from the south shore of Upper Red on Tuesday. That’s a far cry from last Saturday, when ice covered the big lake. But Tuesday was sunny and warm, and unless the wind shifts and a big blow comes along, Mortenson said all systems should be go heading into this weekend.

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