Cold ushers in ice fishing
Blackduck, Minn. — It’s been a few years since outdoor enthusiasts have been able to transition from deer hunting right into the ice-fishing season. But that appears to be the case this year, as anglers are finding ice thick enough to walk on in many areas of the state.
With a short reprieve from the wind, and temperatures dipping below zero last weekend, conditions were ideal for making ice. Despite some gusty winds again this week, the ice that formed remained intact, and in most cases seemed to thicken, kicking off an earlier-than-usual start to the ice fishing season.
On Tuesday morning, Carl Adams, of Timberline Sports and Tackle in Blackduck, said people were just starting to walk on area lakes. While the wind did cause a few cracks to develop, it’s been cold enough for those to heal relatively quickly.
According to Adams, the guys hitting the lakes were finding five to eight inches of ice pretty consistently. There haven’t been a lot of people fishing, but he expects that to change this weekend.
“The people walking out are saying five inches-plus on most lakes and we’re making ice in a hurry,” Adams said. “Even with the wind early this week, we’ve been making ice every day, so I expect a busy weekend.”
Brian LaBore, of Lakeroad Lodge on Lake of the Woods, has fishermen set to arrive with portables on Dec. 6, and that looks likely to happen this season.
Early this week, Four Mile Bay was covered with five inches of ice, Zippel Bay had five to seven inches, and there was about five inches on the main lake side of Pine Island. Most encouraging, the wind didn’t seem to have much effect on ice conditions.
“With the exception of the wind we’ve had perfect weather for making ice – it was seven below here last Saturday morning,” LaBore said. “It looks like we’re going to get an early start. There’s already been some people in the (Four Mile) bay fishing.”
Foot traffic has started on Upper Red Lake, with five to eight inches covering most of it. With a few more nights of cold weather and limited winds, it’s likely ATV travel will be an option soon.
The wind-protected bays on Lake Mille Lacs and Leech Lake are ice-covered, as were most small lakes in these locations. Open water was evident early this week on the main portions of the aforementioned fisheries.
Craig Brown, of McArdles Resort on Lake Winnie, said the entire lake was ice-covered early this week. He found a “solid” four inches of ice about a quarter mile out on the west side Tuesday morning.
But the wind has caused some cracks to develop out from shore, and he thought they’d heal after a couple more nights of cold weather. There hasn’t been anyone fishing the lake, but that could happen soon.
“I wouldn’t be afraid to set up a spear house – at least on the west side,” Brown said. “You just have to be careful and watch those cracks. We’re close up here.”
Generally speaking, anglers should find ice thick enough to walk on from central Minnesota and points north by this weekend. Three to five inches of ice was pretty uniform on the smaller lakes in the northern half of the state early this week.
Kevin Lempola, of Delaney’s Bait Shop in Park Rapids, said anglers started heading out last weekend. He’s heard reports of as much as seven inches of ice on some lakes, but suggests people stick to walking out through this weekend.
“They’re walking out, but we have a lot of people fishing and I expect ice conditions to continue improving,” he said. “It’s been a busy week and I anticipate a busier weekend. It’s nice to go from deer hunting right into ice fishing for a change.”
For a complete look at where ice has taken hold and where people have started to fish, check out the statewide fishing report on Page 37 of this issue.