Anglers, shops continue ice watch
Grand Rapids, Minn. — Although whitecaps were rolling across lakes statewide on Tuesday, the extended forecast indicated Minnesota might finally receive some anticipated ice-making weather.
Reports earlier this week indicated that the first single-digit temperatures of the season would be arriving and staying, which was great news for anglers and bait shop owners alike, both of whom have been forced to wait for “walkable” ice to develop.
Ben Kellin, owner of Ben’s Bait and Tackle in Grand Rapids, has kept a close eye on recent weather forecasts. While he says the 15-day outlook is favorable from a temperature standpoint, he remains concerned about the wind that’s also predicted.
“It’s going to get cold, but the last report I checked also has wind, 8, 10, 12 miles per hour at night, and that could be an issue,” he said. “I’m crossing my fingers and hoping we can get on some of our small lakes by the weekend or early next week, but I think it’s all going to depend on the wind.”
Farther north, where some ice had formed in mid-November but washed away with heavy rains at the end of the month, oncoming Arctic air is expected to put a quick cap on area lakes.
Carl Adams, of Timberline Sport and Tackle in Blackduck, believes it won’t take more than a night or two of single-digit temperatures and calm winds to cap most lakes. He pointed out that a few anglers had already fished through “marginal” ice on a couple of small lakes last month – ice that developed even though it really wasn’t much below freezing.
“These lakes are going to freeze fast over the next week to 10 days if the wind doesn’t blow,” Adams said. “I expect to see people on our tiny lakes within the next week, and then we have to hope that it doesn’t snow.”
The phone has been ringing regularly at Mort’s Dock on the south shore of Upper Red Lake. Owner Todd Mortenson said people are eager to hit the ice, and he’s shooting for next weekend as a target to get anglers on the lake if current weather reports hold true.
With the exception of some limited shoreline ice, which also was getting chewed away with Tuesday’s strong winds, Upper Red Lake remained wide open. But Mortenson also is confident ice will form quickly once the wind lies down.
“We know the ice is coming and it will come fast with the cold air we’re supposed to get,” he said. “If the wind doesn’t cause issues, we hope to get people on the lake in some fashion next weekend.”
Reports are pretty similar in other parts of the state. Generally, ice was limited early this week, but expectations are high that it won’t take long for fishable ice to take hold. Here’s a look at a handful of other lakes from Tuesday.
• Lake of the Woods: In his weekly report, Joe Henry, Lake of the Woods tourism director, indicated that back bays were capped with up to 2 inches of ice in some areas, but the south shore remained ice-free. Ice had formed along large stretches of the lake between the islands and bays at the Northwest Angle.
• Lake Winnibigoshish: Craig Brown, of McArdle’s Resort, said the river mouth on the west side of Winnie was ice-covered a couple of weeks ago, but has since re-opened, and there currently was no ice to be found.
• Lake Vermilion: Ice has taken hold in some small, shallow bays, but the main lake was open, according to Jay Schelde, of Pike Bay Lodge. He also expects ice to form on the main lake by the weekend or early next week.
• Cass Lake: The entire Cass chain was wide open, although Al Ruzek, of Sunset Cove Resort, expects ice to take hold quickly and that he’ll see some people fishing selected areas by next week.
• Mille Lacs Lake: Some shoreline areas were frozen, but had re-opened. Steve Johnson, of Johnson’s Portside, said water temperatures were about 33 degrees and that he expects the bays to cap first, with the main lake not far behind if the wind holds off.
Minnesota conservation officers also made mention of lakes and ice – or lack there-of – in reports this week. Most of the mentions came from northern Minnesota.
Among them, CO Troy Richards, of the Fergus Falls area, said the lack of ice had local anglers “anxious.” But cold air was expected.
CO Mark Mathy, of Cass Lake, said he expected the incoming cold to produce ice on area lakes in the near future.
And in the Brainerd area, CO Randy Posner said he checked a few ice anglers earlier in the week. Posner, however, didn’t check them until they’d come off the ice. “They reported a slow northern (pike) bite,” he wrote in his weekly report.