Ice fishing highlights Winter Trails Day at Fort Snelling State Park
ST. PAUL, Minn. — With only a few ice anglers on the lake Sunday afternoon, it was safe to say that the Snelling Lake fish population was not bothered on this day. And the resident flock of wild turkeys fed outside the Thomas C. Savage Visitor Center like they didn’t have a worry in the world — they didn’t.
That won’t change anytime soon. But the fish? Well, come Saturday, Jan. 21, they might not be so lucky.
At the very least, Snelling’s fish population will face more fishing pressure than usual for a few hours Saturday — ice fishing headlines an array of wintertime activities as Fort Snelling State Park celebrates Winter Trails Day with its annual extravaganza, scheduled from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the historic park.
According to Kelli Bruns, park manager at Fort Snelling, ice fishing opportunities and demonstrations are scheduled on Snelling Lake, right off the main beach area in the heart of the park. Bruns went on to say that ice fishing will be hosted by volunteer organizations that will cut holes and provide all the equipment necessary to teach visitors how to fish and, in turn, to allow those visitors to fish through the ice — it’s 13 to 15 inches thick, she said.
According to the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources, the 100-acre lake offers a variety of fish species, including largemouth bass, perch, northern pike, crappies and a variety of panfish. And with a maximum depth of only 9.5 feet, finding fish isn’t usually difficult in the quaint lake.
And no need to bring eats or refreshments as food trucks have been added to the extravaganza mix, according to a recent DNR release.
That mix also includes winter survival essentials such as ice harvesting and quinzee (snow shelter) building. Snowhoeing, cross-country skiing and fat-tire biking also are on tap — the park has an extensive trail system that as of Tuesday was in good winter shape, although portions aren’t open to some activities — along with outdoor ping pong and even a snowball fight.
“Our goal is to show people just how much fun winter can be,” said Kelli Bruns, park manager at Fort Snelling State Park. “We’ll have equipment you can use for free, friendly staff on hand to answer questions and a bonfire where you can warm up with hot cocoa.”
All Winter Trails Day activities are free, but a vehicle permit is required to enter Minnesota state parks and recreation areas ($5 for a one-day permit, $25 for a year-round permit). Permits are available at the park or may be purchased in advance by going to www.mndnr.gov/reservations, logging in (or creating an account), clicking on “entry permit,” selecting “one-day” or “year-round” and continuing as directed. Purchasers will receive an email with a permit that can be printed and displayed in vehicles during visits.
“The event is being held at the main beach and picnic area — the park will post signs directing visitors to the event — and a valid park admission sticker is required and you will register upon arrival at the picnic area,” Bruns said in an email to Outdoor News. “Upon registration, you will sign a participation waiver and receive a map of the area highlighting where each event is occurring.”
For more information, call the park at 612-725-2724 or visit the Fort Snelling State Park website at www.mndnr.gov/fortsnelling.
Winter Trails Day is made possible through the collaborative efforts of the DNR, the Mississippi Park Connection, the National Park Service, retail co-op REI, the U.S. Forest Service and Wilderness Inquiry.