Thursday, February 2nd, 2023
Thursday, February 2nd, 2023

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Sportsmen Since 1967

Recent snowfalls haven’t helped ice-making

Sauk Centre, Minn. — Bait shop owners, resorters, fishing guides, and others who cater to ice anglers were responding this week to the major snowstorm that recently swept across much of the state, dumping piles of wet snow in the process.

Despite a considerable amount of snow, depending on the location, things were actually looking up – although another potential problematic snowstorm approached this week.

Denny Fletcher, of Fletcher’s Bait in Sauk Centre in central Minnesota, said despite a considerable amount of snow falling in his area, there was about 8 to 10 inches of ice in some locations on lakes.

“We had a foot of snow,” Fletcher said. “What happens when you get that
much snow early in the year depends on the temperature outside and the
thickness of the ice. That was enough to push (the ice) down.

We had 4 inches of slush underneath the snow. But because that snow was so wet, that foot turned into slush with 2 inches of snow on top. The best
thing that could have happened after the storm actually happened.”

What happened: cold weather firmed that slush into ice.

Fletcher’s attention was now on another storm bearing down.

“They are talking about some places getting 10 or 11 inches of snow,” he said.

Fletcher said he was thankful all of that snow turned into slush and that it is now hardened.

“When you get too much snow, it prevents you from making more good ice,” he said. “That snow is such a great insulator.”

Things were more dire in the Grand Rapids area, according to fishing guide Tom Neustrom.

He said 20 inches of snow fell last week.

“There is water all over the ice, almost everywhere,” he said. “People can’t
get to their houses. It is going to be 12 to 24 below for the next
several nights. That
is going to lock any houses (still on the ice) in. They are going to
have a hell of a time freeing them up.”

Bryce Busching, a sales associate at Thousand Lakes Sports in Grand Rapids, said most of the smaller lakes in that area had 9 to 13 inches of ice
before the heavy snow, and the bigger lakes had only about 4 inches of
ice.

“On a lot of those lakes, ice is spotty,” he said. “The recent snow hasn’t helped us out. It insulates and causes slushy conditions, but some of that slush is starting to freeze up.”

Busching said it could set some area lakes back for the entire icefishing season.

In the Duluth area, Ian Smith, of Marine General, said there was less snow closer to Lake Superior.

“As you get away from the lake, we got upwards of 2-plus feet. Fish and
Island lakes have a foot of snow, and a foot of slush underneath,” he
said. “We’ve been telling people not to shovel the snow when they set up
to fish. Just pack it down or you’ll have a bowl of slush soup fill
in,” he said.

In the Brainerd area, Sherree Wicktor, of S&W Bait, said most of the rental
house proprietors who’d put out houses pulled them before the storm.

“We have had some issues; we got a foot of snow,” Wicktor said. “But mostly we’re waiting for this cold to pack it down and freeze it up good.”

Those who rent houses, she said, are planning to put them back out on the day after Christmas.

“At least we had good ice before (the snow) got here,” she said.

Farther to the north, Will Pappenfus, of Northwoods Bait in Bemidji, said a
foot of snow fell last week, but wind blew much of that down to about 7
inches on lakes.

“There is up to 4 inches of slush out there, but it’s starting to crust up,”
Pappenfus said. “Things could be worse. We are getting close to vehicle
access.”

It was a similar situation for Rex Campbell at Nancy’s Bait in Grey Eagle.

“The lakes were all real slushy, but I had a guy come in this morning saying
it was mostly froze through,” he said. “If it can freeze up before this
next batch of snow, it won’t be too bad. Otherwise, last year was bad.
Two winters in a row would be hard to swallow.”

The state’s top two ice-fishing destinations also were doing OK.

At Upper Red Lake, Wes Smith, of Mort’s on Upper Red, said there was 16
inches of ice at their road, and the timing of the snow was good.

“We still had all of our big houses on shore here,” he said. “When (the
snowfall) subsided, we cleared our road and put our houses out.”

Roger’s on Red owner Tony Ward said things were finally looking up after a rough start.

A crack had opened in front of their access earlier this season.

“The wind pushed the ice and we had a 12-foot wall at our access,” she said.
“We had to clear that with a backhoe. … We’re just starting to let
people out because of the weather in the last few days. It was a rough
start, but it can only go up from here.”

Joe Henry, of Lake of the Woods Tourism, said the storms have mostly dodged the big border lake.

“We are in pretty good shape,” he said, adding that resorts there expecting
increased angling pressure, especially if the access issues to the
south aren’t resolved naturally.

“With the rest of the state getting all of that snow on top of relatively
thin ice, that causes problems,” he said. “We end up with more traffic
up here.”

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