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Anglers, icehouses on lakes mean ice fishing season

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We have 4-8 inches of ice on most of the smaller lakes in our area. The ice is good clear ice as we have had a good week of making ice. It helps that we have not had any snow accumulation, and we have had several cloudy days during the daytime.

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There are some larger and/or deeper lakes in our area that still have open water. These bodies of water will need to skim over all the way and have a good week of cold weather to make the ice safe for foot or ATV travel. Another week of cold without snow could really help. It will take them a few days after this warm weekend to get fully skimmed over. The good week of ice making starts after that. Those lakes should have a good ice bite well into January when some of the early lakes may start to slow. Be patient and safe when it comes to the ice.

You will start to see more portable fishhouses out this week on the smaller lakes, as the first ice reports for our area have been very good. The early ice bite has been successful for both quality and numbers. A number of trophy size walleyes were caught from several different lakes this last week. I was also glad to hear that most were released back to the lake.

We will also see local anglers getting smaller permanent fishhouses on the lakes with ATV's this week as well. Hand augers will be replaced by power augers this week. It has been a slow start to get ice for our area as we keep getting these goofy and inconsistent weather systems. Getting cold, then warm with sunshine, then cold, then warm again has hurt the development of this transition to the hardwater season. It has kept the ice traffic until now limited to foot traffic. We have better ice conditions at this time than most of the other areas of the state.

As of Wednesday, the ice reports from Lake of the Woods indicated there were about 9 inches of ice on four-mile bay and six inches out to Pine Island. They had also received some snow. They don't start moving houses and equipment onto the big lake until they have about a foot or more of good clear ice. They will be marking trails through the weekend. If you are planning an early season ice trip to LOW, Red Lake, Winnibigoshish, Devils Lake, or any of the classic ice fishing destinations, you will want to check reports as everyone is running a little behind with ice development up to this point.

For the next week it will still be wise to travel light. Dress in layers, as you will warm up when walking and getting your site ready and you will cool down as you settle in to fish. You do not want to break a hard sweat under multiple layers. You will get cold in a hurry. You will also notice that 15 degrees is colder in early December than it is in January, and way more cold than it is in March! Check with your local baitshop when you pick up bait and tackle to get the most updated  ice report for the lake you will be fishing.

(Laabs runs Brad Laabs Guide Service in Detroit Lakes.)

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