Be smart and safe on early season lake ice
We are at that time of the season now that I refer to as the "tweener season." It happens in the fall/winter transition and the winter/spring transition. We are caught between the difficulty getting on open water and the not safe enough yet to wander onto the ice. This fall, the tweener season seems to me like it might last longer than usual. Most years we have from a few days to a week of the "tweener season." This year we may end up with a several weeks of this teasing and inconsistent weather.
Most years Thanksgiving weekend is start to the ice-fishing season. I don't think we will make that this year. With the low water, the shallows are freezing and locking up many of the public accesses, but the up and down temperatures and high winds seem to be keeping many of the lakes from getting a solid skim of ice that will stay and start building good ice thickness.
Many of the public accesses that are still available to get out to fish open water are a challenge because of the extremely low water conditions right now. With the low water also comes very slow to no flow in the rivers and creeks. They are freezing over early because of this low water and so are many of the ponds and small lakes, but they are not even close to being safe yet.
We have continued to have thawing days and have not stayed cold long enough to get solid freezing. For safety sake, don't think about getting out on early ice until we have truly settled into a consistent freezing weather pattern and we start making safe ice.
Safe ice conditions on foot are considered to be 4" thickness. Stay off the ice if it is 2" or less. Safe travel with an ATV, snowmobile, or pushing permanent houses onto the ice requires 5-6", 8" can support small cars and a solid 12" is required for truck travel on the ice.
Even though the current areas aren't flowing like years past, at this time they will still have ice that is more inconsistent and need to be treated with tremendous respect for their risk.
Next week we will discuss other considerations for maintaining safety as we move to the early ice and the ice-fishing season.
I can't decide if this past few weeks, heck, few years of weird weather patterns is a consequence of global warming, transition cycles of weather and earth changes, the normal reality of the unpredictability of weather, or poor and/or selective memory on my part. It sure does seem to be different. Earlier thaws, later freezes, extremes in winter patterns from year to year, long periods of hot summertime weather, heavy rains followed by weeks of drought, extreme wind for days, fronts on top of fronts, and more inconsistency.
Am I just paying more attention to the weather? I don't think so. Like you, as an angler, we are always paying attention to the weather. We participate in one of the most weather dependent sports and hobbies that exist. I guess it really doesn't matter. Whatever is real about our weather, one truth is certain, we need to adjust and adapt to whatever the conditions with gear and preparedness so we can continue to enjoy our passion. Make good decisions and stay safe.
(Laabs runs Brad Laabs Guide Service in Detroit Lakes.)