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Brad Laabs: Good ice conditions, good holiday fishing

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It should be a very merry Christmas holiday for ice fisherman in our region. The ice conditions are in good shape and building ice is progressing well. We have a foot or more of ice on most area lakes. Vehicle traffic is getting underway and an increasing the number of anglers getting out and enjoying the sport. Many of the community fishing spots on lakes close to town have roads plowed or trails to drive out to fishing spots.

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As always, no two lakes are ever the same, and not two spots on the same lake will necessarily be the same when it comes to ice thickness and conditions. Always ask around and check conditions, especially if traveling off trail, or to new areas if you are taking a vehicle. It is perfect for snowmobile travel on the lakes with the solid base of snow in our area. Four wheelers may have difficulty with travel off trail at this time because of the snow cover.

The other aspect that will make for  Merry Christmas holiday fishing outings, is that the fish are also biting. Walleyes, northern pike, perch, crappies, and sunfish are all getting caught on area lakes. Early mornings or late afternoon and early evenings have been best for fish activity, but with the snow cover, some daytime fish are active, especially pan fish.

Like most fishing situations, the best time to get out is when you can! With many permanent fish houses getting put out in the same general area this last week, and with the increased portable fish house traffic, along with vehicles crowding in on some areas, pay attention to possible flooding . Move and spread out, the fish aren’t all in just one area. The foot of ice can support a truck no problem, but when crowding an area, the ice will sag with all the additional weight. When we start to have two feet of ice or more, then more people in the area won’t flood you or your neighbors.

With the fact that we are now able to start driving on area lakes, I will write this reminder; When driving on the ice, drive slow! Speed on the ice should not be over 15 mph and 10 mph is even better. The ice flexes with the weight of the vehicle and you push a wave under the ice as you travel. Speed increases the size of that wake, and only bad things can happen as a result. You are heading out or returning from fishing, there is no need to be in a rush! More rigs went in around the state this last week. Don’t be the next one to be a statistic. Pay attention to what you feel and experience on the ice and observe in your ice holes when others travel past you on the ice, even when they are going slow. Drive on the ice with respect for the ice, yourself, and others that are out there.

The reason for the reminder, is that two times this last week I experienced several drivers on the ice driving way too fast. I have to admit, that in my prejudice, I expected the drivers to be young and not know better. I was wrong, they were older guys like myself that should know better. The need to slow down on the ice obviously needs to get out to everyone.

One other reminder…pick up your trash and take it with you, and then dispose of it properly when you leave the lake. I already picked up a public access after one of you that thought it was an appropriate area to clean the garbage out of your truck.  I remember writing this reminder last spring as everyone was removing houses from the lakes. A few people leave a mess that reflects on us all. I know I don’t like cleaning up after others and I am sure that others that have had to clean up after fellow anglers leave the ice don’t appreciate it.

With the increase in the number of anglers ice fishing now, we will of course end up with a few selfish, self-centered, insensitive, disrespectful, and immature people that haven’t learned yet how to be a good sportsman or person. Make sure you’re not “that guy!” That felt good to get off my chest!  Happy Holidays!

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

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