Brad Laabs: Snow makes for sketchy ice conditions
A few days before Thanksgiving, the long range forecast (ten days out) only had a 10 percent chance of precipitation predicted. Four days after that long range forecast we got the latest blast of two snowfalls. So much for trying to figure the weather out for more than a day at a time! At least the four days before the snow helped get a great ice base down for ice anglers. We have had a great start to building good ice on area lakes, and all the reports seem to support a good start on the early ice bite for all species of fish. A few more days before the first snow was almost too much to ask for this time of year.
I am writing this on Wednesday, so as of now we have 5-9 inches of ice on most area lakes. Snow cover like we have received will create some slushing on the lakes with less ice thickness. If the below zero temperatures have come like predicted for Thursday through Sunday, than the slushing problem should be resolved. The slush will freeze and the cold weather will help us keep building ice. Snow does act as an insulator, so it will take some colder temperatures to build ice like we were before the snow came.
Right now we have a lot of inconsistencies in ice development from lake to lake, and even variations on ice thicknesses in different areas on the same lake. Make sure you check with local bait shops for updates on current ice conditions. Check ice as you venture out with ice chisels or drilling some test holes. If you have water coming up through your holes, the ice is sagging and can get weak in that area, especially if you have less than six inches of ice in the area. Water always seeks its own level. The flooded area will re-freeze and you can hit that spot another day.
Some anglers have already moved permanent houses onto the lake. Make sure you get out to check your house after we get any significant snow accumulations. When we get additional snow cover, it can create slushing and flooding problems. If you are having any flooding problems, make sure you block your house up a bit higher or move to a location you are not experiencing a slushing or flooding problems. Move your house back to your spot when everything freezes back up nicely.
For some reason, people like to crowd each other on some ice locations. When we have 5-8 inches of ice with six inches of snow and a crowd, you will get flooding and slushing. Once we start getting over a foot of ice the problem isn’t as significant. Don’t crowd your neighbor just yet! Try and find your own spot and try not to depend on other ice anglers to find your spot for you, and then crowd them. How do feel about it when someone crowds you and your spot?
We are still at least a week away from safe truck travel on area lakes. With the snow cover, it is tempting to want to take plow trucks out to make for easier travel to your fish house or fishing location.
Last week a truck went in locally on Rock Lake and several other vehicles went into the water in other areas around the state. Wait until we have a solid 12-15 inches of ice before putting your truck on the ice. Keep travel on area lakes this week to the use of wheelers, snowmobiles or foot. It only makes sense to err on the side of caution when it comes to the ice. If you want to make some trails this week, use your snow blower, a snow blower on a lawn tractor, or a plow blade on a 4-wheeler.
Don’t worry about being in such a hurry, we have earlier ice now than we have had in the past few years, and many years we are just starting to skim over and build our first couple inches of ice. We are still in the first weeks of December and have at least eight or more weeks of the hard water season ahead of us.
(Laabs runs Brad Laabs’ Guide Service in Detroit Lakes.)