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Brad Laabs: When do you think area lakes will be ice free?

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The question of the week this last week has been, “When do you think we will be ice free?” I am sure this has been prompted by this seemingly endless winter, and the fact the calendar says we are in March. Last week we had the official “first day of spring”. This week we have the time change. We have finished the state wrestling and hockey tournaments. By now, most years, we have a sense of the coming spring. This year is reminding us way to much of last year when we set a record late ice out.

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The fact that the ice is as thick as it gets in our area, our snow cover doesn’t seem to be hinting at leaving very fast, and the rest of the country is as cold as it has ever been, gets us concerned. No worries. The lakes will be ice free — sometime this year!

I think we will be pushing a late ice out again this year, but I don’t think we will be seeing another ice fishing walleye opener, at least I hope not. I do remind you that it is still March, and things can change very quickly.

Some factors that also point to a late ice out include the fact that the famed “Cherry Blossom Festival” will not be held this year as the cherry blossoms haven’t budded yet. Lake Pepin of the Mississippi River at Lake City Minnesota has recorded the thickest ice in 30 years at 29 inches. The ice breaker typically runs the lake about now and barge traffic is up and running by the middle of March, but not this year. Several early season tournaments that are held on rivers like the Detroit River are getting prepared to cancel due to ice.

We will start getting some days that give us hope that things will change. But again, I remind you, we are in March. We will get some more cold and snow. That’s what March does, and sometimes April too! The boy’s state basketball tournament always seems to bring us a major storm. The tournament is still coming up so we have that storm to look forward to. The good news about that tradition is that this year’s tournament will be a week early.

For those that do like to float the boat early, you may need to consider a game plan change from your regular routine. I am thinking the Rainy River season that is open for walleye fishing until April 14 may be a very short season this year. When that season gets squeezed down to a few days, it gets uncomfortably busy on the river.

The Mississippi River pools 2, 3, 4 and 5 are already open, but may be challenging later when the thaw starts and the weather is better to fish open water, as high water and heavy flow is expected. The run off will be considerable this year because of the deep frost. Southern Minnesota also has significant snow pack and all the rivers that feed the Mississippi will be high this spring. The Illinois River and the Missouri rivers will come into play as some of the best options for a year like this. The southern Minnesota trout fisherman will also run into difficult fishing, as the streams will be running hard as we thaw. The southern trout stream season is open now, but trout anglers have a hard time getting to the streams because of the snow.

By the open water fishing opener of May 10, and by June for sure, we will all be forgiving Mother Nature…I hope!

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

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