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Brad Laabs column: It's over - the ice is no longer safe for ice fishing

I am calling it: Ice fishing for this spring is over.

With this current warm stretch, the ice has deteriorated significantly the last few days and there is no ice is safe anymore in our area.

Ice has started to pull away from the shoreline on most lakes. Some years when that happens, you can "plank" out to the ice when it is still solid. Not this year. The ice is "honeycombed," thinning , inconsistent, and weak. The darkening color is a giveaway that the ice has become water saturated. It has happened quickly this last week as many lakes just a week ago still had 18 inches of good ice.

Muskrat Lake at Dunton Locks County Park opened up on Wednesday, and the DNR has put the framing out for the nets at the mouth of the river on Lake Sallie in preparation for the walleye spawning run and harvest.

The delta of the Pelican River at Lake Sallie had cut a couple hundred yards into the lake by Thursday morning. Water temperatures are still 36-38 degrees and warming. When the water temps start getting into the low 40's the fish will move in at night in preparation for their spawn.

Other small lakes, especially with current running through them, are also starting to open. Ponds in the area starting to open up, and typically, about a week after they open, the small lakes like Little Detroit will open.

A few days to a week after the small lakes open, the big lakes lose their ice. Of course, this all has to do with what happens with our weather. The warm days and above-freezing nights help free things up.

Even if our weather stays cool, but we get bright sunshine, the power of the sun this time of year significantly impacts the ice. We don't have any rain in the forecast (sometimes that doesn't mean much) but you know we will get rain, and when we do, that will take the ice quickly.

Once the ice pulls away from the shoreline, wind can demolish the ice as it churns with the open water. The more it opens, the faster it churns up the ice. Come on, wind! I am ready for this!

Rivers are open and flowing. Flowing currents on lakes are taking the ice out. Spring is really here now.

About a week after the ice is out on the lakes, the fish activity in shallow water picks up. As we move towards warming water, baitfish move shallow and fish follow the baitfish.

Crappies and sunfish will start to move to shallow weed beds in preparation for their spawn. It is looking right now like we may have some early spring open water crappie and sunfish fishing by the middle of April.

Most years, we haven't even become ice free until the third week of April, and it is the first week in May before the spring panfish bite gets rolling.

The Rainy River walleye bite is in full swing. The Mississippi River walleye and sauger bite is officially on, and the Missouri River bite in the Chamberlain, S.D., area continues to be strong for numbers of eating-sized walleyes. Things will just keep getting better for all those bites over the next couple weeks. I love this time of year!

(Laabs owns Brad Laabs Guide Service in Detroit Lakes)