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Brad Laabs: Ice is forming on area lakes; be cautious anglers

Winter has arrived and so has the hard water season. The ice fishing has started, and this year it is it is before Thanksgiving. With the late “ice-out” and the early “ice over” this year, we had our open water season shortened by a good month. Even though it was shorter, I think most anglers would agree that this was an above average year for fishing success for all species of fish for the 2013 open water season. Even with all the weird weather, fishing was above average during the open water season, and at times, awesome. Many lakes in our area produced consistently all summer long.

Now attention turns to ice angling. Last week I stressed the importance of ice safety. I will stress it again this week as anglers will get excited to start getting after fish through the ice. It gets tempting to want to push using modern equipment and conveniences instead of having to walk out and keeping the approach light and minimalist.

Wait for a solid 3-4 inches to walk on ice. You will need 5-6 inches of ice for ATV or snowmobile travel. This is also a thickness that is required to safely put out permanent fish houses. Take into consideration the size and weight of your fish house. With the boom in ice fishing, many companies have started manufacturing fish houses and dual purpose trailers for camping and/or ice fishing. The 8 x 16 ft. houses with hydraulics that are fully loaded with modern features will require more ice thickness than the typical 7 x10 “old school” ice shack. It is only common sense! For these larger houses, and for small car or light truck travel, 8-12 inches of ice is required. For regular truck travel, 13-15 inches is recommended by the Minnesota DNR.

Don’t worry, it won’t take too long for us to build up our ice thickness. Please remember also that ice thickness recommendations are based on good clear ice. White ice requires twice the thickness, as it is half as strong as the clear ice. What we hope for now is a couple of weeks of cold weather before we start getting any snow accumulation. Snow on top of thin ice makes for poor ice development. With temperatures getting into the low teens or single digits overnight and staying in the high teens or 20’s during the day, we will make a half inch of ice or better per day. If we get some below zero temperatures over night we can make an inch of ice per day. The ten day forecast for the Detroit Lakes area looks like below freezing temperatures with no snow. We could be setting up for an excellent development for the ice fishing season!

For those that are interested in all the latest ice fishing gear and equipment, the “21st Annual St. Paul Ice Fishing and Winter Sports Show” will be held Friday, Saturday, and Sunday Dec. 6-8 at the St. Paul River Center. This is the biggest event of its kind. This year will have 190 exhibitors. I will be attending Saturday Dec. 7 (the 70th anniversary of Pearl Harbor) and am looking forward to seeing all the displays under one roof. I will prevent my own personal Pearl Harbor by leaving my credit card at home! For those that can’t make it to the biggest ice show on the planet, keep in mind our local fishing suppliers have already attended the buying shows and offer everything locally you need for ice fishing, including all the latest and greatest products. Also keep in mind that some new products are for catching fish, and some new products are for catching fisherman.

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