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Brad Laabs column: This thaw won't last, better block up your fish houses

By the time you are reading this, we will already be a couple of days into another unseasonably warm weather situation.

This February thaw will eliminate a significant amount of our snow cover. When we lose our snow, we also trend toward warming weather. The snow reflects the sun's warming rays, and the darker ground absorbs more of the sun's warming power.

It is only February, and it is not unusual to have some February thaw days, but this stretch lasting a week or so following the January thaw, may move us toward an early ice out. Ice thickness is still hovering around the mid- to low-20-inch range on most lakes, already less than most years, and we will lose some ice with the warm weather and melting power of the sun.

The extra daylight hours can make a difference, especially in warm, sunny conditions. Lakes will be sloppy for the next week. We will have some rough ice again when we freeze back up, due to the slushing and ruts from on-ice travel. Conditions will also be very slippery with the loss of snow cover.

Make sure you block up your permanent houses during this wet period. We will re-freeze, and it is no fun breaking houses free from the grip of being frozen down. Fishing out of portables can be wet and messy. Spreading out can help reduce the amount of flooding. There will be some high spots on the ice from the frozen drifts, so getting on top of them close to where you are fishing can give you a little drier retreat.

A couple nice things about this warm up will be the ability to "bucket fish" with mobility and easy moves, and the tendency for the panfish and northern pike to be more active during the daylight hours.

Last week I discussed the potential for the state to assess the possibility for change to the harvest limits for both walleyes and crappies. This week, the discussions have already been held on changes for northern pike. Sounds like changes with northern will occur by the start of the 2017 open water season.

From what I understand, there will be three new regulations based on breaking the state into three regions. The reasoning is based on growth rates and fishing pressure. The goal is to reduce the number of "hammer handle" size northern pike and increase the size, and create some trophy northern fishing in each region. Look for the new northern regulations to be released in the next couple weeks. As soon as I become aware, I will pass the information along.

Another FYI, the legislature is considering authorizing a week of fishing requiring no licenses for the week of January 29 to February 4 (the week before the Super Bowl). If you remember, US Bank Stadium in the Twin Cities will be hosting the super bowl in 2017.

My first reaction is "really? C'mon man!"

I understand the desire to expose all the expected visitors and press to some Minnesota ice fishing, but our "out of state" 1-,3-, or 7-day licenses are very reasonably priced. People coming for a week of the Super Bowl can probably afford to buy a license, and many of the businesses-sponsors-press can pay for their people for the experience. This is a chance to let the state benefit from our natural resources. Just my opinion.

(Laabs owns Brad Laabs Guide Service in Detroit Lakes)

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