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Brad Laabs column: There's still quality lake ice for fishing

We still have quality ice conditions on our area lakes. The last week of cold weather has kept ice conditions stable, and even developed a new inch or two of solid, clear ice. Ice thickness on most lakes still ranges from 16 to 22 inches.

With minimal snow cover, the ice is slippery, so if you get out on the ice, move slowly, and wearing ice cleats helps. This ice thickness in the early season is thick enough for vehicle travel, but this time of year, especially with the January and February thaws and rain, conditions are inconsistent from lake to lake, and even on the same lake. The prudent thing to do this time of the ice season is to travel by wheeler (or foot).

After next week, I would recommend foot travel only, as we have just turned the corner on our weather and will have thaw days and powerful sun for at least the next 10 days.

You notice that not many anglers are venturing out, even though we still have a couple weeks of the ice season left. For those that are getting out, I have had reports from several anglers, that they have been getting some of the nicest quality and quantity of sunfish so far this ice season.

Crappies and perch have been in the mix as well. Most panfish are getting caught on the outside (deep edge) of the weed lines in 10 to 20 feet of water.

Small jigs tipped with plastic, wax worms, or euro larva have been producing. Some good reports of tullibees coming from Long Lake (in Vergas) and Ottertail coming over deep soft bottom areas off sharp breaks to deep water. Flashy spoons tipped with minnow heads seems to be the ticket for icing tullies. I have not been on these bites, but they are from trustworthy sources.

I was last on the ice two weeks ago at Lake of the Woods, and that walleye and sauger bite was very good. Reports are that it has remained consistent. I will be getting up there in a few days for one last ice outing. Then, it is time for the boat to get on the water! I can't wait!

This is also the start of the big northern hunt at Lake of the Woods. The next three weeks will be prime time for walleye, sauger, and big northern pike. This is also prime ice time for Lake Winnipeg and a chance at catching big "greenback" walleyes. I should have a report next week as my son Josh and a few of my friends will be on the ice there this weekend.

I haven't had a chance to get out the last two weeks due to finishing up my commitment to teach a "Walleye basics" class to some member of the Twin Cities Walleye Unlimited, visit my now 6-month-old granddaughter, and finish up a bunch of custom rod orders. It is not often that I will go two weeks without fishing. When it happens, it sure seems like something is missing in my life.

(Brad Laabs operates Brad Laabs Guide Service in Detroit Lakes)

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