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Brad Laabs column: Ice is gone, get ready to launch your boat

Ice free at last, ice free at last, thank God Almighty we are ice free at last!

Through the weekend there will only be a few lakes left in the area to become totally ice free, but 95 percent of all our lakes are able to float a boat now. It is early, but for some reason, it seems very welcome already to have lakes open, and warm weather with no snow. Obviously things could change (note Devils Lake, N.D. getting 6 inches of snow just days ago) but the long range forecast looks good for us.

Because it is time to get ready to float the boat, make sure you have fresh gas for the boat, and that lower unit oil is fresh and full. Put muffs on the motor with the garden hose and start and run the motor before heading to the access to put it in the lake. Make sure batteries are charged, trailer tires are aired to proper inflation, trailer lights are working, and bearings are good. Take a few minutes to make a list of all the things you need to put back in the boat, like life jackets, throw cushion, rods, tackle, net, and snacks!

Water is warming quickly with our nice weather and sunshine. The longer daylight hours not only help our spring spirits, but help bring the lakes to life with weed growth, and bug hatches to follow.

Crappies become a major preoccupation for anglers now. Most often, it takes about a week of warming to start bringing the crappies to shallow water spawning areas. They will also come shallow as baitfish move to the shallow warming water, and some bugs will be hatching in shallow soft bottom areas.

Finding fish always has to do with finding their food. Crappies and sunfish also become easy targets in spring when they are on predictable spawning habitat. Look to north shore areas and shallow darker bottom bays to warm first. Shallow lakes that were the first to be ice free and have mud/muck bottoms will have some of the first active bites in shallow developing weed areas. If you don't contact fish right away, keep moving and searching. When you find them, there will be some willing biters.

The DNR is all set for the walleye egg harvest at Dunton Locks at Lake Sallie. The walleyes come into the nets at night, and they will remove the fish in the mornings and strip the eggs from the females and milk the sperm from the males, mix and transfer to their facility to hatch them. Some are raised to fry or fingerling size and then restocked into many area lakes. You can watch the process in the morning. It is fun (and can be amazing) to see the quantity and size of walleyes that get handled in this process. Kids really enjoy seeing this spring activity, so if you can work it out with your schedule, it is a cool thing to do with your kids.

Even if you get out fishing and not as much catching, it is great to just get back and angle out of the boat. Docks won't be in yet, so plan for that. Lake levels are good, so launching and loading won't be a problem this spring.

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