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Brad Laabs: Lots of snow cover means later ice-out date

I must not be the only one feeling impatient for spring weather to arrive and the soon to follow open water season. This last week I have been asked several times when I think the ice will be off the lakes. That can be tricky to predict right now because the answer is so weather dependent.

I do know we are going to be closer to the average ice out dates of about the third week in April. I know that because we have a thicker ice condition on the lakes this year than we have had for some time. The quality of the ice is also very good, which makes getting rid of it a bigger challenge for Mother Nature.

The amount of snow cover we have this year will also slow our thawing process. It takes more energy to get rid of the snow. When we have brown ground exposed we absorb a lot more of the heat from the sun so we warm more quickly, and many times, we will stay at thawing temperatures through the night. Warming the ground helps the ice pull away from the shoreline. Then, other factors like wind, and the warming shallow water, also help get rid of the ice.

When we are white like we are now, we warm slower, nights stay colder, and the energy from the sun has to work hard to get rid of all the snow, before it can start working on getting rid of the ice on the lakes.

The forecast for the next ten days doesn’t look like we will make great progress towards open water season. We also still have a cold mass of air in the arctic that we know will need to work its way here before we turn the corner on spring.

You may as well settle into the fact that you can have a couple more weeks of ice fishing here locally if you desire, and another three weeks on Lake of the Woods.

We are coming up on the time of the season that pan fish can now be caught in the shallow weed areas of our local lakes. This is also when the tullibee chasers start getting after the suspended bite over deeper water.

When we have the nice days, it can be very pleasant just standing on the ice or sitting on the buckets catching fish. Kids (and us big kids) can enjoy this more mild weather time on the ice.

The walleye and northern pike anglers will be making trips to Lake of the Woods. The bite for the big northern is on, and will continue at Lake of the Woods. The walleye bite on the big lake has been on and off this winter season. Slow for Lake of the Woods is still better than everywhere else. The next couple of weeks will probably see the bite improve just off the first break off Pine Island as fish migrate to the Rainy River.

Speaking of Rainy River, the average ice out for the river and that open water situation is the third week of March, plus or minus a week. It may be minus a week this year. The season is open for walleyes until midnight April 14.

With the snow conditions, the side rivers and run off will effect on the success of the early spring bite. Dirty high water can make catching a challenge. The window of opportunity for the great numbers and size could be shorter this year.

I am done with the ice and will be traveling south in the next couple of weeks for open water, and then north in early April to see if I can time it right to take advantage of what the Rainy River has to offer. No matter what we plan we are at the mercy of nature. We can make guesses about our spring and plan “plans”, but we can’t plan results.

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