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Brad Laabs: Ice fishing for opener? What a difference in a year

What a difference a year makes! We are already past the halfway point of April and ice out from the lakes still seems like it is a long way out. Last year Big Detroit Lake was open water by March 23.

If you remember last year, because of the early ice out and nice weather all over the state, our Governor was considering moving the fishing opener up a week to the first Saturday in May!

This year the Park Rapids area is hosting the Governors opener. They may be auguring holes and hosting an ice fishing derby!

The big crappie tournament scheduled for this weekend on Lake Minnetonka (it is supposed to be an open water crappie tournament) has been rescheduled to April 27.  Coordinators for that event are concerned the new date could still be iffy for open water!

This Saturday also marks the start of the opening date for walleye, sauger, northern pike, largemouth and smallmouth bass for Big Stone Lake on the Minnesota/South Dakota border. They are ice fishing there for their opener!

The way it is looking for us right now we may end up in the same situation as Big Stone for our opener. Things need to change dramatically for us in a very short time for us to make an ice free opening date. I am expecting (and hoping) that some of the smaller lakes and more shallow bodies of water in our area will be ice free. Some of the late ice in/ice out lakes may still be unavailable. Lakes like Cormorant, Rose, Otter Tail, White Earth, Island, and Lida are always later for ice out dates than lakes like Sallie, Melissa, Cotton, Height of Land, Rock, Shell, Toad,  Big and Little Detroit (just to name a few).

This year seems extremely challenging to predict an ice out date with any accuracy. If the metro area is doubting the possibility of ice out for the rescheduled date of April 27 for Lake Minnetonka, that is not looking good for us as we historically are 2-3 weeks behind that area of the state!

This late thaw will also squeeze down the available time to get spring cleaning and projects done and out of the way so they don’t interfere with valuable fishing time. I hate it when life interferes with life, and my plans don’t go the way I think they should!

The good news about all this extra snow we are getting, is that it is very high moisture. I will be very happy to see lake levels get back to normal after getting so low by last fall. Mother Nature must not have heard or listened to my request of a few weeks ago, that I would like to see our moisture the rest of this spring come in the form of rain! I can tell this weather situation is getting to me.

Thankfully, I was able to get up to the Rainy River for a couple of days last week with a couple of buddies and catch some nice walleyes. My attitude would probably be really bad if not for a few of these open water trips over this last month.

At the landing as we were loading up to head home we bumped into a couple of local anglers, Merl Johnson and his son Kyle. While fishing the Rainy River on Wednesday, Kyle boated a personal best 32 inch monster walleye, one of the biggest I have heard about during this short window Rainy River season. Pictures of the fish wouldn’t have been possible without the superior net job done by his father. Congratulations Kyle on catching a true trophy walleye this Rainy River season.

Now the sturgeon fisherman will be heading to the Rainy River to catch the dinosaur fish. They will be fishing a river that has still not cut its way to four mile bay and Lake of the Woods yet! What a difference a year makes!

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