We will have several weeks of panfish action available before the May 13 "fishing opener" arrives. As of 12:01 a.m. (just after midnight Friday, May 12), the season opens for gamefish, which include walleyes and northern pike. The bass opener will be May 27 this year. As of last year, you can still target bass from now until the opener, but you can't keep any until the official "bass opener" date. Musky fishing season will open June 3. You may not target those fish before the opening date.
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.
I am calling it: Ice fishing for this spring is over. With this current warm stretch, the ice has deteriorated significantly the last few days and there is no ice is safe anymore in our area.
We have come to the end of the ice season. There will always be a few who will push the ice season to the limit, but there's no need to do that with a soon-to-be-available open water season in our area.
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.
The last couple of years this time of year (as we clear fish houses off the lakes and near the end of the ice season), I have written about my frustration with the messes left on the ice. This year, our area lakes seem to have been left in better shape than the past several years. I know several others have stepped up to clean up after others besides me, maybe it was worse and some others got to the junk before I checked. This year, the Perham area lakes were left a mess.
I made a mistake in last week's article. I was reminding anglers of all the upcoming important dates to remember including re-licensing, fish house removal, and closing of the inland gamefish angling season. I mistakenly wrote March 26 instead of February 26. Hopefully you remembered from a couple weeks prior when I reminded local anglers of the upcoming February 26 date!
The significant amount of rain we received last Sunday and Monday, along with the week or more of warm weather the week before, has deteriorated ice all over northern Minnesota. The snow cover on the lakes is gone. With the re-freeze we are getting now, conditions will be very slippery on the ice. We still have about 20 inches of good ice, but there are some areas on the lakes that were impacted more severely and will have considerably less ice.
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.
I will be a little "all over the map" this week as we close in on the middle of February.