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.
We are down to the last three weeks of the gamefish season (walleye, northern, bass), but the open season for panfish continues until it is not safe on the ice any more. Thursday, the groundhog saw his shadow, so we have at least six more weeks of winter yet! The bite for walleyes in this area in February is considerably slowed between 9 a.m. and 4 p.m., not that some don't get caught during the day, but odds are not in our favor.
The unseasonably warm January thaw of the last week or 10 days has knocked the snow cover on the lakes to almost nothing on the majority of our area lakes. During the warm stretch, fishing the lake conditions was slushy, wet, and flooding occurred around heavier permanent houses (nothing that blocking up houses couldn't fix).
Both last winter, and this winter, have been years of late-developing ice. We are coming into the first full weekend of the new year, and finally have enough ice for full size trucks to venture onto area lakes. Last year, with a late ice start, and an early ice out, we had limited weeks of the ice fishing season.
Hard to believe we are at Christmas already and the ice season is really just getting going. The ice has been walkable for a couple weeks now, and safe for sleds, wheelers, or side-by-sides for the last week.