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Laabs column: Even hardcore ice angers are now done for the season

Several hardcore, veteran, experienced ice anglers continued to venture onto the ice on area lakes right up until Sunday, April 14. Ice thicknesses continued to be around 18-20 inches of good clear ice with several inches of mushy ice on top. Those that did continue to venture out were having good success with tullibees, perch, crappies, and sunfish. Even these experienced ice anglers are done now. If you get the itch to get out on really late ice next year, make sure you go with someone experienced in ice fishing the late season.

The ice is no longer safe, even for veteran ice anglers that know their ice, the time is over now. The warm temps, saturating rain of Tuesday and Wednesday, along with above freezing temperature during the overnight, demolish ice quickly this time of the season.

The sunshine, even when we are below freezing at times this time of year, is powerful enough to break the ice down and create melting. Getting rid of the snow will warm the ground at the shoreline and it thins and pulls away from the shoreline. Wind also create evaporation and helps break down the ice now. All these factors can change conditions very quickly.

Two weeks ago I would have guessed we would have ice through the first week of May. Now, I believe we will be ice-free on the majority of the lakes by May 1.

The late season snow storm of about a week ago weighed heavy on the lake ice and sinking the ice breaks the ice down as well. Unfortunately a lot of the sun's energy got spent melting the snow instead of the ice, and the ground cover slowed the warming of the ground.

Another sure sign of the rapid change is evidenced at Dunton Locks. The DNR has the nets out for the walleye hatchery harvest. By Thursday morning large numbers of male walleyes were in the corral areas. They will keep coming and the harvest will be in full swing by this weekend. It is fun to watch the big females give up their eggs and the numerous quality eating-sized males give up their spawn to the DNR workers handling this program.

This springtime ritual has been going on at the river inlet at Lake Sallie for many, many years. The hatchery program continues to provide improved hatching for the stocking of walleye fry and fingerlings to area lakes. Based on the nice weather, warming water, and the continued positive forecast, this should be an excellent year for the hatchery production.

The rivers in the area are flowing hard now with the melt and rain.The ground is still not taking a lot of the water, so most is running off. In a matter of a day, the river delta at Sallie where the fish come to the netting program, expanded from 50 yards out to several hundred yards out away from the shore area at the river mouth.

Yep, spring is really, finally here!

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