My last open water trip was last Saturday, Nov. 14. I know it was my last trip out, even though we will still have open water days yet to fish, because the top seal on my power trip was leaking, and may not get repaired before the ice takes over.
The water temps on Big Detroit last Saturday was 38.6 degrees. It does not take much to get that cold of water to skim with ice. It dropped even cooler with the significant snow we received late Sunday night and early Monday morning. I am writing this on Wednesday 11-18, and a drive around the area on Tuesday night confirmed that small and mid-sized lakes in the region have skimmed over with ice. Some of the more shallow bodies of water have more than a skim, but are not ready yet for getting on to safely ice fish.
We still have some nice weather days forecast for the next week that will keep ice development slow. When we get several days in a row of significant cold (especially if there is no wind), or a couple nights in a row of some single digit temps, we will make ice more suitable for the start of the ice fishing season.
There are still some larger lakes (and especially the deeper bodies of water) that will remain open for the next week or more. Big Cormorant, Rose, Star, Rush, and Ottertail to name a few. Continue to check on them as there are times when the accesses get locked up even though the main lake areas remain open.
Pelican Lake is a good example of this condition occurring. The main lake was wide open, but both accesses were ice-locked on Tuesday evening when Mary and I went to check conditions on multiple lakes in the area. That condition has caught me several times over the years from launching and fishing one day, getting there the next day to find the lake open, but the ice too thick to break to get out.
For many years I was kind of obsessive and crazy. I would keep on hand several sets of cheap tail lights for my trailer as I would bust them backing in and breaking ice. I would keep a breaker bar, sand, tow rope, and other “just in case “ gear on hand to get out on whatever open water was available.
Yes, I have had a couple of incidents over the years that getting back in after fishing was challenging after ice sheets had shifted, or the amount of re-icing my break out trail would refreeze over during the hours I was out fishing. I don’t hunt, I fish, so it all makes sense to me to extend the open water season as long as I can.
I also travel to get on open water, so I haven’t winterized a boat in probably 30 years or more. Most times the reward is worth the effort. With the new, more expensive LED lights, and my aging wisdom now -- I am still obsessive, but only half as crazy. Reflecting back over the years: Yes, Mary has been right all these years when she would tell me “you're nuts, man!”
(Laabs owns Brad Laabs Guide Service in Detroit Lakes)