Most of our area lakes are ranging from 8-12 inches of ice.
Plowed roads are going to be rare at this time due to the ice thickness at this time. Most travel on area lakes is easiest on ATV and UTV trails unless you have a sled or track vehicle. Some hard packed drifts are an issue if traveling off trails. Sled or track vehicle travel is the best with the snow we have now.
After the storm of Tuesday night with the additional snow and wind, drifting will be even more of a problem. The amount of snow cover now on the ice will significantly slow further ice development, due to the insulating factor of snow.
The additional weight of this snow will also make slushing and flooding a problem on many of the area lakes, especially in drifted areas. We could have used another good week of cold before getting more snow.
For those that have skid or light wheel houses out already, make sure you continue to monitor the flooding risk. If your house is flooding, move it to a new location to prevent freezing down.
Watch the weather and consider removing your house if we get significant snow again before we build at least another 3-5 inches of ice. The ice on the area lakes is very good clear ice.
Flooded areas will get a layer of white ice over the clear ice. White ice is weak ice and can only support about half of what the good clear ice can support. Lakes should have at least 15 inches of good clear ice before trucks travel on the lakes.
Single axle fish houses at this time only, until we get over 15 inches of clear ice. Double axle houses should have 15-18 inches of ice under them. Pulling houses out now should only be done with an ATV, UTV, sled, or track unit.
Because of the drifting, bringing a tow rope or chain can be very critical for getting help to get free if you get hung up. With the snow cover, some ice ridges can be difficult to spot. Pay attention, and if you choose to cross an ice ridge, pick your spot carefully and check the ice. Ice anglers are good neighbors, and know that we need to help each other out at times. Most ice anglers have been stuck at one time or another, and if you haven’t yet, you will at some time.
A good shovel should also be a regular part of your equipment package, as should your cell phone. Good flashlights or headlamps make life much better to deal with problems if you are traveling before sunup or after sundown. Make good decisions on the ice, and always err on the side of caution.
(Laabs owns Brad Laabs Guide Service in Detroit Lakes)