With temperatures forecasted in the 40s this week, and chance to hit 52 degrees on Saturday, the deadlines to remove ice fishing houses from area lakes are finally here.
Ice fishing houses on area lakes south of Highway 10 and Highway 34 across Minnesota must be removed by March 1, according to the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources. Fishing huts on lakes north of the two highways have until March 15 to be removed, but Nathan Olson, fisheries specialist for Minnesota Department of Natural Resources, said people shouldn't wait with the warm temperatures in the forecast.
"It's the darn landings and the places where you've got to get that house off of that really deteriorate fast," said Olson. "Before you know it, you could have a heave going on, especially as we get these warm days and cool nights, as the freeze-thaw cycle happens."
Olson said the ice can still move while it shifts between liquid and solid form, which can create large bumps in the ice near landing areas and can potentially trap anglers trying to move their fish houses off the lakes.
"And then, there's open water that can happen," he said. "A lot of people are passing over that same spot and, in just a few days, (the landing) could be not what it was when you were out there the last time. So, people just need to be aware, and be watching, that it's safer to be proactive and try to get (the fish houses) off when the conditions are good because it's not going to take very much for the conditions to degrade very quick."
He said Minnesota DNR conservation officers aren't sitting out on area lakes like "parking attendants," waiting to fine anglers who don't make it off in time, but they are there to ensure each structure makes it off the ice.
"(Conservation officers) do try to provide some leniency," said Olson. "So, if people are thinking they have an issue, or they can't get out there, they can contact their local conservation officer."
- RELATED: For more information on outdoor recreation in the lakes area, check out our Northland Outdoors section.
The Minnesota DNR's website will provide anglers with the contact number for their local conservation officers, he said.
Olson also said anglers should pick up the areas by their fish houses to keep garbage, and other debris, from falling into the lakes with the thaw.
"Not just the house, clean up all the stuff you brought out there, the blocks of wood that people bring to block up their houses so they don't freeze to the ice," said Olson. "It's just general clean up time and, if you want to go above and beyond, help your neighbor that maybe didn't clean up."
Snowmobile and ATV drivers should also be cautious when traversing thawing lakes during this time, he said.
"Ice is not 100% safe," said Olson. "I would think for the next week or so that people can probably get by with some ATV travel, but, again, it just depends on whether you can get on (the lake)."
Snowmobiles need 5 to 7 inches of ice to be deemed safe for lake travel, according to guidelines on the Minnesota DNR website.