Ice conditions remain very good in the region and should hold up nicely for the next week or 10 days. Due to the above freezing weather and the power of the sun this time of the season, expect slushing and standing water on the lakes.
If the warming trend continues beyond this next week, ice conditions will change dramatically and will need to be checked as the ice conditions change. The ice under the snow that is left is clear and very dense after the several week polar vortex. My how things can change this time of the season.
I would expect everyone will start getting a little spring fever with the snow melt, the warmer days, and the warming sun. I always get the itch for open water again about this time of the season, but we will still have four to six weeks of ice on the lakes. A couple of snows and another cold snap always occur after we get a little February or March thaw teasing.
If you are feeling done with the ice after this next week or two, there are options if you want to go float your boat:
Mississippi River: Open water options are already fished regularly now at Pool 4 at Red Wing, Minn. As a matter of fact, the first walleye tournament of the season is being held this Saturday out of Everest’s resort. It is called the “Freeze Your Butt.” It has been held for many years and I have fished it several times. It has been nice enough to fish in sweatshirts and so cold, snowing, and blowing that half the field did not show up or launch for the event . . . that is March for you!
Illinois River: Another option is the Illinois River at Peru and Spring Valley, Ill., area. The Masters Walleye Circuit holds its first tournament of the season at this fishery dating back over 20 years. I have fished the area several times and competed in the MWC event a couple of times. It is a tremendous sauger and walleye fishery and it is not uncommon to catch sauger up 20 inches there.
Missouri River: The Missouri River has grown in popularity for early open water spring fishing with the Chamberlain, S.D., and the Bismarck, N.D., areas getting the most attention.
Rainy River: The most popular destination for our area continues to be the Rainy River on the Minnesota/Canadian border. The stretch of river from Birchdale, Minn., all the way to Four Mile Bay where the river dumps into Lake of the Woods is a well-known early season catch and release trophy fishery. The river typically opens up the around the first week in April and the walleye season is open for catch and release only until midnight on April 14. After that, the river continues to get fishing activity with the tremendous sturgeon bite that takes place on that stretch of the river.
The Fox River in Wisconsin and the Great Lakes have also been growing in popularity.
It is always nice to have options, especially if the spring fever outweighs the desire for more ice fishing time.
(Laabs owns Brad Laabs Guide Service in Detroit Lakes)