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Brad Laabs: Be safe, and quiet, on the early lake ice

When fishing early ice it is important to be quiet, especially in shallow water. Noise travels well through the ice and cold water, and fish will spook.

The angler fisherman at ice winter fishing. Sunset
The angler fisherman at winter fishing on ice at sunset
Kadmy - stock.adobe.com
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DETROIT LAKES — This last week has been great for ice development in our area.

Cold days with single digit temps overnight with little snow is helping make very clear ice.We have some upcoming below zero temps in the forecast and that can help make up to an inch of ice per day when that occurs.

The large ponds and small shallow basin lakes are ranging from 6-8 inches of ice now and can handle wheeler, sled, and side by side travel. The larger and deeper lakes in the area will still need another week of cold weather to develop consistent ice thickness. The larger lakes are still walk out only for at least another week. Ice must be checked before you just venture out.

Do not fall into the “monkey see, monkey do” trap, of thinking that just because you see a vehicle out on the ice, that it means that it is ok for you too.
There are always some that push the limits with ice, or just don’t know any better and will take foolish risks. Every year we have wheelers, side by sides, and even vehicles and trucks end up going through the ice during the early ice season.

Ice fishing has grown extremely popular, with all the new gear and equipment that make it so much easier and comfortable. This also means we have many more inexperienced ice anglers out that just don’t know any better when it comes to early ice conditions. Do not be that person taking foolish risks. No fish is worth putting your health or life in jeopardy.


Fishing Columnist Brad Laabs
Fishing Columnist Brad Laabs

We have a long ice season and you will have plenty of time to get your time on the ice. I know that the quality of the early ice bite is also what draws some to be adventuresome. Find the balance of early, but safe.

Stay away from current areas that include river or creek inlets and outlets, as ice will always thin down in those areas. Areas that neck down between points can also be areas that will have thinner ice than the rest of the lake. Shallow areas that have emergent weeds will most time also have thinner ice, due to the solar warming of the weed tops.

Many of the ponds and lakes have underwater springs that will also have thinner ice than surrounding areas. If you run into slush, that is a warning sign. Make sure you make note of these areas for your future reference.

Some in the area who have been getting out on some of the productive ponds and small shallow lakes (with better quality ice), have found cooperative gills and crappies.

A few walleyes are getting caught in the morning or late afternoon and evening as we approach dark. The first shoreline break to deep water that has still green weeds is a great place to start locating the early ice walleyes.

The nice thing about ice angling, is the opportunity to use two rods. Having a “dead rod” or bobber rod down as well as working a more aggressive jigging technique will help determine what is working best to put fish top side.

When fishing early ice it is important to be quiet, especially in shallow water. Noise travels well through the ice and cold water, and fish will spook. Sometimes you may just need to sit quiet for a while for fish to filter back into your area after you (or somebody else) make noise on the ice. Once we have some good thick ice and a little snow cover, noise on the ice isn’t as much of a problem for spooking fish

Be safe – and quiet – on the early ice.


(Laabs owns Brad Laabs Guide Service in Detroit Lakes)

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