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Brad Laabs: Ice-off means one of the earliest starts to open water fishing in recent memory

It will not be long before anglers are enjoying some early spring panfish activity. A few anglers are already having some success fishing from shore and docks.

A face-to-face look at a bluegill in Lingroth Lake in Aitkin, Minn. (Flickr photo by Lorie Shaull )

We are ice free! All the area lakes are ice free, and this is one of the earliest starts to an open water season that I can remember for our region.

We are two to three weeks ahead of a normal spring ice out. The way the ice went out on some lakes, there will need to be some shoreline repair, and there was some damage to a few public access ramps due to heaving and ice pressure.

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Water levels are low due to the minimal snow pack and early melt. The recent rains will help bring water levels up, as much of the rain will turn into runoff into the lakes. Not all the frost is out of the ground yet, so the rain will not be absorbed as easily, and that translates to more runoff.

It will not be long before anglers are enjoying some early spring panfish activity. A few anglers are already having some success fishing from shore and docks. As the weather warms and the water temps rise, we will see boat activity on area lakes taking advantage of the longer early spring open water panfish season.


Look for the warmer water to be holding baitfish and drawing crappies, sunfish, perch (and other fish species) in to feed in the shallow water. Weed areas are magnets for baitfish and fish activity now. It will be a while before water temps warm enough to set up crappies and sunfish in shallow spawning areas.

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The DNR will start getting ready for the walleye hatchery harvest activities, as walleyes will be drawn soon for their spawning activity. When the shallow water reaches the mid 40 degree range, they are ready for their spring ritual.

With covid still being an issue, I am not sure what the DNR plan will be this year. Last year, all harvest activities were canceled. If they do hold the harvest, they may limit the ability for observers to come and watch this fascinating process. When I find out, I will let you know.

The plan for this spring was to also put in the public fishing pier that has been purchased and is still sitting at the Lake Sallie public access (for a year now). Last year, due to covid, and limited crew availability, the fishing pier was not installed.

This winter, in discussing with Area Fisheries Director Nathan Olson, the plan was to get the pier in after the egg harvest. There is usually a little lag time to install the pier due to not being able to fish at the river mouth at Sallie for a while as the walleyes are still holding in the area before the season opens.

When we had the discussion about the plans for the pier, we were both guessing we would be further along with having the pandemic under control. Obviously we are making progress, but might not be where we need to be yet for the hatchery activity and install of the fishing pier.

When I find out when the pier can go in, I will let you know, as it will really add to shore fishing opportunities in the area.


(The bluegill photo is courtesy of Lorie Shaull and was posted for public use on the Flickr website. Some rights reserved .)

(Laabs owns Brad Laabs Guide Service in Detroit Lakes)

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