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Brad Laabs: It should be great ice fishing for the next 10 days

The brutal cold was a savior for our ice season, as it has healed up our lake slushing issues caused by the significant wet, heavy snows we received before the cold front.

Ice houses
Ice houses are scattered on Little Detroit Lake in this 2018 photo.
File Photo

DETROIT LAKES — The polar vortex cold front that has been with us the last 10 days has finally moved on, and we will have great ice fishing weather for the next 10 days.

The brutal cold was a savior for our ice season, as it has healed up our lake slushing issues caused by the significant wet, heavy snows we received before the cold front.

Most of the area lakes range from 8 to 16 inches of good clear ice now and up to 4 to 5 inches of white ice on top of the clear ice.

Brad Laabs column mug
Brad Laabs

The snowpack was absorbed by the slush and turned to white ice. The white ice has about half the strength of clear ice, but it does add to our overall total ice coverage.

We are also making ice and building ice on all the lakes now. Snow coverage is minimal now, because of the snow being absorbed and the light snow getting swept off the lakes with our high wind days. There are some areas of drifts, so make sure to go around them as they are hard packed and can be traps for getting stuck.


Mike Witt, owner of Quality Bait, has kept everybody fishing by plowing roads and ice house pull-off areas on Little Detroit. He has also plowed a 5 truck wide road from the south access on Big Detroit across all the fish holding points on the east shore and all the way back to the north access. He has also made access to Sallie and Island possible. The ice fishing outlook for our area is looking great for the 2023 portion of our ice season.

That work is not without a lot of time, expense, and repair costs. When you stop in to get bait and tackle, throw them a few bucks to cover the expenses of providing this kind public service.

Not as many anglers were out during the brutal temps or the Christmas blizzard, but those that have been able to sneak out at the opportune times have been doing well with crappies, gils, and some walleye activity (including some trophy-quality fish).

The sunfish have been holding in green weed areas, as well as off the breaks and holding over soft bottom areas. Most crappies are getting caught in some of the deeper holes over soft bottom areas that lakes have to offer, and on some deeper lakes out to 30 feet of water.

Many times these fish are suspending, so good electronics can help you fish just above them to trigger bites.

Walleyes have been holding off shore line breaks, especially extending points, in the 14-22 foot water. Early morning, or late in the afternoon until after dark have been the best bite times. Both jigging and dead stick techniques are producing.

If traveling off trail, make sure to check ice and avoid drifted areas. Sled, track rig, wheeler, or side-by-side travel will be the safest until after the weekend, with several more days of ice development under our belt. If traveling by truck or SUV, check ice and do not crowd areas, as a way of preventing any flooding on the ice.

Get ready for the ice season to really get rolling from here on out!


(Laabs owns Brad Laabs Guide Service in Detroit Lakes)  

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