Ice conditions remain very good for this early season, and continue to improve with the cold weather. The minimal snow cover has helped very clear ice (the best and strongest ice) to develop on our area lakes.
As of Thursday, ice thicknesses range from 6-10 inches. The smaller, shallow lakes have the thickest ice, and the largest, deeper lakes trail behind with less ice.
With ice thickening at about an inch every two or three days with the weather we have, we are still a week away from taking trucks onto the ice. Some have ignored common sense and have been on the ice with trucks already, and some have already encountered trouble from that poor judgement.
Stick to foot, wheelers, or sleds (now that we have a little snow cover) for another week. When we start getting temperatures below zero overnight and daytime highs in the single digits, we will make an inch of ice every 24 hours, if we don't have thick snow cover. The next 10 days looks like low probabilities of snow, but also no below-zero days or nights are in the forecast.
Many of the lakes have developed ice heaves and ridges from the ice expanding and contracting with the range of conditions over the past week to 10 days. Use caution and check ice before crossing these ice ridges. They can be inconsistent with ice thicknesses. Look for lower areas that have no slushing as a starting point to check before crossing.
You will also find many of the access points have ice jams, since the ice has pushed up onto the shoreline. Be careful when navigating your way onto the lake. These jams can be hard on equipment.
They will get knocked down (many ice anglers break them up with chisels and bars, chainsaws, or sledge hammers for all to benefit). They will sometimes also settle back down, and building snow levels will help smooth them out.
When the ice gets thick enough, and we end up with more snow cover, some plow trucks will make their way on the ice, and will knock down some of the piled up ice at the accesses.
Many of the early ice anglers have good success with crappies and sunfish. Walleye anglers have had mixed results, with some productive days and some days when fish have been less cooperative.
Fronts still effect walleye feeding mood and behavior. There will be times when the fish will come in, but are challenging to get to feed. When they are in a more positive feeding mood, typically during stable weather or pre-frontal conditions, they bite when they come into your hole.
Right now, most walleye anglers will find success the last hour or two of the day and until a half hour or so after dark. Some of the most consistent angling for the winter season for all species, will be from now until about mid-January in our area.
(Laabs owns Brad Laabs Guide Service in Detroit Lakes)