The snow we have now will add extra weight to the ice. Keep that in mind for traveling on the ice. We will need a significant cold snap to build more ice now as we have been stuck in the 11-15 inch range for a couple weeks. If the forecast is right , it looks like we will get it this week, too!
The added weight on the ice can also create the risk of slushing and flooding, so pay attention to your conditions after you get set up. Avoid crowding areas will help reduce the risk for flooding.
After the snow gets packed over the shoreline ice ridges, the access points will make it easier to get on and off the lake. Initially, proceed with caution as the snow can hide some of the sharp ice and rough areas to cross. The snow cover can also hide some of the ice ridges and heaves on the lake.
Proceed with caution when traveling across the lakes, especially if you are not familiar with where some of the ice heaves were, as crossing heaves can be precarious and dangerous at times.
Sled travel will be great for those that like to "run and gun" to stay on active bites. Wheeler and vehicle travel will be a little more limiting than the great conditions we had up through Christmas. Do not go too far off plowed roads or trails for this next week. Make sure you have your winter survival kit in your vehicle. Bring good winter gear along with you in the vehicle, even if you are just traveling out to the heated fish house.
Always travel on the ice with a shovel and a tow rope ... just in case. It is always a good idea to have a jumper box or jumper cables as well. It requires teamwork many times to get some situations resolved out on the ice. Tow trucks will not come out to get you. Help others in need, as you may be the one that needs help next time.
Even though you may know your way by heart and have been to your fish house many times, a GPS unit in the rig is never a bad idea. You can also download the new and updated version of the Boating USA Navionics to your smartphone. It's called the Navionics Boating Marine & Lakes, and with this app, as long as you have your phone with you, you will have GPS, as it will function as a handheld GPS unit.
I have been on the lakes when a surprise wind creates white-out conditions. Without the GPS, you could easily head the wrong direction, get lost, or end up in a dangerous location. Treat the lakes, our winters, and yourself with respect, and always err on the side of caution so you can live to fish another day!
(Laabs owns Brad Laabs Guide service in Detroit Lakes)