I will start this week with a correction from last weeks article. At the time I submitted the article to print, the DNR had not changed the walleye regulations. The day after I wrote about Lake of the Woods and Red Lake, the DNR changed the winter harvest regulations for Upper Red Lake. The limit will remain four walleyes (remember also that daily and possession limits are the same) but you will only be allowed one walleye over 17 inches. The summertime limit was four walleyes with one over 20 inches.
Red Lake resorts and access points started allowing for walk-out ice fishing on Wednesday of this week. It was anticipated that wheeler and sled traffic would be allowed by this weekend. If you are heading up to fish Red Lake, check with the resorts to make sure conditions are still favorable for either walk out or sled/wheeler traffic.
Upper Red is a huge lake and high winds can move the ice and change conditions. Be extremely cautious on the ice and early ice pressure ridges can be very unsafe to cross. The resorts on high traffic lakes will mark and notify anglers of safe areas. Wandering out on lakes without checking about conditions or checking as you go can be dangerous at this time of the season.
The small ponds and smaller shallow basin lakes that iced over a week ago have already been getting some walk out traffic from some anglers. Make sure you have a solid 3-4 inches of consistent ice and check the ice with a spud as you venture out.
Some of the larger and deeper lakes in our area have just iced over, or are still icing over. These lakes need time with consistent cold temps to be ready for any ice fishing traffic. At this time, walk out fishing is all that is recommended. It is not time for sleds, wheelers (ATV’s), or UTVs (side-by-sides) yet. A consistent thickness of five-plus inches is needed for taking wheelers and sleds out on the ice.
This last week or 10 days of Arctic air has been unseasonably cold and iced us over earlier than what is typical or average. It looks like we may be in for a period of more mild and moderate weather after this severe cold front.
If we transition to a number of above-freezing temperature days, the ice conditions will change and be more unpredictable. Both early and late ice conditions are susceptible to significant changes and deterioration, with above freezing daytime temperatures and bright sunshine days.
Snow cover on thinner ice will also weaken ice. Fortunately, the small amount of snow we received this week has also been followed by high winds that have swept some of the ponds and lakes clean. Be patient and smart, you will get out ice fishing. We are very early into our ice season.
(Laabs owns Brad Laabs Guide Service in Detroit Lakes)