As of last weekend, a number of early ice anglers were able to get out and enjoy some success, particularly with sunfish and crappies. Most lakes in the area had a consistent three inches of ice, and ice ranges on the larger lakes ranged from three to six inches. The smaller, shallower lakes had ice ranges from four to eight inches.

This has been as early for ice fishing as many experienced ice anglers can remember for our area. I haven’t been able to get out yet, as I headed for southern Minnesota to visit my mother for her 94th birthday. I also attended the Vikings game with my wife and sons on Sunday, and were there for the miraculous comeback! I returned Monday night to a couple of days of rain and above freezing temperatures (even at night).

The warm weekend last weekend, several days of rain this week, and the thawing days all the way until Thursdays have made ice conditions sketchy again. Water sitting on top of the ice weakens the ice that is there. It would be prudent to give conditions several days of good hard freezing again to make venturing out safer again

It looks like we are trending toward more near-40 degree days and some rainy days over the next 10 days. Ice will need to be checked often, as conditions can change daily with the up and down weather we are having.

There are many veteran ice anglers that will stick to known bodies of water that tend to have better ice than most. If you plan on getting some time on the ice during this next week, check with people you know that have a long history of ice experience, as well as bait shops, to stay on top of lake conditions. With all the lakes iced over, a long cold snap will be great for re-establishing good ice again.

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Red Lake opened up early for walk-out fishing, and anglers were having great success with the walleye bite. The entire lake was not iced over, the wind shifted, and a number of anglers had to be rescued off the ice.

The change in weather also changed resorts’ initial plans to open up last weekend to wheeler and sled traffic, and instead they shut down until conditions improve. It will take another solid cold front to get the resorts opened back up to letting anglers out again. As always … safety first.

The Rainy River iced over before last weekend and it looked like some upcoming early ice was going to happen for Lake of the Woods. This change has also opened the river back up, and we will probably be back to more of a normal time frame for Lake of the Woods early ice. Our area is probably sitting with some of the best ice conditions for this time of the season compared to the rest of the state. No worries, be patient, we will have a long ice season this year.

(Laabs owns Brad Laabs Guide Service in Detroit Lakes)