Well, we lucked out and the pre-Thanksgiving storm of 6-10 inches of wet heavy snow missed us. That helped our area lakes continue to build a little ice.
Unfortunately, the post-Thanksgiving storm hit us and dumped about 10 inches of snow on area lakes. It would have been better for us to have had at least another week of ice-building to get to a foot of good clear ice before this storm.
Most lakes range from about 5-8 inches of ice under the snow now. The problem is consistency of thickness for some of the area lakes. The larger, deeper lakes have some thinner ice conditions in the mid-lake area. Several of the lakes opened back up in some areas out in the middle and just re-iced before the storm.
A few days of mild daytime temps this week along with some bright sun days have helped knock the snow down. This will help when we finally get a full week of cold temperatures and some below-zero nights.
For this next week or so, slushing and flooding will occur on some of the lakes until we get a few more inches of ice under the snow cover. Foot traffic and sleds will be the prudent approach for this next week.
Don’t anticipate any plowed roads to community fishing spots until we have had a solid week of brutal cold and get ice thicknesses of a consistent foot or more. Checking ice as you go is still a good idea until next weekend.
With the weight of the snow on the ice and the flooding and slushing issues that may exist, make sure you do not crowd an area, as that can make for even worse flooding and slushing. Fishing out of portables or bucket sitting for at least the next week will keep you safe and problem free.
Do not try to get your permanent fish houses out yet. I know we have had ice for a long time already, but the conditions are not right yet for that move. Remember, we are still only in the first week of December. We will have a long ice season, and houses will probably be ready to moved out onto most of the lakes by the middle of this month. Check conditions and reports from local bait shops for daily conditions.
For the anglers that have been getting out, most have been chasing the active pan fish bite. Reports of quality catches of crappies, sunfish, and perch have been reported. Most anglers have stuck to the smaller, shallower bodies of water and focused on weed edges and fish relating to the food and oxygen in the healthy weeds areas.
Using small jigs tipped with high action tails or wax worms seems to be the best-producing approach right now. As we get colder, look for crappies to slide to deeper holes and feed on the bugs over soft bottom areas.
Red Lake has had one of the most productive early season walleye bites. Remember that as of Dec. 1, the new slot regulation for the lake is in effect.
Lake of the Woods will probably be ready for the walleye and sauger fishermen invasion by about a week before Christmas. Check with the resorts in the area you plan to fish and check the Lake of the Woods Chamber of Commerce report before traveling up to make sure the lake is ready for you.
(Laabs owns Brad Laabs Guide Service in Detroit Lakes)