The cold snap this week has helped stiffen up the slushing problem on trails on the area lakes. It should also help freeze up some of the slush and water layer sitting on top of the ice and under the snow.
This colder weather will help with travel on the lakes, but they still aren’t ready for truck traffic. Ice thickness ranges from 10-15 inches, but continues to be inconsistent. Thin ice conditions are still a risk, especially if going off trail or close to current areas. Check ice conditions regularly as you venture into new areas.
Flooding and slushing will continue to be a problem on many of the lakes due to the amount of snow cover. Sleds, wheelers with tracks, or snobear is still the best option for travel. Wheelers without tracks should be chained up.
Wheel or skid houses should still be pulled out with track vehicles at this time. Single-axle houses only at this time. You will need to block up houses higher than typical for this time of the year due to the flooding and slushing issues. Keep your house from freezing down and check on it regularly to avoid a difficult situation for getting it back off the ice.
Do not crowd any areas as flooding will become worse due to the extra weight on the ice. We are dealing with an unusual ice situation this year, so give the lakes your respect.
We have much less fishing pressure this year due to the conditions of the last month. Those that are getting out are reporting very good success, especially for quality crappies and gills over deeper soft-bottom basin areas.
The morning and evening bites are best. Expect some midday lull in action and fish activity. Walleyes are getting iced as well on area lakes. Reports I have received indicate bite windows are short, and best bite activity is just before dark and just after dark in the evening.
Active jigging with spoons tipped with minnow heads has been out-producing dead stick/bobber fishing. As always, trying multiple techniques and colors can be worth it, as the bite can change from day to day, or even hour to hour.
Due to the conditions all over the state, Lake of the Woods is getting a lot of ice fishing attention. Even with the activity there, anglers are doing well for numbers of walleyes and sauger. Some anglers are also landing quality walleyes.
Most activity is basin fishing, so it is a little bit of a crap shoot to land better-quality size fish. The chance at a trophy always exists at Lake of the Woods, with big fish roaming and feeding in the massive basin.
If we continue to get below-zero weather for some extended days, we will have conditions improve dramatically. Ice will thicken and water and slush will re-freeze. The late ice season may end up being some of the better quality ice this season.
However, typically the late ice bite slows down from mid-January through mid-February. It will pick back up at the end of the season for panfish activity and more fish will be available shallow and relating to weeds.
(Laabs owns Brad Laabs Guide Service in Detroit Lakes)