For ice anglers, this COVID-19 virus, and the recommended social distancing, fits right into the lifestyle.

Some anglers continue to get out and enjoy the good panfish bite and the peak period for the tullibee activity. Many are going solo, some are fishing in groups, but the issue of keeping six feet apart when angling together in a group is not a problem at all … but the norm.

Ice conditions in the area continue to be very good. Some truck travel continues, but sled and wheeler travel has become more preferred. The safest travel is by wheeler or sled, and the ability to get to desired locations is much easier.

Expect some slushing and flooding over the next week to 10 days as we start a more aggressive thawing pattern. Many of the panfish anglers are finding the fish shallow now, and some walleyes are getting caught in the mix (put them back, the season is closed for them!)

The impact of the Coronavirus will be felt by anglers that have a tradition of fishing the Rainy River walleye run, which usually starts at the end of March (or when you can get on the open water on the river) and closes April 14.

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The city of Baudette decided on Monday the 23rd that the two city accesses will be closed for the upcoming river season until further notice. That was followed up on Tuesday by a meeting between the Koochiching County Board and the Lake of the Woods County Commissioners that voted unanimously to close all the Kooch County-owned Rainy River accesses. This includes the Upper Sioux landing, Nelson Park landing, Frontier landing, and the Vidas landing. This decision will be reviewed April 14 at the next board meeting.

In addition, the Lake of the Woods County Board voted to close all county-controlled landings that would provide access to the river until further notice. This decision will be reviewed weekly. The concern for the region is the large number of people that come from many different areas in light of the COVID-19 pandemic, and the Centers for Disease Control-recommended protocols for stopping the spread of the virus.

The other good news (not really) is that due to the winter harvest on Mille Lacs Lake, there will be a catch-and-release-only season that will start at the Minnesota opener and last until the end of June, and close for July. The use of live bait will also be restricted. The one-month fishing ban for July, will only start again in August “If things go well in June.” If it goes as planned, the re-opening to catch and release only, would start back up in August and last until the fall.

Stay safe, stay healthy, make good decisions, and fish to relieve stress and deal with this highly unusual life experience.

(Laabs owns Brad Laabs Guide Service in Detroit Lakes)