Last week, I wrote about how difficult the ice conditions were due to flooding and slushing. Well after another foot of snow, wind, drifting, and a stretch of warm weather, sun, and rain, the conditions are even worse. The best plan now is to stay off the lakes. It is possible we may get a short window to get back on the ice, if the snow gets knocked down and things freeze back up on some of the overnights. As always with fishing, the weather is key, so keep your eye on the forecast if you still have the ice fishing scratch to itch.
Well, the big news, just released from the DNR recently, is that there will be some type of allowable walleye harvest on the nationally renowned walleye fishery, Mille Lacs Lake. The last several years, the DNR and the eight Chippewa bands involved with the management of Mille Lacs, have worked cooperatively to help recover a depleted walleye population.
As promised, I would put out another reminder that the ice fishing season for walleyes and northern pike closes at midnight this Sunday (Feb. 24). Your fishing license will also expire at midnight on the 28th, so if you continue to fish for gills, crappies, perch, or tullibees the rest of this ice season, you will need to purchase and have your new license with you starting Friday, March 1.
Travel on area lakes continues to be a challenge unless you stay to plowed roads or trails to community fishing spots. We again, this last week, received several more inches of snow, followed by a heavy blow day on Thursday that created more drifting over of roads and trails. In case you haven't noticed by now, this winter has been more fierce than the last several. We have had more snow, more cold, and significant wind to contend with all winter. I am hoping the old saying "In like a Lion, out like a Lamb" holds true this year. We could use a nice spring and early summer.
With the addition of six more inches of snow this last week, followed by extremely high winds, roads and trails were recovered and drifted over. Travel on areas lakes now is dependent on re-plowing and redevelopment of driving trails to community fishing spots. By the time you are reading this, some have been re-opened already, but not all.
Starting this weekend you can find a fishing derby or two available to participate in every weekend from now until the middle of February. In the past, I have listed specific ice derby events with times and some general information. I am hesitant to do that again, as I have received feedback from some that I neglected to mention, or others having feelings of showing favoritism or bias. Was never my intent to feature one over another, but to just get the information out about other options (like derbies) for the ice fishing opportunities in our immediate area and our region.
We are coming up on the time of the winter that the bite for all species changes from early ice locations. Crappie and sunfish anglers that were having good success in shallow weed areas may find that bite is less active. It seems there will always be some relating to the weeds, but anglers that adjust to those fish that have moved to deep holes and are feeding over soft bottom areas, may find themselves getting better numbers and quality.
Welcome to the start of the 2019 portion of the ice fishing season. The end of the year brought us an additional 16 inches of snow, followed by a cold snap. The cold did help build a couple more inches of ice. Vehicle traffic, and getting wheel houses on the lakes is not an issue now with our ice thicknesses.
The snow we have now will add extra weight to the ice. Keep that in mind for traveling on the ice. We will need a significant cold snap to build more ice now as we have been stuck in the 11-15 inch range for a couple weeks. If the forecast is right , it looks like we will get it this week, too! The added weight on the ice can also create the risk of slushing and flooding, so pay attention to your conditions after you get set up. Avoid crowding areas will help reduce the risk for flooding.
Ice conditions remain very good in our area, with ice thicknesses ranging from 11 to 15 inches on most area lakes. This past week has been above-normal for temperatures, with multiple days above freezing, and even a couple of days into the 40s. We did not make much ice this week and we did lose snow cover, even though we haven't had much. The ice we have is good, clear, strong ice. People have continued to drive trucks onto the ice, even though we should really have a few more inches for safety sake.