Ice season is into full swing in our area. The number of hard houses and portables out, especially on the weekends, is clearly an indication of the growing popularity of this winter sport. Equipment like augers, ice houses (permanent and portable), electronics, warm weather gear, rod and reels, and even fishing lines keep improving.
Ice conditions are in great shape and getting better. We have very solid clear ice ranging from 8 to 12 inches as of Thursday. We will continue to develop good ice with the consistent cold weather and the minimal snow coverage. If we can get a good base of 15 inches of ice or more before we get any significant snow, we will be in for a quality ice season with minimal risk for flooding, slushing, and sagging ice. Stick to sleds, ATVs, and UTVs for another week to maintain good ice safety practices. We should have a consistent 15 inches of ice for truck travel.
Ice conditions remain very good for this early season, and continue to improve with the cold weather. The minimal snow cover has helped very clear ice (the best and strongest ice) to develop on our area lakes. As of Thursday, ice thicknesses range from 6-10 inches. The smaller, shallow lakes have the thickest ice, and the largest, deeper lakes trail behind with less ice.
The holiday weekend is here and ice thicknesses range from 5 to 8 inches on area lakes. Little Detroit had 8 inches and Sallie, Melissa, and Big Detroit were sitting with 5-7 inches as of Thanksgiving. Lakes like Rose, Lida, Big Cormorant, and Ottertail were the last to ice over, and were at about 5 inches consistently, with shallow bay areas having slightly more ice as of Thursday.
The ice fishing season is here. We are at early ice, so proceed with caution if venturing onto the ice — it very seldom freezes uniformly. You should have 4 inches of good clear ice to be on the ice (foot traffic only). Because there may be 4 inches in one location close to shore, does not mean that it is the same all over. Check with an ice chisel or spud as you move out on the ice to the edge of break lines.
We went from a cold fall to winter overnight. Sunday Nov. 3 was pleasant fishing on the open water, and by Monday we got cold. The cold, snow, and biting wind of Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday confirm that winter is here.
In the middle of August, I made a prediction based on the signs of nature that indicated we were going to have a cold fall and an early winter. I figured by Labor Day we would be into our transition to fall weather.
Water temps in the area have dropped to the 40-45 degree range and will continue to slowly drop. Docks have been removed and water levels are low, so make plans to adjust to the challenges that can create. I have already visited with several people that had difficulty getting boats and pontoons off of lifts. Water levels will probably continue to drop, so if you still have your boat/pontoon on a lift, you may want to address this risk sooner than later. You can get your rig on a trailer and still launch and load at the accesses if you continue to fish.
This coming Wednesday, Oct. 24, will most likely be the last open water full moon of the 2018 open water season. Both musky and walleye anglers usually find success with night fishing during the full moon period. It is also not uncommon for trophy size fish to get caught during this time, as the fish are putting the "feedbag" on right before the cold water season we call ice fishing starts.
Walleyes and musky are the primary fish of pursuit right now and will be until ice up. A few anglers will chase bass, particularly the smallmouth that become very aggressive in the fall, and pan fish anglers look forward to an improved crappie bite in the late open water season. Finding fish in the fall is the biggest challenge. Once you have located fish, you will find them more tightly schooled, with the opportunity for multiple fish to get caught out of the school.