Anglers eager to fish through hard water have gotten a jump on the early season, with ice sufficient to support winter fishermen forming over many state lakes in the past week.
But the snow that blanketed much of central and northern Minnesota beginning Monday — up to a foot of it — might put a crimp in cold-weather fishing for a few days.
"We had people fishing in the bays" of Mille Lacs, said Sarah King of Tutt's Bait and Tackle in Garrison, Minn. "They were finding up to 6 inches of ice. Now, with the snow, most fishing will have to wait until the cold weather comes in a couple of days."
Meanwhile, winter anglers looking for the latest in gear and ice fishing destinations, or wanting to learn from experts, can trek to the St. Paul RiverCentre beginning Friday for the 21st St. Paul Ice Fishing and Winter Sports Show (more information, including times and ticket prices at startribune.com/a2529).
Farther north, on Lake of the Woods out of Baudette, Sportsman's Lodge on Thursday will begin pulling rental houses as far as 5 miles onto the ice.
Early walleye fishing on the lake has been good, with anglers using four-wheelers.
"We'll put the houses in 17-24 feet of water," said owner Gregg Hennum, adding that small four-wheel-drive vehicles will skid the shanties over 8 to 10 inches of ice.
Next week, Hennum expects a snowmobile trail will be marked across the lake to Oak Island and the Northwest Angle.
"If I had to do it today, I could. The ice formed real well this year," he said.
A strong Lake of the Woods shiner run this fall also is expected to help fishing. When the small fish ran up the Rainy river, thousands were netted.
Finally, in the Twin Cities, anglers have found 3 to 5 inches of ice on many lakes over the past week. About 30 anglers were on Medicine Lake on Monday, fishing through about 5 inches of ice. And some of Lake Minnetonka's bays have had ice about the same thickness.
The Department of Natural Resources cautions that ice so early in the season can be dangerous, and urges anglers to be careful.