Assistant state climatologist Pete Boulay learned a long time ago not to predict the timing of ice outs on northern Minnesota lakes before the fishing opener.
But this year’s melting is happening at a conventional pace and anglers aren’t filled with nearly as much anxiety as they were a year ago when open water was late to arrive.
“So far it’s progressing very close to the median,’’ Boulay said Tuesday. “We are three weeks to a month ahead of last year.’’
On last year’s traditional fishing opener May 12, Rainy Lake was shedding its last bits of ice and a few other Minnesota lakes along the Canadian border were frozen. If it wasn’t for a surprise warm-up in late April last year, the situation would have been worse. The ice-out on Lake Vermilion, for instance, happened just days before walleyes were to be targeted.
Boulay tracks lake ice-outs with the help of volunteers from all over the state. He publishes the results on an interactive map on the Department of Natural Resources website. As of Tuesday, the northernmost Minnesota lake reported to be ice free was Otter Lake in Anoka County. On nearby White Bear Lake, there was a combination of ice and open water.
Elsewhere in the Twin Cities, Lake Minnetonka and Lake Waconia still were holding ice Tuesday. To the south, ice outs were reported on Lake Pepin on March 28 and on Lake Zumbro on April 4. Lake Tetonka, a fishing destination in Le Sueur County, lost its ice on Monday.
“We’ll just keep watching,’’ Boulay said. “We’ve got a long way to go before the opener.’’
Weather events like this week’s predicted snowstorm could slow ice-outs, he said. The white stuff reflects the sun’s rays, delaying the melting of ice until the snow melts.
But this year’s May 11 fishing opener is still four weeks away and the eight- to 14-day weather outlook is calling for normal temperatures and above normal precipitation.
“If that comes true we’ll keep progressing,’’ Boulay said.