Late ice-out: What will it mean for Minnesota anglers?

  • Article by: DOUG SMITH , Star Tribune
  • Updated: April 20, 2013 - 11:36 PM

Lingering winter brings worries in the fishing business.

hide

The weather was brutal for the 2008 opener at Upper Red Lake, but at least there was open water. The fear this year: ice for the opener.

Photo: Star Tribune file ,

CameraStar Tribune photo galleries

Cameraview larger

Larry Anderson peered out his window at a frozen, snow-covered Leech Lake last week and pondered whether the white expanse would be blue by the May 11 fishing opener.

“Looking at the forecast, I’d say we’re in trouble,’’ said Anderson, a longtime Leech Lake fishing guide. Ice on Leech still is nearly 3 feet thick, as it is on lakes across northern Minnesota.

So with less than three weeks before Minnesota’s fishing opener — and with no end in sight for the cool spring weather — some anglers, fishing guides and business owners are becoming a bit nervous. After record early ice-outs last year, many lakes could go ice-free much later than normal this year. Currently all but a few southern Minnesota lakes are locked firmly in winter’s grip.

“There’s probably as much ice on the lakes now as any time all winter,’’ said Gary Barnard, Department of Natural Resources area fisheries manager in Bemidji, where many lakes still have 30 inches of ice. “It’s not a certainty the ice will be off the lakes by the opener.’’

Still, a lot can happen in three weeks.

“What always amazes me is you get a few warm days and warm nights and some rain, and that can knock the ice out,’’ said Chris Kavanaugh, DNR area fisheries manager at Grand Rapids, where lakes have 27 to 31 inches of ice. “I think rain has more effect [on melting ice] than a sunny day.’’

Larry Jacobson, owner of Hiawatha Beach Resort on Leech Lake, isn’t worried. Yet.

“We’ve been here since 1960, and it’s been open [water] on the fishing opener every year,’’ he said. No one is canceling reservations at his resort, which is on Steamboat Bay, always one of the first to lose its ice, he said.

The earliest that Leech has gone ice-free was April 2 last year; the latest was May 23, 1950, and the average date is April 27. Lakes farther north — Lake of the Woods, Upper Red, Basswood, Saganaga and Gunflint, to name a few — are even more at risk.

But even if spring finally arrives and ice fades by May 11, there could be impacts on anglers, fish managers and others. Among them:

The fish bite

Anderson said water temperatures likely will be cooler than normal.

“I would think the fish would be where they normally would be,’’ he said, referring to shallow water, where they spawn. “I wouldn’t expect them to be out in the deep water yet.’’

Barnard agrees.

“Fishing generally is really good with late ice-out, because they are not dispersed,’’ he said.

However, said Kavanaugh: “They might still be concentrated in creeks, inlets or spawning areas. If it stays cool, there may be situations where they haven’t finished spawning, and we all know that can affect the bite.’’

Meaning walleyes might be tight-lipped.

And if walleyes haven’t finished spawning by the opener, some areas where fish are vulnerable to overfishing could be closed, including the Little Cut Foot Sioux area of Lake Winnibigoshish. “Right now, it’s too early to make that call,’’ Kavanaugh said.

  • get related content delivered to your inbox

  • manage my email subscriptions

Click here to send us your hunting or fishing photos – and to see what others are showing off from around the region.

ADVERTISEMENT

San Francisco - WP: M. Bumgarner 8 FINAL
Pittsburgh - LP: E. Volquez 0
Minnesota 10/2/14 7:25 PM
Green Bay
Buffalo 10/5/14 12:00 PM
Detroit
Chicago 10/5/14 12:00 PM
Carolina
Cleveland 10/5/14 12:00 PM
Tennessee
St. Louis 10/5/14 12:00 PM
Philadelphia
Atlanta 10/5/14 12:00 PM
NY Giants
Tampa Bay 10/5/14 12:00 PM
New Orleans
Houston 10/5/14 12:00 PM
Dallas
Baltimore 10/5/14 12:00 PM
Indianapolis
Pittsburgh 10/5/14 12:00 PM
Jacksonville
Arizona 10/5/14 3:05 PM
Denver
Kansas City 10/5/14 3:25 PM
San Francisco
NY Jets 10/5/14 3:25 PM
San Diego
Cincinnati 10/5/14 7:30 PM
New England
Seattle 10/6/14 7:30 PM
Washington
Washington 1 FINAL
Buffalo 6
Carolina 3 FINAL
Columbus 6
Pittsburgh 2 FINAL
Detroit 0
Montreal 3 FINAL
Chicago 1
Arizona 2 FINAL
Edmonton 3
Fla Atlantic 10/2/14 6:00 PM
FIU
UCF 10/2/14 6:00 PM
Houston
Arizona 10/2/14 9:30 PM
(2) Oregon
Louisville 10/3/14 6:00 PM
Syracuse
San Diego St 10/3/14 9:00 PM
Fresno State
Utah State 10/3/14 9:15 PM
(18) BYU
(6) Texas A&M 10/4/14 11:00 AM
(12) Miss State
Ball State 10/4/14 11:00 AM
Army
Iowa State 10/4/14 11:00 AM
(21) Oklahoma State
Marshall 10/4/14 11:00 AM
Old Dominion
Southern Miss 10/4/14 11:00 AM
Middle Tennessee
(20) Ohio State 10/4/14 11:00 AM
Maryland
Purdue 10/4/14 11:00 AM
Illinois
Florida 10/4/14 11:00 AM
Tennessee
SMU 10/4/14 11:00 AM
(22) East Carolina
Virginia Tech 10/4/14 11:30 AM
North Carolina
Eastern Mich 10/4/14 1:00 PM
Akron
North Texas 10/4/14 1:30 PM
Indiana
Massachusetts 10/4/14 1:30 PM
Miami-Ohio
Tulsa 10/4/14 2:00 PM
Colorado State
New Mexico 10/4/14 2:30 PM
TX-San Antonio
(3) Alabama 10/4/14 2:30 PM
(11) Ole Miss
(14) Stanford 10/4/14 2:30 PM
(9) Notre Dame
(17) Wisconsin 10/4/14 2:30 PM
Northwestern
Navy 10/4/14 2:30 PM
Air Force
(7) Baylor 10/4/14 2:30 PM
Texas
(4) Oklahoma 10/4/14 2:30 PM
(25) TCU
Wake Forest 10/4/14 2:30 PM
(1) Florida State
NC State 10/4/14 2:30 PM
Clemson
Buffalo 10/4/14 2:30 PM
Bowling Green
Ohio U 10/4/14 2:30 PM
Central Mich
Oregon State 10/4/14 3:00 PM
Colorado
Vanderbilt 10/4/14 3:00 PM
(13) Georgia
Kansas 10/4/14 3:00 PM
West Virginia
Kent State 10/4/14 4:00 PM
Northern Ill
South Alabama 10/4/14 5:00 PM
Appalachian St
Texas-El Paso 10/4/14 6:00 PM
Louisiana Tech
(15) LSU 10/4/14 6:00 PM
(5) Auburn
UAB 10/4/14 6:00 PM
Western Ky
Texas Tech 10/4/14 6:00 PM
(23) Kansas State
Michigan 10/4/14 6:00 PM
Rutgers
Hawaii 10/4/14 6:00 PM
Rice
Toledo 10/4/14 6:00 PM
Western Mich
ULM 10/4/14 6:00 PM
Arkansas State
Georgia State 10/4/14 6:00 PM
Louisiana
Idaho 10/4/14 6:00 PM
Texas State
Memphis 10/4/14 6:00 PM
Cincinnati
Arizona State 10/4/14 6:30 PM
(16) USC
So Carolina 10/4/14 6:30 PM
Kentucky
Pittsburgh 10/4/14 6:30 PM
Virginia
Miami-Florida 10/4/14 6:30 PM
Georgia Tech
(19) Nebraska 10/4/14 7:00 PM
(10) Michigan State
UNLV 10/4/14 7:00 PM
San Jose St
Ga Southern 10/4/14 7:00 PM
New Mexico St
California 10/4/14 9:30 PM
Washington St
Utah 10/4/14 9:30 PM
(8) UCLA
Boise State 10/4/14 9:30 PM
Nevada
Winnipeg 10/3/14 6:00 PM
Ottawa
Calgary 10/3/14 9:00 PM
Saskatchewan
Edmonton 10/4/14 3:00 PM
Toronto
Brt Columbia 10/4/14 6:00 PM
Hamilton
Hamilton 10/10/14 6:00 PM
Toronto
Ottawa 10/11/14 9:00 PM
Brt Columbia
Connect with twitterConnect with facebookConnect with Google+Connect with PinterestConnect with PinterestConnect with RssfeedConnect with email newsletters

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

question of the day

Poll: Should the lake where the albino muskie was caught remain a mystery?

Weekly Question

ADVERTISEMENT

 
Close