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 - LP: J. Peavy 2 FINAL
Kansas City - WP: K. Herrera 7
San Diego 7:25 PM
Denver
Detroit 10/26/14 8:30 AM
Atlanta
Buffalo 10/26/14 12:00 PM
NY Jets
St. Louis 10/26/14 12:00 PM
Kansas City
Houston 10/26/14 12:00 PM
Tennessee
Minnesota 10/26/14 12:00 PM
Tampa Bay
Seattle 10/26/14 12:00 PM
Carolina
Baltimore 10/26/14 12:00 PM
Cincinnati
Miami 10/26/14 12:00 PM
Jacksonville
Chicago 10/26/14 12:00 PM
New England
Philadelphia 10/26/14 3:05 PM
Arizona
Oakland 10/26/14 3:25 PM
Cleveland
Indianapolis 10/26/14 3:25 PM
Pittsburgh
Green Bay 10/26/14 7:30 PM
New Orleans
Washington 10/27/14 7:30 PM
Dallas
Houston 90 FINAL
Orlando 89
Brooklyn 86 FINAL
Boston 100
Washington 100 FINAL
New York 103
Cleveland 92 FINAL
Memphis 96
Minnesota 110 FINAL
Milwaukee 91
Atlanta 117 FINAL
San Antonio 107
Portland 86 FINAL
LA Lakers 94
Phoenix 105 FINAL
LA Clippers 108
Toronto 0 Postponed
Ottawa 0
Philadelphia 5 FINAL
Pittsburgh 3
Washington 2 FINAL
Edmonton 3
Buffalo 1 FINAL
Anaheim 4
Arkansas State 40 FINAL
Louisiana 55
Connecticut 6:00 PM
(18) East Carolina
Miami-Florida 7:00 PM
Virginia Tech
So Florida 10/24/14 6:00 PM
Cincinnati
Troy 10/24/14 6:30 PM
South Alabama
BYU 10/24/14 8:00 PM
Boise State
(6) Oregon 10/24/14 9:00 PM
California
North Texas 10/25/14 11:00 AM
Rice
UAB 10/25/14 11:00 AM
Arkansas
Rutgers 10/25/14 11:00 AM
(16) Nebraska
Maryland 10/25/14 11:00 AM
Wisconsin
Texas 10/25/14 11:00 AM
(11) Kansas State
Minnesota 10/25/14 11:00 AM
Illinois
Memphis 10/25/14 11:00 AM
SMU
North Carolina 10/25/14 11:30 AM
Virginia
San Jose St 10/25/14 12:00 PM
Navy
Northern Ill 10/25/14 12:00 PM
Eastern Mich
(25) UCLA 10/25/14 1:00 PM
Colorado
Akron 10/25/14 1:00 PM
Ball State
Massachusetts 10/25/14 1:00 PM
Toledo
Ohio U 10/25/14 1:00 PM
Western Mich
Ga Southern 10/25/14 1:00 PM
Georgia State
Kent State 10/25/14 1:30 PM
Miami-Ohio
Oregon State 10/25/14 2:30 PM
Stanford
Fla Atlantic 10/25/14 2:30 PM
(23) Marshall
Louisiana Tech 10/25/14 2:30 PM
Southern Miss
(1) Miss State 10/25/14 2:30 PM
Kentucky
Georgia Tech 10/25/14 2:30 PM
Pittsburgh
(22) West Virginia 10/25/14 2:30 PM
Oklahoma State
Texas Tech 10/25/14 2:30 PM
(10) TCU
Michigan 10/25/14 2:30 PM
(8) Michigan State
Boston College 10/25/14 2:30 PM
Wake Forest
Central Mich 10/25/14 2:30 PM
Buffalo
Vanderbilt 10/25/14 3:00 PM
Missouri
Old Dominion 10/25/14 3:00 PM
Western Ky
UNLV 10/25/14 3:00 PM
Utah State
Temple 10/25/14 4:00 PM
UCF
(15) Arizona 10/25/14 5:00 PM
Washington St
Texas-El Paso 10/25/14 6:00 PM
TX-San Antonio
Wyoming 10/25/14 6:00 PM
Colorado State
Syracuse 10/25/14 6:00 PM
(21) Clemson
Texas State 10/25/14 6:00 PM
ULM
(3) Ole Miss 10/25/14 6:15 PM
(24) LSU
(4) Alabama 10/25/14 6:30 PM
Tennessee
So Carolina 10/25/14 6:30 PM
(5) Auburn
(13) Ohio State 10/25/14 7:00 PM
Penn State
(20) USC 10/25/14 9:00 PM
(19) Utah
(14) Arizona State 10/25/14 9:45 PM
Washington
Nevada 10/25/14 10:59 PM
Hawaii
Chivas USA 0 FINAL
Real Salt Lake 2
Montreal 10/24/14 5:30 PM
Ottawa
Saskatchewan 10/24/14 8:30 PM
Calgary
Hamilton 10/25/14 3:00 PM
Toronto
Brt Columbia 10/25/14 6:00 PM
Winnipeg
Hamilton 10/31/14 6:30 PM
Ottawa
Winnipeg 11/1/14 3:00 PM
Calgary
Brt Columbia 11/1/14 6:00 PM
Edmonton
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