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.

Barnard said the Tamarack River at Upper Red Lake and the Mississippi River below Bemidji could be closed to protect fish. The DNR will announce closed areas later.

Walleye stocking

Last April, DNR employees were already stripping millions of eggs and sperm from walleyes at eight locations as part of agency’s walleye production and stocking program. This year, they haven’t started.

The late ice-out will condense the DNR’s egg-taking process, but it won’t deter it. “We’ll get them,’’ said Neil Vanderbosch, who heads the program.

Workers plan to collect 600 million eggs, which go to 11 state hatcheries. There they blossom into 370 million tiny walleye fry. About 264 million will be stocked in 291 lakes; the rest will go into rearing ponds to grow to 3-inch fingerlings, also to be dumped in lakes.

Walleye spawning is triggered by photoperiod and water temperature. The length of days has them primed to spawn now. Once the ice melts, things could happen quickly, Vanderbosch said. His crews will be ready.

What if the ice lingers?

“If we get into May and the lakes are still locked in ice,’’ Vanderbosch said, “I think we’ll have bigger problems than our walleye egg take: people going crazy.’’

Tribal netting

Indian bands that net walleye in Lake Mille Lacs almost always are done before the sportfishing opener, which avoids potential clashes between tribal netters and non-band sport anglers.

“We don’t know what’s going to happen,’’ said Sue Erickson, public information director for the Great Lakes Indian Fish & Wildlife Commission in Odanah, Wis., which represents 11 Ojibwe tribes in Minnesota, Wisconsin and Michigan, some of which net walleyes on Mille Lacs.

The late ice-out, Erickson said, “might have band members and anglers on the lake simultaneously. I would hope people would still be respectful of each other if that happens.’’

The tribal netters might be able to get their nets out near the shoreline, even if the rest of the lake is ice-covered, said Rick Bruesewitz, DNR area fisheries manager. But the late spring could mean those fish quickly spawn and depart for deeper waters, reducing the bands’ catch. That happened in 2011, when ice didn’t depart until May.

“It was a very short season,’’ Erickson said.

Meanwhile, more snow was forecast Up North this weekend. And Anderson, the Leech Lake guide, could only joke about it.

“It will be an opener we’ll never forget,’’ he said. “We’ll probably be ice fishing.’’

 

Doug Smith • doug.smith@startribune.com

  • 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

Minnesota 35 FINAL
Miami 37
Baltimore 13 FINAL
Houston 25
Detroit 20 FINAL
Chicago 14
Cleveland 13 FINAL
Carolina 17
Atlanta 30 FINAL
New Orleans 14
Green Bay 20 FINAL
Tampa Bay 3
Kansas City 12 FINAL
Pittsburgh 20
New England 17 FINAL
NY Jets 16
NY Giants 20 2nd Qtr 3:15
St. Louis 3
Buffalo 7 2nd Qtr 13:32
Oakland 7
Indianapolis 0 2nd Qtr 11:05
Dallas 21
Seattle 7:30 PM
Arizona
Denver 12/22/14 7:30 PM
Cincinnati
New York 67 3rd Qtr 3:41
Toronto 79
Memphis 23 2nd Qtr 8:56
Cleveland 26
Boston 5:00 PM
Miami
Detroit 5:00 PM
Brooklyn
LA Lakers 5:00 PM
Sacramento
Philadelphia 5:00 PM
Orlando
Phoenix 5:00 PM
Washington
Indiana 6:00 PM
Minnesota
New Orleans 6:00 PM
Oklahoma City
Colorado 5:00 PM
Detroit
Dallas 5:00 PM
Edmonton
Buffalo 6:00 PM
Boston
Carolina 6:00 PM
NY Rangers
Toronto 6:00 PM
Chicago
Philadelphia 8:00 PM
Winnipeg
Harvard 27 FINAL
Virginia 76
Maine 69 FINAL
Army 72
Ferris State 82 FINAL
Bowling Green 68
San Francisco 65 FINAL
Cleveland State 69
Oregon State 52 FINAL
Quinnipiac 60
Coastal Carolina 72 FINAL
Central Arkansas 55
Holy Cross 48 FINAL
Canisius 67
Southern Miss 55 FINAL
Georgia State 68
Western Carolina 66 FINAL
UNC-Asheville 62
Creighton 58 FINAL
North Texas 62
Maryland 73 FINAL
Oklahoma State 64
Cornell 61 FINAL
Radford 74
Vermont 55 FINAL
Saint Louis 58
Loyola-Maryland 52 FINAL
Stony Brook 67
Reinhardt 72 FINAL
Winthrop 100
Ark-Little Rock 46 FINAL
Green Bay 66
TX-Pan American 72 FINAL
Nebraska Omaha 77
Alabama State 63 FINAL
Evansville 81
FIU 69 FINAL
Hartford 82
Goshen 55 FINAL
Valparaiso 82
Bryant 48 FINAL
Denver 46
Austin Peay 63 FINAL
Lipscomb 69
Tennessee St 47 FINAL
Middle Tennessee 65
South Dakota 67 FINAL
Montana 62
ULM 50 2nd Half 0:51
Samford 64
Coker 40 2nd Half 6:24
South Carolina 60
USC 47 2nd Half 16:32
Boston College 46
Northern Ariz 27 2nd Half 15:35
Hampton 38
SD Christian 31 2nd Half 14:55
San Diego 53
UC Irvine 22 2nd Half
Bradley 27
Troy 25 2nd Half
Nicholls 32
Seton Hall 5:00 PM
Georgia
Appalachian St 5:30 PM
Alabama
North Dakota St 6:00 PM
Kent State
San Jose St 6:00 PM
Washington St
Alcorn State 8:00 PM
Texas-El Paso
Sacramento St 9:00 PM
Seattle
Nevada 3 FINAL
Louisiana 16
Utah State 21 FINAL
Texas-El Paso 6
(23) Utah 45 FINAL
Colorado State 10
Western Mich 24 FINAL
Air Force 38
South Alabama 28 FINAL
Bowling Green 33
BYU 12/22/14 1:00 PM
Memphis
Marshall 12/23/14 5:00 PM
Northern Ill
Navy 12/23/14 8:30 PM
San Diego St
Central Mich 12/24/14 11:00 AM
Western Ky
Fresno State 12/24/14 7:00 PM
Rice
Illinois 12/26/14 12:00 PM
Louisiana Tech
Rutgers 12/26/14 3:30 PM
North Carolina
NC State 12/26/14 7:00 PM
UCF
Cincinnati 12/27/14 12:00 PM
Virginia Tech
Duke 12/27/14 1:10 PM
(15) Arizona State
Miami-Florida 12/27/14 3:00 PM
So Carolina
Boston College 12/27/14 3:30 PM
Penn State
(25) Nebraska 12/27/14 7:00 PM
(24) USC
Cal-Irvine 55 FINAL
Denver 63
St Marys-CA 52 FINAL
George Washington 70
TX-San Antonio 49 FINAL
Nicholls 57
Portland State 71 FINAL
Columbia 66
Tenn Tech 62 FINAL
Morgan State 56
SMU 43 FINAL
Auburn 56
Quinnipiac 70 FINAL
Hartford 58
Hofstra 75 FINAL
Boston College 61
Eastern Washington 55 FINAL
Georgia Southern 42
Liberty 44 FINAL
(1) South Carolina 84
Fairleigh Dickinson 74 FINAL
Brown 79
Buffalo 73 FINAL
Long Island 79
Bucknell 74 FINAL
Mount St Marys 49
Stony Brook 70 FINAL
Wagner 76
FIU 83 FINAL
Wofford 75
Duquesne 56 FINAL
Providence 67
Maine 54 FINAL
William & Mary 51
Alabama State 43 FINAL
Samford 56
TX-Pan American 43 FINAL
VA Commonwealth 64
South Dakota St 64 FINAL
Marist 82
Saint Josephs 50 FINAL
(5) Notre Dame 64
Radford 60 FINAL
Virginia Tech 73
(3) Texas 67 FINAL
(4) Texas A&M 65
Rhode Island 60 FINAL
Bryant 56
South Florida 90 FINAL
Penn State 87
Sam Houston St 55 FINAL
TCU 79
Evansville 50 FINAL
IUPUI 62
(14) Maryland 110 FINAL
Coppin State 51
Mercer 59 FINAL
Coll of Charleston 72
NC A&T 43 FINAL
Chattanooga 58
Princeton 84 FINAL
Monmouth 53
Eastern Illinois 69 FINAL
Lehigh 72
Rider 67 FINAL
Binghamton 72
SC State 57 FINAL
Clemson 66
Fairfield 63 FINAL
Iowa State 76
Richmond 70 FINAL
Eastern Kentucky 56
Cleveland State 80 FINAL
Morehead St 72
Kent State 62 FINAL
Colgate 61
South Alabama 43 FINAL
UAB 73
Saint Peters 35 FINAL
Navy 71
Youngstown St 52 FINAL
Pittsburgh 78
NJIT 50 FINAL
Lafayette 66
Davidson 51 FINAL
Charlotte 86
Indiana State 73 FINAL
St Johns 67
Southern U 49 FINAL
Florida 78
Wright State 46 FINAL
Purdue 70
(19) Oklahoma St 66 FINAL
USC 62
Houston 54 FINAL
Texas Tech 60
Ark-Little Rock 66 FINAL
Tulsa 59
Dayton 71 FINAL
Vanderbilt 67
Northern Ariz 37 FINAL
New Mexico 56
UNC-Asheville 60 FINAL
USC Upstate 67
North Dakota 81 FINAL
South Dakota 86
Western Ill 57 FINAL
Marquette 65
Elon 67 FINAL
(6) North Carolina 85
Ball State 59 FINAL
Western Ky 84
(8) Kentucky 67 FINAL
(13) Duke 89
New Orleans 58 FINAL
Alabama 87
Chicago State 47 FINAL
Milwaukee 69
Bowling Green 61 FINAL
Bradley 47
Ill-Springfield 56 FINAL
SE Missouri St 73
Northern Ill 42 FINAL
Northern Iowa 51
(23) Iowa 100 FINAL
Drake 98
Western Carolina 45 FINAL
North Florida 62
Central Michigan 63 2nd Half 0:25
Minnesota 65
Wyoming 53 2nd Half 15:09
Colorado 48
Portland 35 2nd Half 16:43
Boise State 54
Cal Poly 41 2nd Half 13:44
Colorado State 46
No Dakota State 33 2nd Half 14:04
Grand Canyon 45
Albany 43 2nd Half 20:00
Cal State Fullerton 28
Oklahoma 31 2nd Half
Arkansas 37
Idaho State 36 2nd Half 17:55
Seattle 27
(18) Michigan State 52 2nd Half 12:03
(19) Syracuse 48
Northwestern 25 2nd Half
Arizona State 39
TX-Arlington 16 1st Half 7:51
North Texas 11
St Francis-PA 4:00 PM
Coastal Carolina
Fresno State 16 1st Half 13:19
Oregon 12
UNLV 7 1st Half 16:38
CS-Bakersfield 8
UCLA 0 1st Half 20:00
(2) Connecticut 0
(10) Louisville 0 1st Half 20:00
(24) California 0
Howard 5:00 PM
Virginia
Miami-Ohio 6:00 PM
(21) Miss State
Illinois-Chicago 8:30 PM
Old Dominion
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