Field report: Will ice be gone by May 10 fishing opener?

  • Updated: April 23, 2014 - 12:21 AM
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There should be some open-water walleye fishing on Lake of the Woods for the opener, but only in certain areas.

Photo: File photo by Doug Smith • doug.smith@startribune.com,

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Minnesota’s fishing season opens in about two weeks with some uncertainty: Will the ice be gone in time, or will some northern lakes be ice-covered for a second consecutive year?

Recent 70-degree temperatures have warmed optimism.

“I think we definitely have a chance to be out [by the opener],’’ said Doug Schultz, Department of Natural Resources area fisheries manager at Leech Lake. “I wouldn’t call it certain, but we’re on the right track.

“We had 45 inches of ice on Leech, but it really got beat up last weekend,’’ he said. “It’s not black yet, but it’s getting darker.’’

Farther south, in the Brainerd area, Sherree Wicktor also is hopeful the ice will fade on Gull Lake — site of the Governor’s Fishing Opener — well before May 10.

“I’m optimistic,’’ said Wicktor, owner of S&W Bait on Hwy. 371 near Gull Lake. “I’m thinking it will be gone in a week or 10 days. It’s starting to go out pretty good. But we had a lot of ice.’’

Meanwhile, there’s still 3 feet of ice on Lake of the Woods.

“We have people ice fishing on the lake as we speak,’’ said Joe Henry, executive director of Lake of the Woods Tourism. “We had over 50 inches; you needed two extensions on ice augers.’’

He doubts the big lake will be ice-free by the opener. But he said some areas are opening up, including Four Mile Bay, which should provide at least some open-water angling on the opener.

Last year, boats pressed up against the ice — and caught fish.

“People smacked the walleyes,’’ he said.

DOUG SMITH

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