Deanna Painovich looked out her resort on Zippel Bay of Lake of the Woods on Friday and saw water.

"Zippel Bay is open," she said.

But farther north, most of the big lake still was locked in ice.

Will that ice be gone by Saturday's fishing opener?

"It's hard to say," she said. "I'm scared it isn't going to be."

Painovich isn't alone in her concern. Anglers and other business owners are uncertain whether the ice will be gone by Saturday on the larger lakes in the far north.

Henry Drewes isn't taking any bets. His office overlooks a frozen Lake Bemidji.

"It's pretty white and the ice is probably 18 to 20 inches thick still," said Drewes, regional fisheries manager in Bemidji for the Department of Natural Resources.

"It's going to be real iffy whether ice is out on the opener. And even more questionable when you move north and northeast. The big lakes such as Leech, Winnie, Cass, Lake of the Woods, Rainy, Vermilion -- it's a 50-50 shot whether ice will be off those lakes by the opener," he said Thursday.

The ice-out on many lakes in the state have been running 10 to 12 days behind average. It's the latest ice-out since 1996.

Painovich remembers that opener well.

"People walked out and ice fished that year," she said.

That won't happen Saturday. The weather forecast was for temperatures in the mid-60s in the northern third of the state this week, which should help melt ice.

"Folks fishing in the northern part of the state should check with the resorts and bait shops," Drewes advised. "Make sure lakes you're planning to go to are ice free. Plan ahead. And have some backup plans."

Other lakes open

But it's not as if all of northern Minnesota will be locked in ice. Many smaller lakes already are ice-free.

"There will be a lot of small- and medium-size lakes open," Drewes said. "There's going to be places to fish -- that's not a problem."

Even if ice doesn't depart Lake of the Woods, which straddles the Minnesota-Canada border, anglers will be able to fish the nearby Rainy River or Four Mile Bay, which is ice-free.

"They'll be some really good fishing on the Rainy River," Drewes said. And Zippel Bay is open.

Drewes said chances are good that ice will melt on Upper Red Lake by Saturday.

"The locals are very confident the ice will be out," he said. "It's a big and shallow lake, and the wind can help. It's a better bet than some of the larger, deeper lakes."

"It's really a goofy spring," said Chris Kavanaugh, DNR area fisheries manager in Grand Rapids. He's guessing lakes Pokegama and Winnibigoshish will be open.

"I'm keeping my fingers crossed. Winnie is pulling back from the shore now," he said.

Kavanaugh said people have been buzzing about the late ice-out and the fishing opener.

"Oh yeah, I can't go anywhere without someone asking me about the ice," he said.

At Lake Vermilion, it's anyone's guess.

"It's really hard to say at this point," DNR area fisheries manager Joe Geis said on Thursday. "The ice hasn't even pulled away from shore in most places. My best guess is that parts of Lake Vermilion will have open water."

Fall Lake near Ely should have some open water, too, he said, but he doubts it will be ice-free.

Farther south, at Lake Mille Lacs, optimism reigns. Three-quarters of the lake was open Friday.

"We've got open water as far as you can see on the east side," said Steve Johnson of Johnson's Portside in Isle. Ice, however, was stacked up on parts of the west side.

"I think there's a good chance we'll be ice free [by the opener]," he said.

Turkey harvest up

Despite the cold, wet spring, Minnesota's turkey hunters have been harvesting birds at a record-setting pace.

Hunters bagged 5,038 for the first three seasons, compared to 4,361 for the same time period last year.

For the math-challenged, that's an increase of 677 birds.

"It should be a record harvest if it continues [at that pace]," said Eric Dunton, DNR turkey biologist.

Mille Lacs nets lost

Ojibwe band members placed 180 nets out on the northwest side of Lake Mille Lacs last week for their annual spring walleye harvest, but then the wind shifted and ice moved in.

Tribal netters got about 80 nets out of the water before the ice came, said Ken Soring, DNR regional enforcement manager. Then they worked frantically to remove the other nets, and got special permits to use heavy equipment to remove ice from a public landing.

Ten to 15 nets hadn't been recovered as of Friday, officials said. But DNR officials said the impact to the fishery should be minimal. "The wind blew the nets towards shore," Soring said. He said the bands will count the fish in those nets as part of the band's walleye quota this year.

"Obviously we don't want to see any lost nets ... but I'm sure they'll find them," said Rick Bruesewitz, DNR area fisheries manager. "Ten to 12 nets is not a huge issue."

Bruesewitz said the bands estimate each net might hold 40 pounds of fish.