While some Minnesotans are enjoying the unseasonably warm winter, snowmobilers and cross-country skiers are livid.
Snow conditions are more like April than January. Around the state, including the normally snow-heavy northeast, most trails are in poor to fair condition — or closed. Cross-country trails at 23 state parks — including popular William O'Brien, Afton, Gooseberry Falls and Jay Cooke — are closed, as are snowmobile trails at 20 state parks. Officials have opened some cross-country trails to hikers.
Only a handful of state park trails are rated good or very good and none is rated excellent.
Winter anglers are among those who haven't minded the warm temperatures. They have been flocking to lakes around the state, report Department of Natural Resources conservation officers.
"The ice anglers are out in full force," reported officer Randy Posner of Brainerd.
Fishing action has slowed in many areas, though it's remained hot on some lakes.
World's biggest contest
The warm weather helped encourage more than 11,000 anglers to show up Saturday for the 25th annual Brainerd Jaycees Ice Fishing Extravaganza on Gull Lake on Saturday. Last year was bitterly cold. Not this year.
Steven Baumgartner of Owatonna found the temperature just right: He landed a 6.73-pound northern — caught with a shiner minnow in only 15 feet of water — to win the top prize, a new pickup truck.
"I wasn't having luck at 26 feet, so I thought I'd give it a try in shallow water, and that sure worked," Baumgartner said.
Anglers registered a record 1,240 fish during the three-hour contest.
The warm weather has caused some ice safety issues in some areas. A vehicle went through the ice off Stony Point on Pokegama Lake last week, and conservation officers reported other ice-related incidents.
At Gull Lake, several people unfamiliar with the lake conditions drove onto thin ice and broke through.
"All were able to escape without injuries, including one truck where the occupants crawled out as it was sinking and stood on top of the truck where they were rescued by a couple of local anglers who were passing by," reported officer Tim Collette of Pequot Lakes.
Also in the Brainerd area, DNR officer Posner reported three pickups, an SUV, two snowmobiles and two off-highway vehicles either broke through thin ice or crashed into pressure ridges.
There were no reported injuries but significant damage, he said.