Six shallow southern Minnesota lakes shook off their winter ice Tuesday through Saturday, the first of Minnesota's 15,000 lakes to go blue after one of the coldest winters in recent decades.

Iowa Lake in Martin County was the first, opening up on Tuesday, according to the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources' tracking website. It was followed by nearby Hall Lake on Wednesday and Budd Lake on Thursday. Both those lakes are in the city of Fairmont. A bit northwest, Park and Smith Lakes in Murray County opened up Thursday and Lake Shetek on Friday.

Budd Lake is often the first in the state to be reported ice-free. This year's opening date was five days sooner than the lake's latest ever, covering 27 years of records, but 11 days later than the median date. The latest ice-free occurrence was in 2008.

Shetek's opening was nearly two weeks earlier than the latest ice-free date in 54 years of records, which occurred in 1962, but about a week later than the median date. Lake Shetek, covering more than 3,000 acres, is more than 10 times the size of Budd Lake.

In the metro area, larger lakes are still locked up.

The median date for Lake Minnetonka to lose its ice is April 13 and the latest date, in more than 150 years of records, is May 5. The median for White Bear Lake is April 14 and the latest in 85 years of records is May 4.

Lake Pepin, the wide stretch of the Mississippi River southeast of the metro area, still had ice more than a foot thick over half of its 21-mile length in Wednesday's weekly measurements.

Bill McAuliffe • 612-673-7646