Unseasonably warm early winter temperatures, combined with snowfalls that occurred before lakes were solidly frozen, have created slushy conditions across northern Minnesota that are slowing — and in some cases preventing — winter fishing.
Reports issued Tuesday by Department of Natural Resources conservation officers (COs) underscore the challenging and in some instances dangerous ice conditions anglers face accessing lake ice.
• CO Chris Vinton of Perham said ice conditions are very poor in his area. Slush is the primary culprit, he said, with one vehicle going through the Otter Tail Lake ice.
• Vinton’s DNR enforcement colleague, Jake Swedberg of Detroit Lakes, said recent snowfalls have “made ice conditions even worse.’’ Many anglers, he said, “are struggling to find high ground to set up portable shelters.’’
• Conservations officer Angie Warren of Mahnomen reports that while area snowmobile trails are in good shape, lake portions of those trails have “lots of water on top and varying ice thickness. Anyone venturing out on the ice should use caution.’’
• CO Eric Benjamin of Warroad works on Lake of the Woods a good deal. That giant border lake, he said, saw a huge influx of anglers last week “after Upper Red Lake slushed over.’’
• CO Mark Mathy patrols the Cass Lake area and reports that while snowmobiles regularly zip along on regional trails, “angling activity for this time of year is at very low levels due to large amounts of slush and ice that won’t hold vehicle traffic.’’
• The BWCA trout opener for lakes inside the wilderness area was Jan. 1, and CO Sean Williams of Ely was on site. So sloppy were slush and snow conditions, Williams said, that some groups camping inside the BWCA told him they struggled seven hours to travel a mere 2 miles.
• DNR officers Don Murray of Two Harbors, Jimmy Van Asch of Pengilly, Eric Sullivan of Pequot Lakes and Karl Hadrits of Crosby report that slush also has slowed winter fishing in their areas. Said Hadrits, “Slush and poor ice conditions are the sore subject on nearly all area lakes.’’