The Free Press, Mankato, MN

Outdoors

March 24, 2014

Searching for spring -- and open water

We all can agree: It’s been a long, long winter.

If you’re an ice angler, then maybe you’re quite happy that that your knuckles are scraping by the time your auger breaks through the thick mantel of ice.

But the rest of us?

Winter weary, we pine for the sound of waves lapping against the boat, the pleasant aroma of a burbling outboard, sunlight glinting off of a lake kissed with warm breezes.

So what the heck.

Kick aside that portable ice shelter taking up space in the garage, clear off a winter’s worth of stuff that somehow has accumulated on that boat on your side of the garage, hitch up and head south.

Someplace down there, there has to be some open water.

First stop is Clear Lake, Iowa, about 110 miles southeast of Mankato as the crow flies.

The good news, says Mike Platts at the Crazy Minnow located on Highway 18, is that the crappie fishing has been pretty good, particularly in the small lake on the west end of the big lake.

Ditto for the feisty-but-tasty yellow bass.

The bad news?

You’ll still need your ice-fishing gear.

“We’ve still got 27 inches of ice out there,” he said. “It’s mostly foot traffic though because the lake entrances are pretty rough to get through.”

What’s more, even if it was easy to get a vehicle on the lake, he wouldn’t recommend it, explaining that aeration systems in operation on the lake and wind make vehicle traffic risky business at such a late date.

His best estimate for ice-out? “Depending on the weather we have, probably mid- to late-April.”

So southward we continue, a straight shot down I-35 and then to Johnston Bait and Tackle near the Saylorville Reservoir, where Michael Olson has been selling plenty of bait to anglers coming through the door in recent days.

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