The Free Press, Mankato, MN


May 4, 2014

Northern lakes may not be ready for opener

Averages are the result of extremes.

And when it comes to average ice-out dates on Minnesota lakes, nature has been at both ends of extreme in just the past two years.

For example, in 2012, the ice officially went out on Lake Winnibigoshish on March 30, the earliest date on record.

Last year, the pendulum swung far in the opposite direction, setting a new record for the latest ice-out on May 17, eclipsing the previous record of May 10.

Usually full and bustling with activity on the opening weekend of the Minnesota fishing season, resorts in northern Minnesota were quiet places last year as lingering ice-cover on popular walleye destinations short-circuited many anglers’ long-standing tradition of heading north.

Many anglers opted instead to stay home or head to southern Minnesota lakes that already were ice-free.

This year, lakes in southern Minnesota lost their ice cover in mid-April, about 7 to 10 days behind average ice-out dates.

While south-state anglers might find things a little behind schedule in terms of water temperatures and fish activity and even evidence of fish kills on some waters, the opener should be business as usual with lakes and access sites in good shape.

But good news for anglers and resort owners in northern reaches of the state, with the exception of some locations in the extreme north, most lakes, including popular walleye fisheries like Winnibigoshish, Leech and Mille Lacs, also should be open for business Saturday when the Inland Waters Fishing Season opens.

“A lot of the smaller lakes around here already are open, and the ice is pushing around right now on Winnie, it’s opening up along the edges” said Richard Leonhardt of High Banks Resort, last week.

“We’re fairly optimistic the lake will be open (by Saturday).”

Leonhardt said that in spite of the lingering chilly weather, everything is a lot further along than it was last year at this time.

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