We will still be talking about ice this week. Even though we have had an early ice-over on the majority of area lakes, the ice is not safe yet. Most lakes still only have about 3 inches of ice, with inconsistent ice depths due to our inconsistent weather.
Some shoreline access points also have very sketchy ice. The inconsistency and slow ice development is due to the lack of a sustained cold snap. We have been cold, followed by several days above freezing, and then cold again, followed again by warmer weather.
The sun is also still very powerful now, and even when we are cold enough to freeze, the sun can slow the progress of ice development. It looks like this pattern of weather ups and downs will continue for another week to 10 days. We will probably be able to get on the ice more safely after Thanksgiving.
When we do have a sustained cold snap lasting a number of days (I am talking temps from zero to the low teens), we can make up to an inch of ice every 24 hours, especially if we have cloudy conditions. Don’t worry ice anglers, it is coming! Temperatures in the mid to high 20s or just close to freezing don’t make us much ice, and very minimal if these days have clear skies and sunshine.
Because we have ice already, and are into a winter weather pattern, we will have a longer ice fishing season than we have had for several years. We still have a few area lakes with open water, so when we do get the few days of warmer weather, your boat can still be an option. When those lakes do ice over, they will need more time to get safe ice and catch up to the other area lakes. The small, shallow, clear bottom lakes that iced over first will get thicker ice first (unless some of the lakes opened back up during the several days of nice weather).
Red Lake had ice anglers on the first break as of last weekend. If you didn’t hear about it, some anglers got stranded and had to be rescued (again) when the ice sheet opened up and left open water between them and the shore. Yes, it happened again, like it has several times before.
The problem with the very large bodies of water like Red, Mille Lacs, Winni, Leech, and Lake of the Woods, is that they will get walk out ice, or even wheeler ice before the entire lake is ice locked. Wind shifts can move the ice sheet and open fissures or move the ice away from shorelines.
It is always smart to check with local bait shops or ice guide services to get accurate reports of conditions. Another resource to check on big lake progress is going to Google Earth and looking at the current satellite images. You can see the ice development and tell if there is still some open water areas. Always make good decisions and err on the side of caution when getting on the ice.