I hope everyone had a happy Thanksgiving. This holiday is always a great reminder to stop and reflect on all that we have to be grateful for in our lives. Most often it puts perspective on the priority of family, friends and time shared for me.
I am also grateful I am able to pursue the passion I have for fishing and share that with others. It is easy to get preoccupied with all the busy things in life, life interferes with living well at times. Fishing is always a great way to slow down and enjoy the beauty, and power, of nature. It is a healthy distraction for me from the stresses our modern life can impose.
Now we all get to switch gears to distract ourselves from winter by partaking in an activity this season provides us … ice fishing.
Some of the shallow basin lakes in the area like Little Detroit, Rock, Big Toad, Height of Land, Tamarac, Shell, etc. (the medium to large shallow lakes) have about 7 to 9 inches of ice. Some of the smaller shallow basin lakes range from 8 to 10 inches of ice. These lakes already have some wheeler traffic on them, and if we get a little snow, the sleds will come out on them also. So far, the lack of snow is good for continuing to build ice. You still need to check ice as you go as ice thicknesses will still vary. Stay away from areas where currents flow.
The medium to large deeper lakes in our area like Sallie, Melissa, Big Detroit, Pelican, Lida, etc., have skimmed, opened up in some areas and skimmed over again. Ice ranges of 2 to 4 inches on these lakes make them very unpredictable. Last Sunday when the Vikings were beating up on the Rams, the local fire-rescue crew had a chance to practice with the airboat on Lake Sallie, as the strong winds and warmer temps of the previous couple of days had opened up a significant amount of the lake. This happened on several area lakes.
Some of the larger, deeper lakes like Pelican, Cormorant, Rose, and Ottertail still had open water into the middle of this last week. Give these lakes a chance to build some safe walkout ice of at least a consistent 4 to 5 inches and wait for 5 to 7 inches for the wheelers.
If the forecast for Thanksgiving until you are reading this held true, we had well-above freezing temps and some rain. That stops building ice and can take us backwards.
If the forecast for the next week to 10 days holds true, we will be making ice slowly with daytime temperatures hovering just above freezing for a number of the days. Stick to the shallower lakes until we get a really good cold snap that makes good ice on some of the more popular ice fishing lakes.
If you want to travel to some good ice and a quality walleye bite, you may want to head north to Upper Red Lake. The regulations were upped to four fish, with one allowed over 17 inches. I still recommend your “over 17” not being over 20 inches. Let’s keep the nice spawners in the lake. The best eaters are those 14-17-inchers anyway!
Mille Lacs Lake is not safe yet, but when it is, you can keep one walleye this winter. The fish you can keep has to be at least 20 inches and cannot touch 22 inches …or you can keep your one if it is 28 inches or bigger.
I did not get on the ice bite there last year, but the reports were fantastic. If you like catch and release, that may be a trip to put on your ice fishing schedule. It will also be a couple of weeks yet for the Lake of the Woods ice to be ready for you.