Tread lightly when fishing area lakes

Published 9:10 pm Sunday, January 8, 2012

Once again old Mother Nature has thrown us a little bit of a curve ball when it comes to ice safety.

The thickness of the ice in southern Minnesota is definitely unsettled to say the least. Even in northern Minnesota there are reports of people and vehicles falling through the ice. In one instance, a conservation officer from the Department of Natural Resources had his SUV fall through the ice while attempting to check on fishermen on a lake. The unseasonably warm weather has prompted the following news release from the Minnesota DNR:

Forecasted temperatures in the 40s across southern Minnesota this week add yet another reason to be careful if heading out on the ice.

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“Ice thickness guidelines become unreliable once the temp gets above 32 degrees,” according to Lt. Cory Palmer, enforcement supervisor for the DNR. “Snowmobiles, ATVs and other vehicles should stay off the ice until temps drop below 32 degrees for at least 24 hours.”

Even if the ice seems thick enough, temperature and other factors such as currents, wind, water chemistry and wildlife can impact the relative safeness of ice.

According to Lt. Palmer, last week in Kandiyohi County alone, three ATVs went through the ice. He stresses that there is no such thing as 100 percent safe ice.

Lt. Palmer suggests contacting a local bait shop or resort for ice reports on a specific lake and frequently checking ice thickness with an ice auger, ice chisel or even a cordless drill with a long wood auger bit.

Locally there has been some open water on Albert Lea Lake and at least one house had fallen through the ice this past weekend. I have said many times that I am one of those “thick ice” guys who would rather wait until the ice is safe before venturing out. Trevor, my oldest grandson, visited our kitchen the other night sporting a nice bucket of walleyes. Five of the fish were between 16 and 18 inches with one 22-inch fish topping off the limit. Not bad for a few hours of fishing. Trevor puts in the time on the lake and has been having good results, but even then there are times when he won’t venture out because of unstable ice.

Putting in the time is the key to any fisherman’s success. I often wondered how some fishermen could just show up at a lake, drop their boat in, fish a few hours in a certain area and go home with fish. I’d venture to guess that they had spent enough time fishing that certain body of water that they pretty much knew what areas would be holding fish at certain times. Knowing a lake and finding fish is one thing, but you still have to know how to entice them to bite.

Although seasons like this are uncommon in the state, we as true Minnesotans suspect that old Mother Nature still has some bad weather in store for us. I guess that just goes hand in hand with supporting our favorite sports teams.

Vikings football fans have been put through a couple of brutal seasons but things are looking up now that they have a general manager in place to run the show. Wait a minute — hasn’t Rick Spielman been in a similar position with the team all along? Now that he has a title and full control of the Vikings can we expect that a Super Bowl looms in the not so distant future?

The only thing I can envision right now is spring and the unseasonably mild weather has made this winter a lot easier to take. Just the other day I was talking to my brother-in-law, Lynn, in Nome, Alaska, and he said it was minus 31 degrees again and it looked like there was at least another week of that weather ahead. Lynn said that he had to put a heat lamp on his fuel tank just to get his stove to work. Now that is cold! Whenever we get that run of bad weather that we all know will come I can always think of him and be thankful for the mild winter that we have been experiencing so far.

Musky Talk

The January meeting of Crossroads Chapter 54, Muskies Inc., will be Wednesday at 7 p.m. at the Eagles Club in Owatonna.

Our speaker will be Kyle from Big Wood Musky Lures. Our meetings are on the second Wednesday of every month and include informative speakers, reports, updates, raffle, door prize and lots of musky conversation and information. You do not need be a member to attend. Check our website at Bring a friend and help improve musky fishing in southern Minnesota.

Until next time, play safe, watch out for thin ice, good fishing and enjoy the Minnesota outdoors experience.

Please remember to keep our troops in your thoughts and prayers during the holidays and the coming year. They are the reason we are able to enjoy all the freedoms that we have today.