Will The Ice Be Out For Fishing Opener?

Anglers fish the St. Louis River on opening day of Minnesota’s fishing season in 2009. Lots of anglers are wondering if Minnesota lakes will be ice-free for the May 11 opener, but the St. Louis River likely will be ice-free before that. (News Tribune file photo)

With another snowstorm on our doorstep and no significant warming trend in sight, a lot of us are wondering whether the ice will go out on our favorite lakes in time for the May 11 Minnesota fishing opener — or the May 4 Wisconsin opener.

It’s looking a little dicey, isn’t it?

As of mid-week, ice-out on Minnesota lakes was about two weeks behind normal, said Department of Natural Resources climatologist Pete Boulay. Only a few lakes in southwestern Minnesota have lost their ice, he said.

In northern Minnesota, lakes remain snow-covered and have lost virtually no ice except where current enters or leaves.

I remember in 2008, the ice left northern Minnesota lakes not long before the fishing opener. I fished Lake Vermilion that year, and the ice went out just the day before the opener.

This year, anything could happen. If we get warm weather, the rate of ice-out on Minnesota lakes could resume a more normal pattern. Last year, remember, warm weather hit in March and we lost nearly all of our snow in less than a week.

Here are some average ice-out dates for Northeastern Minnesota lakes, according to the DNR’s climatology office records:

Big Sandy (McGregor), April 21

Mille Lacs, April 25

Pelican (Orr), April 26

Leech, April 28

Shagawa (Ely), April 28

Kabetogama (Ray), April 29

Burntside (Ely), April 30

Vermilion, April 30

Rainy, May 4

Gunflint, May 6

Saganaga, May 7