Early snow could complicate ice fishing
There were still a few boats on some of the deep lakes like Bemidji, Cass and Walker Bay earlier this week, just ahead of the first snowstorm.
Muskie anglers should win an award for being the hardiest anglers on the water, with a few individuals literally fishing until the last minutes of the open-water season.
Many shallow lakes in the Bemidji area froze over just in time to get covered with eight to 10 inches of snow, with more snow on the way over Thanksgiving weekend.
Even though the snow was light and fluffy, there was enough weight on the ice to create instant slush problems on any lake covered with ice. Slush can have long-lasting effects on ice fishing, especially when heavy snow falls on thin ice.
The ideal situation is for the ice to get thick enough to support the weight of the snow before any significant amount of snow falls on the ice.
This year may be approaching the worst-case scenario for any lake that was covered with ice when the back-to-back snow storms hit.
Slush problems can last all winter, or at least until there is a long stretch of extremely cold weather to firm the ice.
Most avid ice anglers have spots they like to fish on first ice. Most lakes will freeze in a somewhat predictable order so anglers know which lakes usually have safe ice sooner than the rest of the lakes.
There are a few things that need to be considered before anglers are ready to go ice fishing.
Many anglers use a hand auger early in the season, so the blades need to be checked to be sure they are sharp and ready to cut through the ice.
Most anglers use sonar for ice fishing, with portable sonar units as common as fish houses and power augers.
Anglers get instant feed back from watching their bait on sonar while they fish. Anglers can see when fish come through so they can adjust their presentations until they find something that triggers the fish to bite.
Many anglers also have started to use portable GPS units in the winter to find locations for ice fishing, much like they do in their boats during the summer.
Both sonar and GPS are powered by batteries so angler have to charge their batteries and be sure everything is working properly before going ice fishing.
Safety is a big concern early in the season. Anglers can wear a life jacket on the ice for the same reasons they would wear one in a boat.
Ice picks are an important safety item because they can be used to pull yourself back onto the ice. Safety cleats are available to slip over anglers' boots, to give anglers better traction on the ice and help avoid slipping and falling.
An emergency whistle is also a good idea in case anglers need to draw someone's attention from a distance in an emergency. A length of rope tied to a boat cushion can be useful for anglers fishing in groups in case someone needs to be pulled from the ice.
Most anglers are using rods and reels specifically designed for ice fishing. Anglers can rig their ice fishing rods with line that matches the action of the rods and the weight of their lures.
Some line manufacturers have begun to make 3, 5 and 7-pound test line to add to the usual weight lines in 2, 4, 6 and 8-pound test. This gives anglers more options to fine-tune their presentations and match their rods, lures and line perfectly to the task.
Portability is another feature of most ice houses, with anglers using their fish houses as a sled to haul all of their gear onto the ice.
Remember, it is a long winter so there is plenty of time for ice fishing. Be careful and don't venture on the ice unless you know it is safe and take the proper precautions.