Ice time has arrived on most of the smaller lakes
Ice fishing season has recently been the storm in the Park Rapids area.
Though southern portions of Minnesota have had snow accumulations up to 16 inches, the northern part of the state continues to gain ice thickness every time the thermometer dips below the freezing point.
That equates to good news for us, due to the lack of insulation from the minimal snow and the sub-zero temps throughout the night.
Many metro lakes are experiencing flooding from the top-heavy weight exerted upon the 1-4 inches of ice currently spanning the southern-third of Minnesota.
This is both good and bad news. That's good news for the anglers in our region who experienced some of the best ice in the U.S. last season because of minimal insulating snow cover and some sub-zero spells that kept anglers heading out on the lakes.
This season seems to have the same beginning; a slow start but a thin blanket of snow atop ice that continually expands each day and night the mercury heads south.
Last year in our same region, most anglers safely infiltrated the ice to fish, yet the snowmobile riders experienced another season lacking sufficient base for trail-riding throughout the area. That subsequently impacts tourism and local retailers catering to the snow-machine crowd.
Mother Nature offers a give-and-take situation; minimal snow and quick ice formation when temperatures are conducive to ice development, but little snow equates to minimal snowmobile travel. Heavy snow in the early season is great for sleds (i.e.: snowmobiles) to travel through the ditches and fields, but many of the trails throughout the area span the breadth of a lake to reach the exit, or conversely, entrance point to a continuous snowmobile trail.
With a minimal snow pack so far, trail riders should ensure their sleds are ready to run. Be ready to head out on the trails with the next generous snowfall.
And ice anglers should use a few safety tools each time they head out on the early ice. Ice cleats, which easily connect to the bottom of the angler's boots, provide traction and stability while walking and augering holes. Nobody enjoys a slippery crash on the ice, especially while carrying gear like chisels and ice augers.
Ice picks are also essential and although anglers usually associate them with early and late ice, when the frozen layer on the lakes is at its thinnest, picks should always be a part of the game plan.
Instead of draping a pair of ice picks around your neck, get a pair with a long tether; one that can be threaded though the sleeves of your ice fishing jacket so the picks barely emerge from the cuffs. That way they are always accessible without having to "think" about reaching up to your chest to grab them.
Speaking from experience, when you fall in, you don't "think," you simply react.
Finally, since most area lakes are ready to support the weight of a meandering angler, check the ice thickness...and check it often.