BY Sarah smith
Suspense surrounds the Park Rapids Governor’s Fishing Opener: ice or not?
The seven-day forecast calls for a chance of snow every day; the extended forecast calls for below-normal temps. As the GFO creeps closer, the question on everyone’s mind is whether Gov. Mark Dayton’s fishing guide will be dodging icebergs on the waters like the Titanic?
“In a month, oh gosh, that is really hard to tell,” predicted National Weather Service meteorologist Jennifer Ritterling of the Grand Forks office.
“Right now I can only tell you the next couple of weeks and it still looks like it’s going to be still below normal. Granted our normals are getting up there because it is … April,” she said, finishing her sentence with choked laughter.
“I can’t guarantee all the snow will be gone, all the snow and ice will be gone but yeah … It does look like it should be warming up by then … At least I really hope it is.”
Kevin Lempola, owner of Delaney’s Sports Store in Park Rapids, said he doubts the ice will be around by May 10.
“Not that I know of,” he said doubtfully. “This weekend is trout opener and normally this time of year you’ll see a few brave souls out on Straight Lake on the Mill Pond fishing” (in Osage).
“Yesterday I had a gentleman come in and said there was a three-quarter ton truck out on Straight Lake. So as of yesterday they were still driving trucks out there, not that I recommend or want anybody to do that,” Lempola said.
“We’re hearing 30 inches of ice out there,” he said. “It can change in a hurry. It’s kind of unheard of this time of year. Your average ice-out here is another 10-12 days, like on Fish Hook.
“A couple weeks ago I thought, ‘Aaah, we’ll still be OK,” but now I’m thinking it’s going to be into May before you’re gonna see open water… It’s going to be down to the wire,” Lempola said.
“I have seen other fishing openers where the Friday before we’ve had some ice floating around on Big Sand,” he added. “We’ve been here 20 years and I’ve seen that several times. But usually by Saturday morning (of the opener) it’s been gone. The lakes have been clear. It’s been close a few times on the big lakes, Long and Big Sand are the two real late ones.
“I’ve got a very avid walleye fisherman that just called and he’s real optimistic on the opener,” Lempola said. “He’s figuring it could be a fabulous opener.”
Fish will be in shallower waters, in the two to seven-foot range, “instead of trying to chase them around out in that 14 feet of water. Post-spawn males anyway,” Lempola predicted.
Enterprise fishing columnist Mike Gravdahl said he saw a pickup out on Fish Hook Wednesday.
“These ice depths are unheard of,” he said. “There’s some slush on top but it should be honey-combed by now.”
Ice forms honeycombs just before it starts to break up. And Gravdahl said ice should start retreating from the shorelines by now. It can’t.
When he searches his memory for parallels from the past, Gravdahl speculates in 1953, 60 years ago, there might have been ice on opening day. But that’s just his guess. “It could be an interesting opener,” he said with a grin.
But the suspense is killing the town.
“It’s suspenseful for us, too, because we’re waiting for the flood to happen and everything’s still frozen so we’re kind of in a holding pattern, freaking out about stuff that hasn’t happened yet,” Ritterling said.
“We do think the sun will win eventually, we will start warming up but for the next couple weeks it still looks below normal so it will be slow.”
Residents have gotten into the spirit offering suggestions and tips on Facebook as to how to deal with the ice.
An opener with ice would be a first. Mother Nature is sending another storm with the possibility of a foot of new snow for Park Rapids by Monday morning.