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March typically marks a high-point for ice fishing action, with anglers looking for late season perch, crappie and bluegill.  However, this year the ice has deteriorated faster than expected. (Jason Durham / For the Enterprise)
March typically marks a high-point for ice fishing action, with anglers looking for late season perch, crappie and bluegill. However, this year the ice has deteriorated faster than expected. (Jason Durham / For the Enterprise)

Region could see record setting ice out if warm weather continues

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outdoors Park Rapids, 56470

Park Rapids Minnesota PO Box 111 56470

Though many anglers continue to cautiously walk out onto our local lakes, it won't be long until open water arrives.

Each year it seems the ice season begins with plenty of active fish, and then things begin to taper off.

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During that mid-year lull, anglers anticipate the arrival of March, a great month for catching fish.

Yet this year anglers are having some difficulty getting out to safe ice as shoreline ice has rapidly deteriorated over the past few weeks due to above normal temperatures and precipitation.

Is it possible that 2010 could see an abnormally early ice out?

Kevin Young, a science teacher in Park Rapids, has compiled phenology reports (the study of the timing of natural events) with help from students in his class.

His compilation includes ice out dates from the past 13 years on Eagle and Island Lakes, numerous bodies of water with information provided by students as well as the ice out dates from the mid-seventies through 1997 on Boulder Lake from Lynn Berry, who lives on Boulder and taught science in Park Rapids before Kevin Young.

The information is quite interesting, though not as beneficial as I predicted in estimating an ice out date for this year.

You see, there are simply too many factors to consider when attempting to guess when the ice will disappear.

Though ambient temperature plays a role in the melting process, wind and rain can actually cause more damage - or make more progress - depending on your affinity for ice.

Young's data shows that the earliest ice out date for Fish Hook Lake was April 10 in 1981 and 1992, while the latest ice out date was May 5 in 1979.

Do keep in mind that the data doesn't span centuries, but is still relevant to our weather cycle this year.

Other early and late ice out dates for area lakes include Lake Belle Taine (April 11, 1992 & May 6, 1975/1996); Portage Lake (April 5, 2000 & April 25, 2001); Long Lake (April 8, 2000 & May 7, 1979); Straight Lake (April 7, 1981 & May 8, 1975); Big Sand (April 17, 1992 & May 6, 1975) and Eagle/Island (April 12, 1987 & May 4, 2008) .

As you can see, when the conditions are most and least perfect for eradicating ice from the lakes, the difference between early and late ice out is only three to four weeks.

As for today, the ice is still on our lakes. In fact, some anglers are deftly maneuvering on the honeycombed ice to find some late-season panfish. However, the ice is disappearing quickly and an access with only a couple feet of exposed water between the shoreline and the ice sheet can quickly grow to a span of several feet throughout the course of an afternoon. Without the aid of a long 2-by-10 board, you'll have wet feet - or worse. In other words, use utmost caution if you decide to go on a final trip.

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