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A lack of snowfall has allowed the ice to form quickly, but anglers should use caution while traversing the slick surface. Ice cleats are a good safety tool to own and utilize for the current conditions. (Jason Durham / For the Enterprise)

Use calculated caution on icy lake conditions

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A lack of snowfall presents several negatives for residents. However, let's not forget about the positives too.

Looking at the positives, (grey skies are going to clear up, put on your happy face), you haven't had to shovel your walkway, pay to have your driveway plowed or hoped for more traction while pushing snow from the eaves of your slippery roof.

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Another positive attribute of limited snowfall is that it's easy to see through the 5 to 9-inches of ice we currently have. The cracks offer a visual cue of ice thickness, you can actually see the weeds below you out to approximately 10 feet (more or less depending upon the lake you're fishing) and because the lakes are nearly snow free, the entire body of water is one massive ice-skating rink (for those of you who love to chase tip-up flags laced into a pair of Bauer's).

Let's not forget that snow free lakes create ice quickly. Snow is an amazing insulator and a thick layer of snow impedes ice formation. And snow is heavy, causing flooding and slush, much like the majority of last ice season when travel across many of Minnesota's lakes was extremely difficult.

Yet the smooth finish and lack of snow on our lakes presents some issues as well.

While traveling by foot, a misstep can quickly result in injury. Ice cleats, which easily attach to the sole of a boot, are a necessity, especially while drilling holes. The rapid rotation of an ice auger can spin you around like a top.

Second, because we can see through the ice very easily right now, the fish have a unique environment to adapt to as well. Even a few inches of snow greatly diminishes the ambient light that can penetrate into the water. Throughout the majority of winter, fish operate in an environment much darker compared to open water. Sky conditions typically affect fish behavior much less through the ice than during the open water months.

But the clear ice conditions now allow fish to see shadows above the ice and allow fish to examine and discern the anglers offering more readily.

Since we can't all afford snow making machines to cover a lake like ski resorts artificially coat their slopes, you may want to consider angling in the low light periods, meaning just before the sun rises and just after the sun sets to fool a few of the wary fish.

The snow pack (or lack thereof) doesn't help out our vegetation or trees, but does help some wildlife such as deer since they are easily able to locate food.

Of course snowmobile enthusiasts and the businesses that cater to them are praying for some fluffy precipitation, as are the cross-country skiers and those wishing for a white Christmas.

For those who partake in spearing, the light penetrating the water permits easy viewing--for both you and your prey. Keep a steady hand and expect your target to be somewhat skittish, even though it's ice season.

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