The early December snowstorm delayed things a bit, but at least three of the most popular lakes in the region are beginning to open their ice roads to larger vehicles.
Joe Henry, executive director of Lake of the Woods Tourism, sent out a report this morning saying ice roads along the south shore of the big lake are plowed, and resorts are letting mid-sized vehicles onto the ice. As always, check with resorts for the latest conditions and specific restrictions and stay on marked trails. There’s up to 16 inches of ice, Henry said, but cold weather has caused a few cracks and pressure ridges.
Resorts on Upper Red Lake also are beginning to allow pickups and wheel houses onto the ice. Jerry Barthel of Rogers on Red, on the south shore of Upper Red, said on his Facebook page that he’d prefer vehicles be half-ton or smaller, but larger pickups are being allowed, too. The key is to go slow. West Wind Resort along the east shore of Upper Red in Waskish, Minn., also is allowing smaller vehicles of a half-ton or less. Ice is now pushing 14 inches thick, though areas with heavy snow cover could have less.
I had a chance to fish Devils Lake on Saturday with Brad Durick of Grand Forks and John Adams of Big John’s Guide Service in Devils Lake. There aren’t any plowed roads — not that I saw, at least — but pickups are running all over the lake right now. Just a guess, but I’d say the ice in the area we fished — out of courtesy, I won’t give specifics on the location — was pushing 20 inches, and Creel Bay looked like a small city as pickups and portable shelters converged to try their luck on the perch and walleyes.
There is enough snow — and, in places, slush pockets — on Devils Lake that anyone who doesn’t have four-wheel drive could end up doing some shoveling. Adams has four-wheel drive, and his truck got a good workout in a couple of spots as we bounced our way across the ice.
Despite the subzero temperatures and brisk northwest wind, the perch fishing lived up to the reports I’d heard, and I watched several fish literally race up from the bottom and pound the gold tungsten jig I had tipped with Eurolarvae. Durick has one of Frabill’s new side entry portable houses, and I must say I liked what I saw. I especially liked not having to stumble over the heater, the electronics and other gear to get in and out of the house.
The shelter also has quilted fabric, which proved to be a godsend Saturday and kept the inside of the house from frosting up and raining on us.
We had our best fishing from mid-morning until early afternoon, when the bite slowed, and we were off the ice shortly before 3 p.m. Besides half a bucket of football-sized perch, we landed four or five bonus walleyes.
Good to excellent reports also are coming from both Upper Red and Lake of the Woods.
I’m working ahead a bit for the holidays, and I’ll have a story on our Devils Lake excursion the Sunday after New Year’s. Stay tuned.