Lake of the Woods icepack is dwindling

Looking at this satellite image of Lake of the Woods from today, it’s not hard to tell what direction the wind has been blowing the past few days.

The northern two-thirds of Big Traverse Bay, which makes up the bulk of U.S. waters, is clear of ice, and the icepack has blown in along the south shore.

A north wind will do that this time of year.

The good news is there’s a lot less ice today than there was for Saturday’s walleye opener, when anglers were limited to fishing Four-Mile Bay at the mouth of the Rainy River or a sliver of open water out from Lighthouse Gap. Most of the lake north of Pine Island remained locked in ice. The rain that fell Monday and Tuesday likely played a role in reducing the icepack, as well.

Last year, the ice went off Lake of the Woods on May 19, and I’d say it’s on track for a similar ice-out date this year. Buffalo Bay and most of the Northwest Angle appear to be ice free, and the dark appearance of the ice that remains suggests it’s weakening fast.

As I reported Sunday, there were a pile of boats in Four-Mile Bay for the walleye opener and most everyone was catching fish. The water temperature Saturday morning was only 39 degrees, too cold for the walleyes to spawn, and big, prespawn females were biting and plentiful.

Seeking to escape the worst of the crowds, my fishing partners and I fished the Rainy River on Sunday and part of Monday, and we actually found the action better than Four-Mile Bay. My biggest walleye of the weekend measured 30 inches — we didn’t weigh the fish but 10+ pounds wouldn’t be an exaggeration — and I released four others in the 28- to 29-inch range. Most anglers had similar stories.

A fine opener it was.

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