Lake Bronson Wins The Race To Be The First Ice-Free Lake Of The Spring In Northwest Minnesota; Ice On Lake Of The Woods Slowly Losing Ground

Thursday’s satellite imagery of Lake of the Woods showed open water in Four-Mile Bay (circled in red), along with extensive areas of open water in the Northwest Angle and Islands area (circled in blue). (Satellite imagery/ MODIS Today)

Lake Bronson in Kittson County is the first lake in northwest Minnesota to be declared-ice free, the Department of Natural Resources reported on its website. According to the DNR’s Lake Ice Out Dates page, the ice on Lake Bronson, a 335-acre reservoir formed by a dam on the south branch of the Two Rivers river, went out Wednesday, April 25. The median ice-out date on Lake Bronson is April 14, the earliest ice-out date is March 24, 2012 — an unusually early spring — and the latest ice-out date since 1984 was April 30, 2013.

That was, of course, an unusually late spring.

Cloudy skies obscured today’s satellite imagery of Lake of the Woods, but Thursday’s satellite image on the MODIS Today website showed Four-Mile Bay at the mouth of the Rainy River was open, along with areas near Oak and Flag islands up at the Northwest Angle.

Frank Walsh of Walsh’s Bay Store Camp on Oak Island texted me Friday saying that based on the changes he’s seen since Wednesday, he doesn’t see the ice up at the Angle lasting another two weeks. Maybe a week or so, he said, but that is it.

Based on second-hand reports I’ve read on social media sites, ice on the south shore of Lake of the Woods has taken on the consistency of a giant snow cone. I still expect there’ll be at least some ice on the big lake for the May 12 Minnesota walleye opener, but where that ice sheet is located will depend on the wind.

Clouds also obscured Friday’s satellite imagery of Devils Lake, but the parts of the lake that were visible showed a noticeable darkening of the ice, which means it won’t be long before open water becomes more prevalent in the Lake Region, as well. I’ve already heard reports of anglers catching pike in ditches and coulees with open water in various parts of the basin.

And if Lake Bronson is any indication, I’m guessing smaller reservoirs in northeast North Dakota are ice-free — or soon will be.

The extended weather forecast also bodes well for accelerating ice-out. The National Weather Service’s forecast for Grand Forks calls for highs of 60 Saturday, 73 Sunday and 75 Monday before a cooldown Wednesday, when the forecast high temperature is 58 degrees.

Just as significant, perhaps, are the nighttime lows, which are predicted to be above freezing through Thursday.

More information on the ice-out status of Minnesota lakes is available here.