Lake of the Woods mostly ice-free

Here’s my assessment of ice conditions on Lake of the Woods:

Here's today's satellite view of Lake of the Woods, which shows open water dominating massive Big Traverse Bay.

Here’s today’s satellite view of Lake of the Woods, which shows open water dominating massive Big Traverse Bay. Upper and Lower Red Lakes at the bottom of the photo also are wide open. Upper Red was declared ice-free April 18 and Lower Red on April 19.

It’s disappearing fast.

Clouds have obscured a good view of satellite imagery most of the week, but today’s photo of Lake of the Woods shows most of Big Traverse Bay in U.S. waters is open, and the ice that remains has drifted into Muskeg Bay on the west side of the Lake near Warroad, Minn., and the southwest half of Buffalo Bay in Manitoba waters.

There’s also a small patch of lingering ice near Long Point, but right now, I’d say the stars are aligning for the big lake to be ice-free early this coming week, if not yet this weekend.

Ice-out on Lake of the Woods was in a holding pattern after unseasonably warm March temperatures triggered an early end to ice fishing. At that point, I was predicting an ice-out similar to 2012, when the U.S. portion of Lake of the Woods was declared ice-free April 8, according to historical records the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources publishes on its website.

I remember that spring especially well, because we were boat fishing north of Pine Island on April 14, the last weekend of the spring walleye season on Minnesota-Ontario border waters.

I also remember the fishing, which bordered on spectacular.

A similar scenario seemed to be taking shape this spring, but that all changed in April, and cool, dreary weather dominated the month and put the ice-out on hold.

Now, it appears, ice-out on Lake of the Woods is on track with the median ice-out date of May 2. According to DNR records, the earliest ice-out on Lake of the Woods since 1985 occurred in 2012, and the latest ice-out was recorded in 2014, when the DNR said the lake wasn’t ice-free until May 21.

The DNR’s page on lake ice-out dates contains a wealth of information on lakes throughout the state. You’ll find the page here. The MODIS Today, website, which  provides daily satellite images of the entire U.S., is available here.

 

 

 

Still lots of ice on Lake of the Woods

Clouds obscured today’s satellite imagery of Lake of the Woods, but the satellite photo posted yesterday on the MODIS Today website showed Big Traverse Bay remains mostly ice-covered except for Four-Mile Bay at the mouth of the Rainy River and small areas north of Pine Island, near Wheeler’s Point and along the South Shore.

Satellite imagery taken Tuesday showed Big Traverse Bay remained mostly ice covered.

Satellite imagery taken Tuesday showed Big Traverse Bay remained mostly ice covered.

Patches of open water also are visible among the islands on the Ontario side of the lake.

Last year, Lake of the Woods was declared ice free April 30, according to the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources, so Mother Nature will have to get busy to match that date.

My guess is the big lake will be ice-free sometime after April 30, but before the May 14 walleye opener.

Large areas of open water were visible today on Upper and Lower Red lakes.

Large areas of open water were visible today on Upper and Lower Red lakes.

Meanwhile, there was just enough of a break in the clouds today to show both Upper and Lower Red lakes are nearly ice-free. Pat Brown, tribal fisheries biologist for the Red Lake Band of Chippewa, said today he expects the ice on Lower Red to go out tomorrow — finally.

“I thought it was going to be two weeks ago, but it really slowed down,” Brown said in an email.

Farther west, the Devils Lake Convention and Visitors Bureau sent out an email newsletter this morning saying the big lake is ice-free, and docks are in place at public accesses around the lake. Unlike Minnesota, fishing season on Devils Lake and elsewhere in North Dakota is continuous, and it shouldn’t be long before good reports start to trickle in from areas of the lake that warm first.

Open water is visble through patchy clouds today over Devils Lake.

Open water is visble through patchy clouds today over Devils Lake.

Patchy clouds obscured part of today’s satellite imagery of Devils Lake, but open water was apparent in areas where the sky was clear.

The MODIS Today website is popular this time of year among anglers looking to check the ice-out progress on their favorite bodies of water. You’ll find the link here.

The Minnesota DNR’s lake ice-out dates page, which includes links to historical records dating back to 1843, is available here.

 

GF Audubon offers prairie chicken talk, tour this week

Grand Forks Audubon has three events going on this week that will be worth checking out if you’re a birdwatcher.

Grand Forks Audubon is offering an excursion Saturday to watch prairie chickens on their booming grounds.

Grand Forks Audubon is offering an excursion Saturday to watch prairie chickens on their booming grounds.

It all starts at 6 p.m. Thursday with a bird walk through the Red River State Recreation Area. Meet  in the Blue  Moose parking lot in the corner nearest the river and the recreation area headquarters.

At 7 p.m., a “Birds and Beers” talk is on tap at the Boardwalk Bar and Grill. Dan Svedarsky will talk about the prairie and prairie chickens, and that will be followed by a discussion.

Then, on Saturday, the Audubon chapter is hosting a field trip to a site in Polk County east of Crookston to watch booming prairie chickens as the birds do their lek displays. According to Matthew Spoor of Grand Forks Audubon, space is limited and advance reservation is required. Transportation will be leaving Grand Forks at 4:45 a.m. Saturday to be in the prairie chicken blind half an hour before sunrise. From there, a brunch and hike will be offered at Rydell National Wildlife Refuge.

Space still is available for the prairie chicken tour, a rite of spring on the prairie that definitely should be experienced. For more information, contact Spoor at (701) 610-1203.