Friday ice update

Devils Lake continues to make ice, and it won’t be long before anglers begin venturing out in some areas — if they haven’t already.

Satellite image of Devils Lake from today.

I checked out the MODIS Today website, which provides daily satellite images from across the country, this afternoon. There were just enough clouds to slightly obscure the view of Devils Lake, but it’s apparent ice is beginning to form in many areas.

As the satellite photo here shows, the areas with the most ice are a bluish-white color while the parts of the lake with the least ice appear as more of a solid blue. Judging by the satellite imagery, that means Main Bay has the least ice while Pelican Lake in the upper left-hand corner and areas farther east have better ice. Smaller lakes to the north have been frozen for the past week.

Today’s satellite view of Lake of the Woods.

Looking to the east, clouds also obscured part of Lake of the Woods, but today’s satellite imagery shows Big Traverse Bay, which comprises the bulk of Minnesota waters, is mostly ice-covered, as is Buffalo Bay in Manitoba and portions of Ontario waters farther east. The ice likely will move and shift a bit with the wind over the next few days until it’s better established, but all signs point to one of the earliest starts to ice fishing in several years.

It’s hard to believe I was out there in a boat less than three weeks ago.

Ice fishing already is in full swing on Upper Red Lake, which is considerably shallower than either Lake of the Woods or Devils Lake and among the first big lakes in the region to freeze. A couple of resorts, West Wind and Rogers’ on Red, are allowing ATV and snowmobile traffic, but anglers who venture out are advised to stay on the staked trails where ice thickness has been confirmed. There’s already a solid 9 inches in places, from what I’ve read.

The cover story in this coming Sunday’s outdoors section features an update on “The Big Three” — Devils Lake, Lake of the Woods and Upper Red Lake — and fishing outlooks for this winter. You’ll find the story here on Sunday.


Update on trophy Kittson County buck

Here’s an update on the big buck that was shot northeast of Lancaster, Minn., in Kittson County on Saturday by Joel Deere and Aaron Younggren, longtime friends and members of a nearby hunting camp.

Randy Dufault of East Grand Forks, a certified measurer for Boone and Crockett, scored the buck’s 18-point rack earlier today and said the deer is every bit as impressive in person as it is in photographs.

“Huge body, which should take away from the rack but it doesn’t,” Dufault writes in an email. “Very nice buck.”

According to Dufault, the buck has a green score of 221 7/8 inches gross and  218 1/8 inches net. The main beams measure more than 28  inches, and the rack has an inside spread of nearly 22 inches, Dufault said. The buck scores 188 1/8 inches in the typical category for symmetrical antlers with 25 inches of nontypical points.

Dufault said it’s the biggest rack he’s measured in awhile.

I had a chance to talk with both Deere and Younggren about the buck Monday and hear the story about how they came to shoot the trophy, which Deere first spotted on his trail camera in early 2013 but consistently eluded being seen. You can check out the full story in this Sunday’s section of Northland Outdoors.

To see a photo of the buck in the Herald’s online Trophy Room gallery, click here.

First ice fishing reports of the season

Ice fishing is under way in a few locations across the region.

Tyler Brasel of Bear Paw Guides in Waskish, Minn., texted this photo of the four-walleye limit he landed Friday afternoon on Upper Red Lake.

For now, at least, the big story is on Upper Red Lake, where anglers are beginning to venture out in areas where they’re finding 5 inches to 6 inches of ice.

Rogers’ on Red, located on the south shore, and Tyler Brasel of Bear Paw Guides, who has tested the ice straight out from West Wind Resort on the east shore near Waskish, Minn., both have reported ice in the 5- to 6-inch range.

Tyler sent me a photo Saturday morning of four nice walleyes he pulled through the ice Friday night. In a post on Bear Paw’s Facebook page, Brasel said he measured 6 inches of ice Sunday night.

“We are making good ice,” he said in the post, adding this caveat: “Certain areas of the lake will have different ice. Call the resort that you will be going out of before you come up.”

Anglers venturing to Upper Red also should be aware of winter fishing regulations that take effect Dec. 1. Under those changes, all walleyes from 17 inches to 26 inches must be released, with one fish longer than 26 inches allowed, and the limit is three. Until then, the limit is four, and all walleyes from 20 inches to 26 inches must be released. There’s also a 26- to 44-inch protected slot for northern pike, and the limit is three, with one fish longer than 44 inches allowed.

Caution should always be the policy when venturing onto the ice, but that’s especially true this time of year. The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources offers these guidelines for “new, clear ice”:

2 inches of less – Stay off.

4 inches – Ice fishing or other activities on foot.

5 inches – Snowmobile or ATV.

8 to 12 inches – Car or small pickup.

12 to 15 inches – Medium truck.

The forecast should be conducive to adding even more ice to area lakes, with lows in the single digits predicted over the next few days. That will send ice fishing into full swing by this weekend, though larger, deeper bodies of water likely won’t be safe for at least a couple more weeks.

Ice fishing by Thanksgiving historically is considered early, and there’ve been a number of times in the past decade where that benchmark has been elusive.

This year won’t be one of them.