If an ice fishing season that’s in full swing by Dec. 1 seems early, you’re right.
“This is by far the earliest best freeze-up I can remember,” longtime Devils Lake fishing guide and outdoor TV host Jason Mitchell said earlier today. He said ice in the Devils Lake region varies from more than 10 inches on shallow bays and areas such as Pelican Lake and Lake Irvine to 4 or 5 inches on the main lake.
He said he hasn’t heard any reports of anglers venturing out on widespread hunts for perch, but walleye fishing has been great. Mitchell says he’s had nights where every walleye he marked on his electronics has bit.
On Upper Red Lake, West Wind Resort in Waskish, Minn., posted a Facebook report this morning that it is allowing half-ton pickups out to the first break line, where there’s a consistent 12 to 14 inches of ice atop 8 to 10 feet of water. There’s less ice beyond that, the resort post indicates, so vehicles are advised to stay near the road. The best walleye action is in 8 to 10 feet of water anyway, the resort said, so there’s no need to venture any farther.
Ice fishing also is off to an early start on Lake of the Woods. Deanna Painovich of Zippel Bay Resort north of Williams, Minn., said the bay already has 12 inches to 14½ inches of ice while the main lake as of Saturday had 6 to 12 inches.
The resort was scheduled to shuttle its first group of winter anglers onto the ice this afternoon, she said. The ice is rough in places, Painovich said, but early reports indicate good water clarity and good fishing.
Farther east, the Lake of the Woods Tourism Bureau shared a report from Morris Point Resort, where there’s about 10 inches of ice, and the resort’s ice road is open to ATVs and portables.
Painovich says this is earliest start to winter fishing she can remember in quite some time.
“It’s been a lot of years ago, but I know we were out right after Thanksgiving one year,” she said. “It’s amazing to be out the first of December, after all the late years we’ve had.”
Anglers planning to venture north to tackle the big “greenback” walleyes on Lake Winnipeg would do well to wait until there’s more snow to fill in the rough ice that’s piled in along the south shore, said winter fishing guide Jason Hamilton of Jason Hamilton Outdoors.
“Frozen but ultra rough — need snow,” said Hamilton, who’s headed to the Twin Cities on Friday for the annual St. Paul Ice Show extravaganza at the St. Paul RiverCentre.
He said a road trip to the Twin Cities is a better option than ice fishing for now.
“I don’t even want to go out on the ice it’s so bad,” he said.