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