Monday Lake of the Woods ice update

Joe Henry of Lake of the Woods Tourism sent out an ice update for the big lake late this morning.

Here’s his report:

Wearing his trademark fox hat, R.C. Carlson of Red Fox Ice Fishing uses a snowmobile to pull a fish house across the ice Saturday in the Northwest Angle area of Lake of the Woods. (Lake of the Woods Tourism photo)

“The ice is forming nicely and water clarity looks good. Current ice report, Four-Mile Bay, 7-9 inches; Bostic Bay, 11 inches; Zippel Bay, 5-8 inches. On the lake, there’s 8 inches of ice in front of Pine Island, 3 to 4 inches off Zippel Bay and 3 inches near Birch Beach.

“There are some cracks and areas that need more time,” Henry said. “Everything depends upon weather. Some resorts may allow ATV travel after Thanksgiving. Water is looking clear. Some local guides have been catching walleyes. Pike spearing going well. Ice fishing season is shaping up nicely. When it’s time, work through resorts and follow marked ice trails.”

Farther north, Henry says there will be ATV and snowmobile traffic after Thanksgiving up at the Northwest Angle, where there’s 7 to 8 inches of ice in Minnesota waters and 3 to 5 inches in current areas.

“Many cracks as common this time of year,” Henry said. “Looking forward to this week of cold weather.”

Some resorts at the Angle will be setting out rental houses Dec. 10, Henry said.

On the Rainy River, Henry says there’s 5 inches of ice in front of Timber Mill Park in Baudette, Minn., in front of Baudette Bay and at the airport. Some walleyes being caught in 14 to 18 of water of water in the evenings by locals who know the ice, Henry said — safety first.

Given Lake of the Woods’ popularity as a winter fishing destination, lodging will be at a premium when ice fishing hits full swing. For more information on lodging availability, 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.

DL ice fishing tourney set for Saturday

All systems are go for Saturday’s 30th annual Devils Lake Volunteer fire Department Ice Fishing Tournament. The fishing portion of the big event will be from 1 to 3:30 p.m. on Six-Mile Bay.

The ice fishing tournament is the largest event of its kind in North Dakota, and if you don’t have a ticket, better luck next year. According to Alvin Schroeder, a member of the Fire Department and one of the tourney’s organizers, the 18,000 tickets that were available for the event are gone.

Ice conditions are good, Schroeder said, and crews will be on the lake bright and early Saturday morning to drill some 5,000 holes. Fishing on Devils Lake has been excellent this winter, and that could tighten the competition for the top five prizes in the perch, walleye and pike categories.

Rising water that flooded the old parking area forced organizers to move the tournament farther east in Six-Mile Bay last winter, Schroeder said, and the holes tournament anglers will be fishing Saturday will be in depths ranging from 9 feet to 35 feet of water.

First prize is $2,000 for largest perch, walleye and pike, and prizes will be awarded for the five largest fish in each category. To make things interesting, it’s not always about the biggest fish, and this year’s tournament features a 2014 Dodge Ram truck for the third-largest perch, an ATV for the third-largest walleye and a hard shell fish house for the second-largest pike.

The forecast for the tournament isn’t bad, either. According to the National Weather Service, there’s a 30 percent chance of snow Saturday in Devils Lake with a high of 16 degrees.

The drawing for raffle prizes will be held after the tournament, beginning at 7 p.m. in the Devils Lake Memorial Building. This year’s tournament features more than $225,000 in prizes, including the grand prize of a 2014 Ford F-15 Super Crew XLT four-door pickup. Ticket holders don’t have to be present to win.

On the Web:

A link to a live broadcast of the tournament will be on the event’s website here. Photos from the tournament should be online by 5:30 p.m. Saturday and results from the raffle will be available online shortly after the drawing.