Still lots of ice on the big northern Minnesota lakes

With the May 10 Minnesota walleye opener less than three weeks away, the lingering question among anglers and others with an interest in the big event is whether the ice is going to be off the lakes by opening day.

Satellite photo of Lake of the Woods (top) and Upper and Lower Red lakes taken Tuesday.

In the northern half of the state, it’s going to be a long shot, methinks.

The attached photo shows a satellite view of Lake of the Woods and Upper and Lower Red lakes taken Tuesday. As the Lake of the Woods image at the top shows, the Rainy River now is open through the channel in Four-Mile Bay, but the rest of the big lake remains locked in ice.

Ditto for Upper and Lower Red lakes. There appears to be some open water in the narrows between the two lakes, and the Tamarack River that flows into Upper Red at Waskish, Minn., is open but ice dominates the horizon on both bodies of water.

If I was a betting man, I’d put money on Lake of the Woods still having ice on opening day. There probably won’t be enough for ice fishing — as a group of us did off Graceton Beach in 1996 — but there’ll certainly be large patches of ice floating around.

Last year, the ice on Lake of the Woods and Upper Red went out on May 15. Will it be just as late this year? Stay tuned.

DNR, MDHA ‘listening sessions’ include March 24 meeting in Bemidji

The Department of Natural Resources and the Minnesota Deer Hunters Association have announced the dates for their statewide “listening sessions,” and the meeting for northwest Minnesota is set for 7 to 9 p.m. March 24 in the Lumberjack Room of  Bemidji High School, 2900 W. Division St.

The listening sessions are open to all deer hunters.

“We’ve been hearing that deer numbers are too low and this year’s severe winter is exacerbating those concerns in many regions of the state,” said Leslie McInenly, DNR big game program leader. “These listening sessions will give deer hunters and the general public an opportunity to communicate directly with DNR staff who make deer management decisions.”

“Deer populations and health are important to MDHA members and all deer hunters,” said Mark Johnson, MDHA executive director. “We’re pleased to be able to offer these meetings so people regardless of their affiliation or interest can express their opinions on deer populations.”

Besides the Bemidji meeting, other listening sessions are scheduled in the following locations, all from 7 to 9 p.m.:

Brainerd: Wednesday, March 19, Central Lakes Community College, 501 West College Drive.

Cambridge: Thursday, March 20, Anoka Ramsey Community College, 300 Spirit River Drive South, rooms G201 and G202.

Morris: Tuesday, March 25, University of Minnesota’s West Central Research and Outreach Center, 46352 Minnesota Highway 329, Ag Country Auditorium.

Nicollet: Thursday, March 2, Nicollet Conservation Club, 46045 471st Lane.

Virginia: Tuesday, April 1, Mesabi Range College, 1001 Chestnut St. West, auditorium.

The DNR also will be accepting online comments beginning Wednesday, March 19, at

DNR lifts northwest deer feeding ban; MDHA deer feed update

It hasn’t been widely publicized, but the Department of Natural Resources lifted the deer-feeding ban in northwest Minnesota on Feb. 15.

Imposed in November 2006 to help prevent the spread of bovine tuberculosis after its discovery in 2005 near Skime, Minn., the ban covered a 4,000-square-mile area of northwest Minnesota.

Despite lifting the ban, the DNR opted against authorizing state-sponsored deer feeding in northwest Minnesota this winter for fear that artificially drawing deer into close contact could increase the risk of transmitting any TB that might still be out there. The DNR declared the area TB-free in February 2013 after three years of extensive testing failed to find any new positive cases.

MDHA begins northeast effort
In related feeding news, the Minnesota Deer Hunters Association’s feeding effort in northeast Minnesota now is underway, and MDHA sent out a news release this afternoon with the following days and times it will be distributing feed in that part of the state:

Esko: (Widdes Feeds) 8 a.m.-noon.
Moose Lake: (Moose Lake Co-op) 1-5 p.m.

Hibbing: (Hibbing Feed & Seed) 1-5 p.m.
Grand Rapids: (Itasca Co. Farm Service) 1-5 p.m.

International Falls: (Up North Builders) 9-11:30 a.m.
Cook: (Homestead Mills) 1 to 3:30 p.m.

Wright: (Farmers Co-op Feed Mill) 8 a.m.-noon.
Virginia: (New London Warehouse) 1-5 p.m.

MDHA also issued these reminders in relation to its northeast Minnesota deer feeding effort:

* To receive feed you must have a known feeding area on PUBLIC LAND, and know approximately how many deer are on that area. We will get all needed documentation at the time of distribution.
* You DO NOT need to be a member of MDHA to receive feed. (But we would love to have you join us!)
* We will have only half a semi load available at each distribution location for the first week, so we will be giving out feed conservatively to try to reach as many locations as possible.
*Deer feed will only be available from us during the posted distribution days and times, as specific documentation needs to be collected and provided to the DNR for reimbursement of the funds.
For the most up to date information, click here.