In a single word, that probably sums up the mindset of resort owners along the south shore of Lake of the Woods, who are starting their winter fishing season.
I messaged with Gary Moeller of Ballard’s Resort this morning, and he said resort crews are pulling houses onto the ice and getting them set up today and Tuesday and will begin fishing Wednesday.
That’s the latest start on record for the resort, Moeller said. The latest start before this year was Dec. 26, some 25 or so years ago. Moeller said the area north of Pine Island where Ballard’s begins it winter season had 8 inches to 9 inches of ice Monday morning.
Up at the Northwest Angle, Frank Walsh of Bay Store Camp on Oak Island this morning said he had all of his ice trails marked and hopes to be up and running for the season in the next three days or so. The ice on the trails near Oak Island was 8 inches plus, he said, with about 6 inches off to the side of the trail. The main lake south of Oak, where the bulk of winter fishing in that area occurs, had 5 to 8 inches of ice, Walsh said; locals were flooding an area of thinner ice on the east side of Oak that should be good in a few days, he said.
Some of the resorts in the Northwest Angle are up and running already, and early fishing reports have been favorable.
Fortunately, the heavy snow that’s forecast to hit the Twin Cities and points south today doesn’t extend as far north as Lake of the Woods or other large northern Minnesota lakes because the insulating blanket of white stuff is the last thing the ice needs right now. Snow also weighs down the ice, forcing water up through cracks and creating pockets of slush that can make getting around downright miserable.
At the same time, the subzero temperatures that arrived in the border country none too soon appear to be gone, at least for the next few days. According to the National Weather Service, highs in the mid to high teens are forecast throughout the week, and the only subzero low on the horizon is Wednesday night, when the mercury is expected to dip to 1 below zero.
Given the forecast, I’d look for ice conditions to gradually improve throughout the next week. In the meantime, snowmobiles or ATVs will be the safest modes of travel for do-it-yourself anglers. As always, check with area resorts and bait shops for the most up-to-date conditions, whether your destination is Lake of the Woods, Devils Lake or anywhere else.