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Ice off dates early this year, fishing may also be good by opener

The early temperate weather this year has led to more than early crop plantings; it has also allowed for some of the earliest ice off dates and walleye egg harvesting since 2012. A couple of lakes located farther south have even set new records, ...

The early temperate weather this year has led to more than early crop plantings; it has also allowed for some of the earliest ice off dates and walleye egg harvesting since 2012. A couple of lakes located farther south have even set new records, though cooler temperatures of late has slowed progress in Otter Tail County, according to a climatologist with the Minnesota State Climatology office

“A non-winter usually translates to early ice off,” climatologist Pete Boulay said. “Ice off was progressing nicely, but has slowed some with the recent cooler temperatures.”

Ice off recordings are subjective based on an individual’s definition of ice off, he said, whether it is when the lake is completely free of ice, a specific percentage, or when a boat can get from one point to another. To establish a consistent record, climatologists try to contact the same individual recorders each year. Some lake ice off records date back to the late 1800s, while some are as recent as 2012.

Other factors that can contribute to ice off are depth, water color and orientation of the lake, Boulay said.

2012 was the last year an early ice off was recorded, he said

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“It’s hard to beat 2012,” Boulay said. “The mild winter (that year) and super warm March make it hard to beat. Last year the ice was barely off by (fishing opener).”

What the early spring means for the fishing season remains to be seen, according to Nathan Olson, DNR area fisheries supervisor in Detroit Lakes, though this year is the earliest ever that the DNR has put out traps to catch walleyes and harvest the female’s eggs.

“The fish are not fully in the grove yet,” Olson said. “They might still be confused, with the water temperature right, but the light not quite right. They are not fully active yet.”

The fish spawning season is dependent upon water temperatures around 50 degrees and about 10 to 12 hours of light.

With Fishing opener more than a month away, and spawning off to an early start, people will likely have to change their fishing methods, Olson said.

“Since the fish may have gone deeper, people will have to look more to an early summer fishing method assuming they are interested in walleye,” he said. “People can go for pan fish anytime, so they may be able to fish sooner. They will be in the shallow water along the edge as it heats up to temperatures preferred by those fish.”

Olson has already seen boats out so he wouldn’t be surprised if more and more people are getting their boats ready, he said.

Related Topics: OTTER TAIL COUNTY
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