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Paul Nelson column for Dec. 4: Bemidji area lakes starting to make ice

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The daily high temperatures dipped below freezing this past week and the extended forecast for the Bemidji area calls for even colder temperatures this coming week. That means lakes in the area are finally starting to make some ice.

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The lakes have been ready to freeze for weeks, but the air temperatures have not been cold enough to do the job until recently.

The bays and shallow areas along the shoreline in most lakes will freeze before the rest of the lake. Then, usually on a cold night with calm winds, the rest of the lake will freeze.

Area lakes often freeze in a somewhat predictable order, with the shallow lakes freezing before the deep ones. Snow cover on the ice can have a big impact on how the ice forms, especially early in the season.

Some of the shallow lakes in the Bemidji area that are usually among the first to freeze include Irving, Three Island, Upper Red, Stump and Midge.

The last lakes to freeze each year are some of the deepest lakes like Bemidji, Cass, Pike's Bay and Walker and Kabekona Bays of Leech Lake.

The public accesses on most of the area lakes are rimmed with ice, making most lakes no longer accessible by boat. Anglers now have to wait until the lakes freeze, so the ice fishing season can begin.

It would not be surprising if there was ice thick enough for anglers to walk on somewhere in the Bemidji area by next weekend. Use extreme caution when venturing out early in the season.

Ice fishing is the fastest growing sector of the fishing industry, with the sport growing in popularity all across the ice belt in Canada and the U.S.

Open water fishing is a mature sector of the fishing industry, with most companies competing for percentage points, while they try to hold on to their market shares. The chances for exponential growth are slim in most of the open water section of the fishing industry.

Companies usually like to put most of their development dollars where the best opportunity for growth is located, which means there are many new products and ideas being specifically developed for ice fishing each year.

Fishing companies, resorts and individual inventors involved in every aspect of the ice fishing industry need a venue to unveil their new products each year.

The 17th annual St. Paul Ice Fishing Show at the River Centre in St. Paul (near the Xcel Energy Center) is the place to be this weekend for anyone interested in ice fishing. The Ice Show runs Friday through Sunday, Dec. 4-6.

All of the newest and most up-to-date versions of the most popular products for ice fishing will all be on display and for sale at the Ice Show, with many products available at special prices.

There will be ice fishing seminars all day long at the Ice Show, with hundreds of venders who will have most of their top pro-staff on hand to talk ice fishing with their customers.

This is the largest ice fishing show in the world and should be on the "bucket list" for anyone who loves to ice fish.

Once the St. Paul Ice Show closes, most of the vendors will pack up and reload their merchandise and head for Syracuse, N.Y., where the smaller eastern version of the Ice Show is located.

Ice fishing enthusiasts have the opportunity to have all of the latest products in ice fishing available to them at one time in one location and just in time for the holidays.

Paul A. Nelson runs the Bemidji Area Lakes Guide Service. He can be e-mailed at panelson@paulbunyan.net.

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