Take advantage of break to get ready for open water
Even though there is still a lot of ice left on the lakes, the recent heavy snowfall rotted the ice on most lakes and created dangerous ice conditions across the entire Bemidji area.
Anglers might still be able to get on a few lakes, but there are bad spots in the ice that act like invisible trap doors, just waiting for an angler to walk or drive an ATV on the wrong spot.
The result may be the angler sinks into the ice and gets badly stuck, or they could go all the way through the ice and have a more serious problem.
If anglers insist on going ice fishing again this season, stay in shallow water, wear a life jacket, bring a board to stand on and some ice picks just in case you have to pull yourself out of the water.
Ice out on the lakes in the Bemidji area can be as much as two weeks behind the lakes in the metro area.
Most of the metro area lakes are just opening up this week, so there is a good chance there will be some ice on a few lakes around Bemidji when May arrives.
The timing of ice out depends on several variables. The daily high temperatures, the overnight low temperatures, current, the amount of rain and the strength and direction of the wind are all variables that work together to get rid of the ice on the lakes.
The water level in the lakes begins to rise in the spring. Melting snow flows into the lakes and run-off fills the streams and rivers entering into the lake.
The water flow from rivers and streams will increase as water levels rise. Currents coming into the lake will create a plume of open water around any inlet.
The shoreline ice starts to erode away from the shore and a ring of open water is created around the lake.
Once the ice pack is free from the shore, the lake ice can begin to move and chip away at the edges of the ice.
Ice out on the lakes usually comes after a heavy rain. The ice will blow tight into one of the shores during the storm and then strong post-frontal winds shift to another direction, so the ice pack picks up some momentum when it crashes into the opposite shore.
A portion of the lake may have open water while there is still ice on another part of the lake, especially on larger lakes or lakes.
The entire process from ice frozen tight to the shore to total ice out on the lake can go quickly or it can take weeks, depending on the variables that combine together to rid of the ice.
Anglers have will have some lag time between seasons to switch from hard water to soft water.
Everyone who owns a boat usually has something that needs to be done before they can go fishing. Batteries and electrical connections are notorious for developing problems over the winter.
Small animals may have taken residence in your boat over months of storage and there can be problems with live wells and bilge pumps if any water remained in the boat to freeze over the winter.
There should be fresh grease in the lower units of all outboard motors and four stroke motors should have the oil and filter changed.
Many anglers use the same spinning reels on their ice fishing rods as they do on their summer rods.
This is a good time to do maintenance on the reels by cleaning them and adding fresh grease. New line should also be added to the reels to get a fresh start on the season.
Tackle boxes can be sorted and organized to make things handier for spring.
Old jigs and other terminal tackle can start to rust and get nasty. Anglers should put their new jigs and tackle in a new plastic box, rather than putting the new stuff on top of the old stuff.
Open water will be here soon and the fishing opener is just around the corner. Take advantage of the break to get ready.
Paul A. Nelson runs the Bemidji Area Lakes Guide Service. He can be contacted by calling 218-759-2235.