Weather Forecast


Paul Nelson: Heavy snow hampers development of ice on Bemidji area lakes

Lakes in the Bemidji area were busy making ice and anglers were starting to get onto the lakes when a snowstorm dumped more snow on the lakes than the ice was ready to support.

The only potential saving grace for the ice on most lakes is the extended cold snap that was expected to follow the snowstorm. Hopefully it will be cold enough to build up the ice so the snow doesn’t create too many slush problems this early in the season.

Lake Bemidji was one of the last lakes to freeze and definitely did not have enough ice to support the weight of the snow. There were visible wet spots on the ice even before the snow had stopped, which means parts of Lake Bemidji are already flooded with water.

The amount of ice on the lakes varied greatly when the snowstorm hit the Bemidji area. Some deep lakes like Bemidji, Cass and Walker Bay of Leech Lake had only 3 to 5 inches of ice.

Shallow lakes like Upper Red Lake and a few other lakes had as much as 8 to 10 inches of ice when the snowstorm arrived, which was probably not enough ice to support the weight of the snow.

Slush is the enemy of ice anglers. It is hard to see and acts like a trap hidden under the surface of the snow. If anglers traveling across the ice hit a patch of slush, the end result usually means the anglers get stuck, sometimes horribly stuck.

Slush is also bad for stationary fish houses on the ice. It can freeze the house into the ice if anglers don’t prop up the house with enough wood to keep the shelter off the ice and above the level of the water.

The bottom line is the winter just got a lot longer for those individuals who like to go ice fishing to pass the time. It will be a waiting game for many anglers to see how bad the ice is once the expected cold snap is over and anglers are able to get back onto the ice.

The snow and the ice conditions on the lakes will be one of many topics discussed at this year’s kick-off event for the 2013 ice fishing season.

The 21st annual Ice Fishing and Winter Sports Show is being held Friday and Saturday at the River Center in St. Paul (part of the Xcel Center).

This is the largest gathering of ice anglers in the entire country and it is three days of mind numbing bliss for anyone who loves to ice fish and participate in outdoor winter sports.

Venders, large and small, will gather in one location to introduce new products and give anglers the chance to see all of the latest advances in ice fishing.

The selection of products is second to none, with enough products to fill two floors of the River Center. All of the leading companies in ice fishing will have their top pro staff on hand to answer questions and demonstrate the new products.

Anglers will be able to pick the brains of some of the biggest names in ice fishing and enjoy some of the best deals of the season, especially on the high-end items like fish houses, portable sonar, ice augers and the premium high tech outerwear.

There are also plenty of unique tackle items available and anglers will be able to find those hard-to-find items in colors not readily available at their favorite tackle stores.

Many resort owners are also in attendance, making reservations and package deals for this winter as well as next summer.

There are seminars on the hour most of the day. Anglers also have the chance to have a one-on-one conversation with expert anglers that most people only get to see in the pages of their favorite fishing magazines.

It would take most anglers an entire afternoon to physically walk around all of the exhibits, without slowing down to look at any of the products. Many vendors also bring plenty of samples to hand out to customers, so it is like “trick or treating” for ice fishing products.

Paul Nelson
Paul Nelson writes a weekly fishing column for the Bemidji Pioneer. He runs the Bemidji Area Lakes Guide Service.