PAUL NELSON COLUMN: Don’t expect to start ice fishing soon
This is the last weekend of the 2015 Minnesota rifle deer season, which ends at sunset on Sunday. The first two weekends of the season were unseasonably warm, but this weekend should be much more like what hunters are used to from past deer seasons.
This is the last weekend of the 2015 Minnesota rifle deer season, which ends at sunset on Sunday.
The first two weekends of the season were unseasonably warm, but this weekend should be much more like what hunters are used to from past deer seasons.
Deer harvest numbers were up early in the season. With a strong finish this weekend, the deer harvest numbers for 2015 should be up over 2014, when approximately 139,000 deer were harvested.
Most groups of hunters try to fill their buck tags early in the season, saving any antlerless permits for the last part of the season. This usually means the harvest numbers have an uptick on the last weekend of the season, unless the weather does something to hamper the hunters’ chances for success.
The end of the rifle deer season has many hunters starting to switch their thoughts from deer hunting to the impending ice fishing season.
Lakes in the Bemidji area have finally cooled down to between 39 and 40 degrees, which is the point where the lakes are ready to begin freezing.
Deer hunters in the Bemidji area are used to the swamps and ponds being frozen during the deer hunting season. This year there was no crusting of ice anywhere until the last few days of the deer season.
The lakes will begin forming ice as soon as the daily high temperatures stay below freezing for an extended period of time. The lakes usually freeze over completely on a night with calm winds and temperatures in the single digits or colder.
Last year there was already ice on many of the shallow lakes by this point in the season. Anglers were just starting to walk out on Upper Red Lake, which is usually one of the first places in Minnesota with fishable ice each winter.
Some of the other early lakes to freeze each year include Blackduck, Gull, Irving, Lake of the Woods, Plantagenet, Three Island, Wolf and Winnibigoshish.
Some of the last lakes to freeze each year are those with extensive amounts of deep water like Lake Bemidji, Cass Lake, Pike’s Bay and Walker Bay of Leech Lake.
Lake Superior would be the best example of how much cold weather it takes to freeze a big lake with extremely deep water.
Lake Superior rarely, if ever freezes completely. The typical winter sees no more than 30 percent of the big lake covered with ice at any one time. Even on the coldest winters, rarely is Lake Superior much more than 90 percent frozen.
If the extended forecast is to be believed, there will not be any fishable ice in the Bemidji area until early December this year.
There were still a few anglers on the lakes in the Bemidji area this past weekend, but that will likely be over soon if the colder weather pattern continues.
Anglers increase their chances of something bad happening to their outboard motors if they try to run them when the temperatures are below freezing.
Warming up the motor for an extended period of time, watching the water spout for freezing and operating at lower RPM’s are all good ideas when fishing open water late in the season.
Crappies have been the most consistent species for anglers still out on the lakes. Most anglers have been waiting until late in the afternoon to go fishing, to take advantage of the warmest part of the day.
Once the deer hunting season ends, anglers should have some time to get ready for the ice fishing season before the lakes have enough ice to walk on.
The “to-do” list includes tuning up the power auger and checking the blades. Check the fish house for updates and repairs and charge and test the winter electronics.
Anglers also need to make the switch from long rods to short rods and put new fishing line on their reels. Organizing tackle and buying some new items to add to the arsenal are also part of the process in getting ready for the ice fishing season.