March arrived this past week, with lakes in the Bemidji area still making more ice. It's hard to tell how much the cold helped freeze some of the slush on the lakes.
The unusually harsh winter began in early November, with snow on the ground in most areas for the rifle deer season and it hasn't let up heading into the first week in March.
There are no signs of an impending warm-up in the extended forecast, which typically goes out about 10 days.
One of the popular sayings for March is "if it comes in like a lion, it goes out like a lamb." Unfortunately, if that axiom was put through a "fact check," it would probably only be true about 50 percent of the time.
The good news is the weather will warm up eventually, it always does. Many people are fearing a quick warm-up that causes significant flooding. Along with flooding the rivers and streams, many homeowners are worried about the melting snow flooding their basements.
The chances for a slow melting of the snow decreases the further we go into March. We are gaining almost three minutes of daylight per day, so the potential for extremely cold temperatures decreases as the days grow longer.
The recent snow storm with heavy winds was hard on the lakes. Most of the access roads on the lakes drifted shut, stranding literally hundreds of anglers on lakes across Northern Minnesota.
The two lakes with the most stranded anglers were Lake of the Woods and Mille Lacs Lake. Many anglers were in overnight rental houses and many other anglers were stuck in their own wheeled fish houses many miles from shore.
A few anglers were stranded for several days, as they waited for the resort plow drivers or some other rescue personnel to make new roads on the lakes and come to the rescue of all the anglers stuck on the lakes.
This is a good reason to always have plenty of propane and all the other supplies you would need in case of an emergency. This storm was definitely an emergency situation for everyone who got stranded.
Many anglers with fish houses on the lakes decided to remove them well ahead of the deadline on March 18 for lakes north of Highways 2 and 200 (check regulations).
Many fish houses were frozen into the lakes because of flooding. Getting the frozen fish houses off the lakes is a huge challenge, with some gear often getting damaged in the process.
Looking at the lakes, there are still a few solitary fish houses in some remote locations. The owners of the houses have my sympathy and my hopes for a slow meltdown that starts soon.
There are a lot of anglers from outside the area that plan trips to Minnesota during March to enjoy the excellent fishing for crappies, perch and sunfish. Many of them have had a nasty surprise when they get here.
There is also a quickly growing following of cult-like anglers that have discovered the joys of eelpout fishing.
Eelpout are a prehistoric species with some unusual habits. They occupy the coldest, deepest parts of the lakes. They prefer winter over summer and night over day and seem to disappear from sight as soon as they finish spawning.
Eelpout are most active during the winter and are most readily available to anglers from mid-February to mid-March, while they are actively spawning under the ice.
The biggest challenge for anglers is being able to get to the areas they want to fish on the lakes without getting stuck.
Snowmobiles and track vehicles have the best chance of navigating the lakes successfully, but they are certainly not immune from getting stuck in the pockets of slush that seem to be everywhere on the lakes.
There are always a few anglers willing to accept the risk of getting stuck to go ice fishing. There are other anglers that have had enough fun for the winter and have given up for the season.
Paul A. Nelson runs the Bemidji Area Lakes Guide Service. Guided trips for 2019 can be booked by calling or texting 218-760-7751 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.