More snow has not helped the ice conditions on lakes in the Bemidji area. The extended forecast does not offer much hope for melting, with no warm up predicted in the near future. Anyone with a fish house on the lakes has probably had some flooding problems this winter. There are horror stories going around about people needing waders to get close to their fish houses. Anglers would be well advised to get their houses off the lakes early this year and rely on portable fish houses or fish out of the truck door for the rest of the season.
More snow is not what we need on the Lakes in the Bemidji area. Some melting temperatures to gradually melt some snow would be much better for those interested in continuing the ice fishing season. The walleye and other game fish season in Minnesota closes on Feb. 24, so there are about two weeks left in the season for anglers fishing the inland waters. There are also some other changes that happen on March 1, which include anglers needing to purchase new 2019 Minnesota Fishing Licenses.
The anticipated cold snap almost every January in the Bemidji area was late in arriving in 2019, but it has been here in full force for much of the last two weeks, and it looks like more of the same heading into this week. The only breaks in the weather this past week instantly brought a chance for more snow, so the elements are really working against anyone who has to go outside, which includes virtually everyone in the Bemidji area.
Cooler temperatures this past week have slowly started to freeze some of the slush on lakes across northern Minnesota, but there is still a long way to go. Some areas have more pressure built up under the ice than others, so the ice doesn't always flood everywhere anglers drill holes, but it does erupt in many areas as soon as holes are drilled.
Lakes in the Bemidji area and much of Northern Minnesota took a big hit last week when large amounts of heavy snow fell on too little ice. The results are flooded ice conditions and slush forming on most lakes, especially in the areas where anglers are drilling holes or where they try to go across the lakes with no roads or trails on the ice. Many undisturbed areas on the lakes are wet enough to look darker than regular snow, which can be the only clue anglers get before the try to cross over an area where the ice is flooded.
The weather has been frightful this past week in the Bemidji area, which shouldn't be a big surprise, it is almost January. The first measurable snow of the winter dumped a lot of snow on much of Minnesota this week, with the first below zero temperatures nipping at the heels of the winter storm as it passed through the area. It would have been nice if there was a little more ice on the lakes before the snow hit the area, but that is not how things usually work in the North Country.
The two things that impact ice conditions the most are snow and temperature. The Bemidji area has not yet received the extended stretch of below zero temperatures needed to set the ice and make it safer for vehicle traffic on the lakes. We have also not received a good dumping of snow on the ice, which would insulate the ice and slow down the freezing process on the lakes. There is a chance of measurable snow in the extended forecast for the middle of the week and a chance for below zero temperatures by the end of the week in the Bemidji area.
The ice fishing season got off to an early start this year, with most estimates putting the season at least two weeks ahead of what is considered "normal" for the Bemidji area. Temperatures have been mild this past week, with above average temperatures and a couple days with highs above freezing. The mild temperatures are expected to continue into next week, with a chance of more snow mid-week. The lakes continue to make more ice, but the progress is much slower when the high temperatures come close to or exceed the melting point during the day.
The ice fishing season continues to expand, with more lakes having enough ice for ice fishing. The lakes still vary a great deal in the amount of ice from lake to lake. Walker Bay of Leech Lake and Cass Lake are always a couple of the last areas to freeze, with some of the deepest areas still freezing over this past week. Most lakes have at least 6 inches of ice, while Upper Red Lake and Lake of the Woods Minnesota along with some of the other shallow lakes having close to 10 inches of ice in most areas.
Most lakes in the Bemidji area have enough ice to walk on, but the ice conditions still vary greatly from the shoreline to the middle of the lakes and also from one lake to the next. Everyone is responsible for themselves when it comes to ice safety. Don't rely on secondhand information for your ice safety, especially early in the season when the margin for error is slim. With that said, there will probably be lots of people on the lakes going ice fishing for the first time of the season this weekend.