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.
The weekend after Thanksgiving is usually when the first anglers are able to walk on a few of the shallowest lakes in the Bemidji area and start the ice fishing season. The local lakes got an early start this year, with most lakes frozen over. However, only a few lakes have enough ice to walk on right now, with the rest of the lakes still having too little ice off of shore for ice fishing.
Sunday is the last day of the Minnesota Rifle Deer Season in the Bemidji area and much of Minnesota. The archery deer season continues through December and the Muzzleloader Deer Season runs from Nov. 24 to Dec. 9. Once the deer season is over, many hunters will turn their attention back to the lakes and start to think about ice fishing. There was at least one boat on Lake Bemidji last weekend, with a few of the large deep lakes still having open water.
Temperatures in the Bemidji area dropped below freezing on Election Night and have stayed below freezing since. An early November snow was enough to cover the ground and make it easier for deer hunters to see fresh sign in the woods. The snow also makes it easier to see the brown colored deer moving through the woods against a white background. The extended forecast for the Bemidji area is predicting more cold weather for the immediate future, with overnight lows dipping into single digits some nights.
The 2018 Minnesota Rifle Deer Season opened Saturday. Experts at the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources are estimating the total deer harvest in 2018 will be at least 10 percent higher than the approximately 200,000 animals harvested in 2017. The forecast for the Bemidji area includes a chance of rain or snow for most of the first week of the deer season, but the temperatures will be mild, in the 30s and 40s most days. This should allow hunters to sit in their stands longer without getting cold.
The Minnesota Rifle Deer Season opens on Saturday and goes until Nov. 18 for areas in the 100 series, which includes most of the Bemidji area to the north and east. Most anglers put their boats away by the time the rifle deer season opens, because most lakes will likely have shoreline ice by the time deer season is done. A few anglers will keep fishing until they can't get their boats in the lakes any longer. An ideal deer opener for some people would be to get their deer in the morning and still have time to catch a limit of crappies in the afternoon.
The small ponds and swamps are freezing and some of the shallow lakes are starting to form skim ice along the shoreline. Unless there is a drastic change in the weather, it looks like an early winter this year. Things can still change, it looked like a late winter during most of September when it was so hot. Bemidji and the rest of northern Minnesota are known for drastic weather changes, so it is possible to still have some warm weather this year, but keep your long underwear handy just in case.
Another cold week with rain and snow has sped up the cooling process on the lakes and has many of the deep lakes beginning to turn over. Anglers can see the dead algae floating on the surface of the lakes in the mornings, before the wind has a chance to mix the algae back into the water. Algae dies quickly when the water temperatures drop and will remain at low levels during the winter. Algae will spike again in the spring after ice-out when water temperatures begin to rise.