Nature is amazing! We went from concerns about enough lakes open by opener to having them all open by the first few days in May. As I mentioned last week, wind, rain, sun, and warm weather can do damage very quickly. Fortunately, we got good doses of all of those factors this last week. Water temps (by Wednesday) already ranged from 48-52 degrees and they are climbing. A number of anglers got boats out this week and had some success catching early season crappies.
Sorry for the absence of my article the last three weeks. I hear a few actually missed me! To quote "The Dude" in The Big Lebowski: "it's very complicated, a lot of in's, a lot of out's, a lot of what have you's." The good news is, in the time since my last appearance in the outdoor section of your paper, is that we finally have a spring, and we are a week or two from some area lakes having open water.
Most of us that got hooked on fishing spent time shore fishing, or fishing off docks and piers. Our area has limited shore and public pier fishing these days, as most of the area lakes have had all the property around them purchased and are now privately owned. One area gem that holds many memories for adults, kids, and families, was the public fishing pier on Lake Sallie at Dunton Locks Park, next to the river inlet into Lake Sallie.
I just returned from Rochester again, and have spent a dozen days down there over the last three weeks. My oldest brother Bill turned 70 last November and had a stroke just before Christmas. He has been transitioned to a memory care facility and will be in assisted living now. My 92 year old mother, that bowled in multiple leagues until she was 90, had a fall several weeks ago that has robbed her of the independence she has enjoyed in her many years. We have her transitioned to an elderly independent living facility where she will be cared for by my 65-year-old brother Bruce.
The additional snow of the last week will make traveling off trails or plowed roads on the area lakes with vehicles and wheelers a risk for getting stuck. The strong winds that followed the snow have made for some unpredictable drifting and hard packed snow. We are due to get some above freezing temps this next week and that will help knock some of the snow down.
The fishing season for walleye and northern has been closed in our area since midnight Wednesday. If you continue to fish this ice season you need your new 2018 license as of Thursday, March 1. Your new license will be good until Feb. 28, 2019. Sunfish, crappie, perch, and tullibees are the sought-after fish now in our area and the season for them never closes. As of midnight Monday, March 5, dark houses and shelters need to be removed from lakes south of the east-to-west lines created by Highway 10, Highway 34, Highway 200 and Highway 2 all the way to the Wisconsin border.
With the recent snow storms of the last week, along with days and evenings of high winds, travel on area lakes will be challenging for anything but snowmobiles off plowed roads and trails. Hard drifts that are deep in some areas have already stranded some anglers trying to get to remote sites. Make sure you travel with shovels, tow straps, warm gear, and a cell phone in case you need to call for some assistance.
These February thaw days mess me up. I really start getting the itch for the open water season when we get a 40 degree type day with sunshine. I like to ice fish, but I love to fish the open water and be in the boat. In the late fall, just before ice, I start to look forward to ice fishing, especially the early ice bite. As we start to get to the end of the hard winter and we are well past the early ice bite, I get impatient for the open water.
This week will be the week of random considerations when it comes to ice fishing habits and tendencies. The first up for discussion is about what you do with harvested fish before cleaning them up for the table. Many will just throw the fish on the ice. If the temp is mild or you are in a portable with some heat, probably not a problem. You want to keep them from freezing before cleaning.
Welcome to February ice fishing. The days start to become noticeably longer, and the weather will start to be noticeably nicer. We will still have some brutal cold, but it never seems to last as long. This is when it can be fun to "bucket fish" on the ice. Even the days around zero degrees, but with no wind and sunshine, can be very comfortable on the ice outside the shelters. Kids love to fish, play, slide, eat, play, fish, and play some more when it gets nice to be outside on the ice!