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The end of the season is quickly approaching (especially for Minnesotans), but, fortunately, temperatures are holding tight enough to keep a lot of us on the ice through the end. Just a gentle reminder to make sure you verify conditions before venturing out – especially concerning vehicle traffic. No ice is 100% safe! Below, we bring you some general updates from North and South Dakota and the major regions of interest across Minnesota.

1) North Dakota

Devils LakeReport from Ed’s Bait Shop

“We have up to 22 inches of ice in some locations but wheelers or side-by-sides are the way to go. And you still want to stay away from the old road beds and railroad tracks where the ice can be spotty. There plenty of good ice but you have to be careful – some places aren’t as good as others. And the ice isn’t consistent across the lake. But it’s getting better. The bite is starting to pick up, too – you’ve just gotta drill a lot of holes to find ‘em.”

“The West Side of the lake has been producing fish and wouldn’t be bad place to start, although Creel Bay had been producing real good early.  The fish are definitely moving.”

“Our ice should hold for quite awhile – it’s going to be down in the 20s and then come back up to the 30s.”

Sakakawea & Williston AreaReport from local anglers:

Sakakawea’s bays are varying in ice thickness between 6 and 18 inches so caution is in order, especially since there had been some honey-combing when it was warm. Ice anglers have not ventured out to the mouths of the bays where they’d normally be fishing this time of year. Last week, there was a lot of water near the cracks that had opened up in the bays. There aren’t a lot of anglers fishing Sakakawea, but the handful that are fishing stick close to shore on the various bays where there’s decent ice and are catching some walleyes.  

NW near Williston, ND, sounds like White Earth Bay, Red Mike’s Landing, are Tobacco Gardens are getting some fishing activity with up to 18” of ice in some spots, but anglers are still checking ice quality everywhere.

2) South Dakota: Glacial Lakes

Guide Cory Ewing reports:

“Ice conditions and the bite has drastically improved the past four days. The ice varies a lot—anything from a foot to 16 inches—but some ridges and heaves have opened up so you have to be careful. ATVs and smaller machines recommended. We’ve been doing well on the northern end of Waubay for both walleyes and perch.”

Sportsman’s Cove reports:

Quite a few anglers fishing. You’ve got guys running wheelers, some guys walking, but not hearing of any trucks. Anglers are checking ahead and there are places to fish. There have been quite a few people on Bitter and anglers going to Waubay and guys going up north to Roy and Clear. Sounds like there’s still some 18-inch ice up in that country. We lost a little bit of ice but there’s still 14- to 18-inches out on Bitter and Waubay. But you’ve gotta check everything. We’ve got some honey-combing in some areas so you need to check ahead out here. Haven’t heard of any incidents lately. We had hardly any rain and just a dusting of snow. Guys are being smart and not heading out in the dark until they establish a path and check their ice. Pike up on Roy and walleyes on Bitter.”

3) Minnesota

Lake of the Woodsfrom Joe Henry:

“The ice varies from road to road, but we had good blanket of ice and a layer of snow earlier on to set things up. And given recent cold, it’s started to increase. Some of our resort ice roads are allowing ¾ and 1 ton trucks pulling wheel houses, the whole ball of wax. But everywhere’s a little bit different between Adrian’s, Sportsman’s, Morris Point, Zippel, Arnesen’s Rocky Point, etc. Some anglers are catching a lot of fish while others are having to work harder. But I’ve spoken to a lot of resort owners who say this is one of the best ice years they’ve had for fishing.”

“Just a year and a half ago in the summer of ’22, we had record-breaking flooding on Lake of the Woods. All the dams were wide open. Water was pushed into the system like there’s no tomorrow. After that, our basin bite wasn’t real good for a while. But you know, it’s now coming back and anglers are catching a lot of fish.”

North Central MN – Guide Brian “Bro” Brosdahl reports:

LAKE WINNIBIGOSHISH

“I’ve been fishing Winnie the past several days and the average ice thickness is about 15 inches after the big rain washout, with some cracks that I would stay away from. There’s not much snow on the ice, either. And stay away from the river mouths; the Mississippi entrance and exit are NOT safe. Big vehicle traffic is not advised, with anglers using primarily ATVs, snowmobiles, or pulling sleds out on foot.”

“Angler traffic is very slow compared to recent years right now, but the fish are biting. It’s not a super-hot bite largely because the lake has had an explosion of baby perch. There’s lots to compete with given all the food in the system.”

RED LAKE

“The key on Red is getting away from the people and you’ll catch walleyes with a few crappies mixed in. But be careful. There are some ridges to avoid on Red, too.”

BEMIDJI AREA LAKES

“A lot of the lakes are, are still good for machine or foot travel. There are land-locked lakes with good ice. But be careful of anything with a river or creeks dumping in. The volume is higher right now. The rain has degraded some of the ice.”

“Exercise caution and leave trucks on shore. Even with recent temps in the low- to mid-20s, there are some moving cracks. What’s needed are some sustained temps below zero to lock in everything really good and weld the cracks and problem areas. Cold temps will thicken the ice because there’s basically no snow. I think it will extend our season if it gets down into single digits.”

“It’s been a record year for vehicles going through, so anglers need to be mindful even running smaller machines.”

“You’ve also got to take into account that as the days get longer and there’s more sun, the accesses will start to go eventually, so stay on top of that, using southern accesses wherever possible.”

Mille Lacs Lake  –  Guide Brad Hawthorne reports:

“Right now, there’s 9 to 18 of inches on Mille Lacs, but it’s probably the most inconsistent ice I’ve seen in all my winters on the lake. The problem is: the ice has thawed and frozen so many times it’s pretty much all white and you can’t see the lines in it. So you can go five feet and the thickness varies a lot. Anglers coming up see cracks and think they’re old but they’re pretty recent. When it was warm, water ran into the cracks and there’s 7 to 8 inches of ice there. That’s where anglers can get into trouble.”

“I’ve been using a battery-powered chainsaw to cut out triangles of ice to see if its honey-combed or not. Just drilling holes isn’t always a good indication of what’s good ice or not. I’ll also use a 4” Razr drill bit to check ice, too, which is bit enough to run a bump board down and measure. I look at the ice core. Your board might say you’re on 12 or 13 inches, but 7 or 8 is honey-combed.”

“But where we’ve established safe travel, the fishing has been really good—hardly any pressure at all this winter. 80% of the walleye my crew has logged this winter on guide trips have been between 18 and 23 inches, so it’s been super fun. So there’s a good chance of an angler getting his one take-home fish between 21 and 23 inches and there are some big perch in the system, too, with 9 to 13 inchers. The key there right now is finding the deep mud holes around the rock piles in 28 to 34 feet of water. But you have to hunt them and move around. Makes for a fun day of fishing.”

West Central MN – from local anglers:

Anglers are mainly running around on four-wheelers. In the Otter Tail County region, some lakes have as little as 8 or 10 inches (after 14-15 inches a week ago) and accesses have degraded a bit. The panfish bite continues to be good, but long-term weather forecasts into the 30s and 40s have local anglers wondering just how long the season will hold.

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