Ice conditions vary, are still uneven, unsafe

By Bill Bartusek

After fishing locally for the past two weeks, I got a taste of ice conditions up north. Normally the further north you go, the better the ice conditions are. This wasn't the case at the cabin north of Aitkin. Ice started forming there after Thanksgiving. After a good week of freezing, two big snowfalls arrived. Timing is everything, and the timing was bad.

As the sun rose over our lake Saturday morning, the lake looked fine. It had about 14 inches of snow over the ice. I drilled holes in the ice and found about nine inches of ice. The problem came in the form of water above the ice.

In some places, there was as much as 7 inches of water in the snow. Not all areas had water on the ice, but as soon as you drilled some holes, the whole area would begin to flood. When we would come back, everything was covered with frozen slush. Clothes, fishing equipment and sleds were all frozen up.

The fishing wasn't bad. We found sunfish, crappies and pike willing to bite.

Not all lakes are as bad as ours. Red Lake is in much better shape, and anglers are getting out quite easily. Fishing for walleyes and crappies is nothing less than hot.

Mille Lacs Lake seems to be doing better too. Much of the heavy snow blew off the lake when high winds hit the area. The only hold-back is enough ice when you venture farther out. With continued cold weather, ice conditions should improve.

Here at home we were behind as far as ice was concerned. Our lakes don't have as much snow on the ice. Here the ice continues to thicken as conditions improve. Travel with four wheelers has been common. In some cases, large houses are being pulled out. Ice is not completely safe by any means, no matter how thick it is. Be cautious and check ice conditions before you head out. Ice thickness varies from lake to lake and from one area on the lake to another.

Good luck and be safe!

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