Warmer Winter Causes Angst for Ice Anglers
January is typically the peak of ice fishing season. But this isn’t a typical winter. Lake ice is not as thick as normal and going on the ice can be risky.
“We haven’t been making ice,” said Alan Lange from the Hennepin County Sheriff’s Department. “We might even be losing a little bit. But it hasn’t been cold enough at night to maintain the ice that we have.”
Because of this, Minnesota is now the land of 10,000 partially frozen lakes. In a normal January, Lake Minnetonka is an ice fishing mecca. But, because of mild temps and unpredictable ice conditions, there aren’t many fish houses on the lake.
“We had a fish house near shore fall through,” Lange said. “[We had a] three quarter ton truck fall through ice near shore. Then we had an ATV that went across a pressure ridge which is not highly advised.”
At Spring Park Bay, there are nine inches of lake ice. According to the Hennepin County Sheriff’s Department, ice is never safe and conditions constantly fluctuate.
“I think if you are foot traffic and you check as you go, you’re probably okay,” Lange said. “ATVs and if you know the bay and you’ve checked? Be careful. Motorized vehicles? Cars, trucks? Absolutely not.”
Bad lake ice equals “Worst December ever”
Meanwhile on Medicine Lake in Plymouth, snow, slush and above average winter warmth have put a dent in Joe Harty’s profit margin.
“The worst December ever,” said Harty, who runs Harty’s Boatworks. “Not good for business.”
Currently the lake is an ice fishing ghost town. Harty knows that people won’t come until extreme cold comes too.
“Those fish are doing nothing but getting bigger,” Harty said. “They’re not getting caught.”
However, letting the fish grow is better than falling through the ice into frigid water. The consequences can be devastating.
“Don’t push it,” Harty said.
If you should ever fall through the ice, experts suggest using the 1-10-1 system to get out.
“One minute to get your bearings straight,” Lange said. “10 minutes trying really hard. Then you need to spend the next hour conserving energy. Hypothermia does take a little bit to set in.”
There’s a huge drawback if you bring a car or truck on the ice and it goes through into the water. If you get out, it’s still going to cost thousands of dollars to remove the from the lake.