Anderson: Ice-out for walleye opener? Local anglers offer updates
If you're planning to paddle in the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness on opening day of the Minnesota inland walleye and northern pike seasons May 13, it's possible you'll encounter some ice on some lakes.
Key for visitors to BWCA lakes and other waters across northern Minnesota on the seasons' first days will be the weather between now and then, especially how hard the wind blows and how much rain falls.
Temperatures across the state's far north next week are expected to reach the mid-50s to mid-60s, with lows in the 40s. Some rain is predicted.
Here's an ice-or-no-ice forecast for the opener on some of the state's biggest and best walleye lakes:
• Mille Lacs: Median ice-out is April 25; latest, May 16. "Mille Lacs is about half-covered with ice now, but should be ice-free by this weekend (May 6-7), depending on the wind,'' said Steve Fellegy, who grew up on the lake and tracks its freeze-up and ice-out dates closely. "That will put us about 10 days behind our typical ice-out date. The winter was cold with a lot of snow, and spring has been cold, too."
• Leech: Median ice-out is April 28; latest, May 23. "I think the ice will go out probably this weekend, Saturday or Sunday,'' said Ray Phillippi of Big Rock Resort on Leech. "The ice is turning blacker every day, and our harbor is open, and that usually happens a few days before the lake opens up."
• Winnibigoshish: Median ice-out is April 27; latest, May 17. "It's been warm and sunny," said Paige Brown of McArdle's Resort. "We think the ice will be gone by this weekend, and we definitely believe it will be gone by the opener."
• Upper Red Lake: Median ice-out is April 28; latest, May 17. As was the case in recent days with most other large northern Minnesota lakes, satellite photos taken this week of Upper and Lower Red lakes show them to be nearly ice-covered. Closer looks, however, show ice pulling away from shorelines, and darkening. "The ice should go out this weekend or early next week," said Ann Westphall, who with her husband, John, owns Beacon Harbor Resort on Upper Red. "It'll be gone for the opener."
• Vermilion: Median ice-out, April 30; latest, May 23. "Some bays are open now," said Mary Hanson, who with her husband Eric owns Pehrson Lodge Resort on Vermilion. "We watch a small lake that always goes out about a week before Vermilion, and that lake was almost ice-free today (Wednesday, May 3). Plus, the ice is dark. We should be good for the opener."
• Rainy: Median ice-out, May 4; latest, May 22. "The opener typically isn't as big of a deal up here as it is in southern Minnesota lakes," said Billy Dougherty of Rainy Lake Houseboats. "Still, I think we'll be completely ice-free by May 13. Black Bay (on Rainy) is opening up now. It's a process. But I think we'll make it by the opener."
• White Iron (near Ely): Median ice-out is April 28; latest, May 10. "The ice on White Iron has a ways to go, but it's getting darker and it's pulled away from the shoreline,'' said John Schiefelbein, who owns Pine Point Lodge on White Iron with his wife, Kathy. "We had a hard north wind the past few days, and that helps. I think we'll be good for the opener. As for Moose Lake (gateway to the BWCA, about 20 miles up the Fernberg Road from White Iron), I don't know. It's usually three days or so after us."