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Boreal Community Media

Brutally cold April will impact May fishing opener

Apr 16, 2018 08:10AM ● By Editor
Wind-blown snow whips by a fishing dock at the Clyde Avenue boat landing on Sunday. Steve Kuchera / [email protected]

By John Myers of the Duluth News Tribune - April 15, 2018

It has been the April of our cold discontent and the impacts of our frigid weather so far are going to last well into May, with near record late ice-outs expected across the Northland.

That means if you have plans to fish open-water lakes in far northern Minnesota on May 12 — that's less than four weeks away now — you may want to remain flexible on where and how you fish. Maybe try a river. Or bring an auger.

At a point of spring when many of Minnesota's 11,842 lakes should be shimmering blue, especially in the southern half of the state, the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources State Climatology Office reported that, as of Friday, none were ice free. None.

Assistant State Climatologist Pete Boulay said the spring is shaping up similar to 2013 and 2014, some of the latest ice-outs ever across the state. But this year might even be later.

"There were already some lakes that were ice free by this time in the south in 2013 and 2014," he said.

It probably won't be as bad as 1950, the latest ice-out for most lakes with records that go back that far, when virtually all northern lakes (even as far south as Mille Lacs) were still ice covered for the fishing opener.

And it certainly won't be like 1936, the year Gunflint Lake on the Ontario border didn't lose its ice until June 3, the latest of any Minnesota lake on record.

April colder than March

The first 12 days of April were bone-chilling cold, an average of 23.4 degrees in Duluth, a full 12 degrees below normal. Even the first 12 days of March were warmer at an average 25 degrees.

In some areas, ice anglers and others continue to report virtually no ice melt through mid-April. Ice melt on many lakes often starts in March, and once snow melts, speeds up in April as the increasingly intense sunlight bores into the darkening ice. But so far into April, many lakes remain covered in snow that reflects sunshine and protects the ice from rotting.

The short-term forecast looks slightly warmer for the Northland, with highs into the mid-40s by mid-week. But even that is short of the 50-degree highs we should be approaching. And it will take many days of temperatures into the 50s before lake ice melts in earnest.

This of course won't be the first time lake ice has hung on well into May.

The State Climatology Office confirms there was ice on some Minnesota lakes on fishing openers in 1950, 1966, 1979, 1996, 2008, 2013 and 2014. And those earlier dates were often later fishing openers, closer to Memorial Day. (By state law Minnesota fishing openers now must be the Saturday two weeks before Memorial Day weekend.)

At the other extreme, just six years ago, in 2012, ice was off all Minnesota Lakes by early April, after a non-winter and warm spring, the earliest ever. Gunflint Lake that year lost its ice March 23, six weeks head of the long-term average.

For more on this article, follow this link to the Duluth News Tribune website,
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