Here's a look at what to expect for the 2019 Minnesota ice fishing season

AP photo

Conservation officers are still urging extreme caution on many lakes.

Posted: Nov 21, 2018 11:30 AM
Updated: Nov 21, 2018 11:33 AM

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — Few activities are as quintessentially Minnesotan as ice fishing, and some anglers are already venturing onto the ice. If that sounds dangerous, it should, especially with a Thanksgiving warmup in the forecast.

Authorities already have had to rescue some anglers. But when cold weather returns, Minnesota's 10,000 lakes will be making ice. So here's a look at what to expect for the 2019 ice fishing season:

IS IT SAFE YET?

No. it's true that the recent cold snap put a fresh sheet of ice on many lakes statewide. And reports from conversation officers show that several anglers and spearers haven't been willing to wait. They've even met with some fishing success.

But the Department of Natural Resources likes to say that ice is never 100 percent safe, and no fish is worth a life. Conservation officers are still urging "extreme caution" on many lakes.

"Ice, especially early ice with snow cover, is extremely deceptive because you can't see dangerous cracks or the thickness of the ice under the snow," Conservation Officer Adam Block said in a statement, reminding parents that the holiday weekend is a good time to teach kids about the dangers of ice.

Last Saturday, conservation officers responded to a call of anglers stranded on the ice on Upper Red Lake. Emergency responders brought them safely back to shore, but the officers had to use an airboat to recover their fish house, augers and other gear.

WHEN WILL IT BE SAFE?

Sportsman's Lodge on Lake of the Woods at the northernmost tip of Minnesota says on its website that it's hoping for an early December start date, once there's 8-12 inches of good ice.

Some resorts on Upper Red Lake reported 5 inches early this week, which under good conditions can support activities on foot.

On Mille Lacs Lake, Eddy Lyback of Lyback's Ice Fishing says on his website that the ice extended out about 2 miles early this week, but he hasn't ventured out on it and won't for a while, though he says a few anglers have walked out on the bays to try their luck.

THE RULES

The DNR is maintaining its existing regulations for the winter season on Upper Red Lake, a four-walleye bag limit with only one allowed longer than 17 inches. That's been in place since the May 2017 fishing opener. The DNR says sport anglers have harvested around 235,000 pounds of walleyes from the lake since last December. That's a record since walleye fishing resumed on the lake in 2006.

While Upper Red Lake has been a success, Mille Lacs is still recovering from a dramatic decline in its walleye population. For the third straight winter, anglers will be allowed to keep only one walleye, and it must be between 21 and 23 inches, or over 28 inches. DNR officials expect the walleye bite on Mille Lacs to be quite good this winter because the relatively low numbers of forage fish such as perch and tullibee should make an anglers' bait hard to resist.

THE TOURNAMENTS

The Brainerd Jaycees $150,000 Ice Fishing Extravaganza bills itself as the world's largest ice-fishing contest. It's scheduled for Saturday, Jan. 26, on Hole-in-the-Day Bay on Gull Lake. The long list of prizes includes a new truck, ATVs, augers and other equipment, to name just a few. It typically draws 10,000 people. The kickoff party is the night before at Grand View Lodge.

In celebration of Minnesota's ugliest fish, the International Eelpout Festival on Leech Lake's Walker Bay is set for Feb. 21-24. On those three days the population of Walker, normally around 1,000, increases tenfold. But it's not all about the pursuit of the slimy bottom-feeder, which is a freshwater member of the cod family and allegedly tastes pretty good if properly prepared. Other events include eelpout curling, polar plunges into the lake, an ice bar and live music.

Minnesota Coronavirus Cases

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Confirmed Cases: 39589

Reported Deaths: 1523
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Hennepin12703789
Ramsey5013230
Dakota247993
Stearns242919
Anoka2293110
Nobles16726
Olmsted116817
Washington116340
Mower9652
Rice8598
Scott7834
Clay59538
Kandiyohi5821
Blue Earth5102
Wright4925
Carver4171
Todd4022
Lyon3272
Sherburne3275
Freeborn2980
Watonwan2400
Steele2391
Benton2213
St. Louis19816
Nicollet17612
Martin1715
Cottonwood1370
Goodhue1328
Winona13115
Le Sueur1101
Pine1100
Crow Wing10912
Chisago1021
Otter Tail1001
McLeod940
Dodge920
Carlton880
Unassigned8738
Polk842
Chippewa791
Isanti760
Waseca710
Douglas660
Murray660
Itasca6512
Pipestone632
Meeker611
Morrison611
Faribault600
Becker570
Jackson550
Sibley552
Pennington520
Brown372
Renville362
Beltrami350
Wabasha350
Mille Lacs342
Rock310
Fillmore300
Yellow Medicine300
Houston280
Swift231
Norman210
Wilkin213
Redwood200
Cass192
Big Stone170
Grant170
Koochiching171
Roseau170
Aitkin150
Kanabec151
Wadena150
Marshall120
Pope120
Lincoln110
Mahnomen101
Clearwater90
Hubbard80
Lake60
Stevens60
Traverse60
Lac qui Parle40
Red Lake40
Kittson20
Cook10
Lake of the Woods00

Iowa Coronavirus Cases

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Confirmed Cases: 32533

Reported Deaths: 735
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Polk6827181
Woodbury326444
Black Hawk235558
Buena Vista172411
Johnson13638
Linn132382
Dallas129829
Marshall106319
Scott88310
Story8194
Dubuque77122
Pottawattamie75812
Wapello71231
Crawford6793
Muscatine67544
Sioux4880
Tama47329
Wright3881
Louisa36313
Jasper32917
Plymouth3275
Warren2971
Dickinson2823
Webster2524
Washington2479
Cerro Gordo2011
Hamilton1921
Boone1571
Clay1421
Allamakee1354
Clarke1343
Mahaska11817
Shelby1170
Clinton1151
Poweshiek1078
Carroll1041
Pocahontas1011
Bremer987
Franklin980
Des Moines942
Emmet910
Henry883
Cedar851
Hardin830
Taylor810
Cherokee791
Monona770
Floyd742
Marion740
Benton691
Guthrie694
Jones650
Osceola640
Sac640
Jefferson620
Iowa611
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Humboldt571
Calhoun552
Hancock541
Harrison540
Lee542
Delaware531
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Monroe517
Madison492
Lyon470
Clayton463
Mills430
Winneshiek430
Davis421
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Mitchell410
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Howard370
Jackson370
Kossuth370
Union360
Lucas314
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Chickasaw290
Greene290
Cass240
Ida230
Appanoose213
Van Buren210
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