Ice fishing season slipping away

Stormy weather to hit on icehouse removal deadline

Photo by Mike Lamb Ice houses line the landscape at Lake Sarah recently. Monday is the deadline to remove ice houses from lakes in the southern two-thirds of the state.

MARSHALL — Ice fishing enthusiasts face two concerns this weekend.

A storm is brewing from the west and may hit Sunday evening.

Also, Monday is the deadline for removing ice houses in the southern two-thirds of the state, Department of Natural Resources (DNR) Fisheries Supervisor Ryan Doorenbos said Friday. Anglers in northern Minnesota can keep their ice houses on the ice for two more weeks, until March 19.

Monday’s deadline is just for ice houses that are left unoccupied on the ice.

“Anglers around here can keep their ice houses on the lake beyond Monday, too, if they occupy them overnight,” Doorenbos said. “They can still fish from midnight to one hour before sunrise, but they are not allowed to leave them unoccupied at night or on the ice during the day.”

While the DNR officers might not be patrolling any more often than prior to the deadline, Doorenbos said they will still be making their random rounds to check on anglers and also to be sure they have renewed their fishing licenses. The winter walleye fishing license expired Feb. 25. New fishing licenses are now available.

Meteorologist Andrew Kalin of the National Weather Service said temperatures heading into late Sunday may drop from the mid-40s over the weekend to possibly below freezing.

Doorenbos said the reason there is even a deadline was that years ago fishermen with older ice houses occasionally left them on the ice too long. When the ice melted enough that they couldn’t go out and get them, the fishermen abandoned the structures. The houses then became trash littering the lake.

Warmer temperatures can create honeycomb ice, Doorenbos said. Honeycomb ice has less integrity and could break more easily.

“When walleye season closes (as it did Sunday), it’s like a mass exodus,” Doorenbos said. “Most of the ice houses are off the lakes already. There are still a few out there that are pan fisherman, angling for perch, crappie or bluegill.”

If any anglers get caught with their unoccupied ice house on the ice after Monday, their structure and its contents can be confiscated by the DNR and even destroyed, Doorenbos said.

“The DNR encourages anglers to use common sense,” Doorenbos said. “Ice is never 100 percent safe no matter how thick it is in most spots.”

The National Weather Service also advises caution during this time.

“The precipitation for the storm we’re tracking through the Plains is uncertain at this time,” Kalin said.

“However, the wind gusts are predicted to be 30-35 miles per hour. We encourage people to stay up-to-date and monitor the latest forecasts.”