Ice Fishing Update December 2016
The ice-fishing season is finally here in the Brainerd Lakes Area…well...sort of.
We've been checking a handful of lakes over the past week and despite the layer of snow acting as insulation on top, we've been adding approximately 0.5" of new ice each night. Thickness varies from lake to lake, and spot to spot, but most lakes in the area have between 2.50" to 6.00" of the hard stuff.
Word is that Gull Lake has just 2.00" of snow-covered ice on the main lake, but you can see the steam rolling into the air in certain areas. This means things still haven't completely locked up, or that the shifting ice has opened up cracks, and mother nature is doing her best to pull the warmth from the water.
Many smaller bodies of water ended last weekend with just 2.00" to 2.75" of ice. After going back and checking mid-week, we found those lakes to now have what's considered a walk-able level at 4.00". Some of the shallower, more protected lakes that cooled off more quickly had as much as 6.00" of ice. Even so, there were small pockets we came across that didn't freeze evenly and had just 2.50". It was easy to visually see the difference in ice thickness of those weaker spots then, but now with the snow on top it could be like unknowingly walking into a booby-trap.
That's exactly why you need to check every step for yourself using all possible safety precautions. Just because you see someone else out on a lake does not mean that it's safe everywhere. There are certain points, bridges, current areas, etc that are literally unsafe the entire season -- let alone early ice.
In this picture you see the ice picks around my neck and the Onyx Outdoor life jacket strapped on. What you don't see: The spud bar checking thickness every step of the way, a tape measure/ruler so there's no guessing on how thick the ice is, a rope tied to a throwable boat cushion, ice cleats on our boots, float-assisting suits, the buddy system, leaving the shacks on shore and packing light -- only bringing the essentials while initially checking ice thickness, and years of experience in testing and reading ice conditions.
Don't try to be a hero. Make sure to check the ice conditions for yourself using all possible safety precautions. The most important: Being patient and waiting for things to thicken up. The fishing will only get better over the next couple of weeks as the water clears up from the churning of fall winds. Good luck and be safe!
Shared with Visit Brainerd - Written by Brett McComas