Ice is now a thing of the past on area lakes

By Bill Bartusek

As we turn the page on the calendar, we move into April. Even though we have already experienced temperatures in the 80s, warm weather may still be a few weeks off.

Here in the south where ice formed late in the year, it disappeared quickly off of area lakes. North of the Twin Cities, ice formed early and became very thick. As I drove north last Friday, it became very apparent where the ice line was. North of Elk River, ice is still on the lakes. Even small ponds are ice-covered. Lake Mille Lacs still has a lot of ice. However, the shores are opening quite a bit, and travel on the ice is non-existent. The story is the same at the cabin 200 miles north of Owatonna. You have to know that ice-out up north isn't far away.

The ducks are moving north and somehow know that open water exists. Every little crack of open water has ducks in it. I saw mallards mostly, but mixed in were divers, mergansers and even some wood ducks.

Around home, the lakes are open. Panfish have been biting in creeks close to lakes for over a week, and anglers have been taking advantage of it. For the boater, angling for panfish on open water will not be easy. In most lakes, the early ice-out has caught panfish off guard. Water is still cold, and little food exists in the shallows.

Crappies are probably still where they were under the ice, so you need to get over the top of them and fish them vertically. They won't be chasing your bait as of yet. Your bait should be small and presented very slowly.

Sunfish are even more difficult to catch until the water in the shallows warms. As the sun warms muddy bays, especially those on the north side of the lake, panfish will quickly migrate there. Once they hit the warmer water, they will become more active. Then Crappies will chase jig and minnow combinations.

I'm sure excited. Anglers will have their boats out soon. Even if they don't get to fish, they have to try! Good luck!

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