Reporting Bill Hudson
DEERWOOD, Minn. (WCCO) – On Lake Mille Lacs, commercial launches sit high and dry, and charter captains can do little but to sit back and wait.
Lake residents and marina owners are waiting, too. Their docks remain out of the water and a long way from going back in.
In his 24 years of running Terry’s Boat Harbor Marina, Terry Thurmer hasn’t seen an ice out on Lake Mille Lacs that was this late.
You’d have to go back to May 7, 1965, for the latest ice out on Mille Lacs. What concerns him now is that the Minnesota fishing opener is just 12 days away.
“I don’t see any way the ice can be off by the opener, I don’t. I mean I hope I’m wrong, but I just don’t see it happening,” he said.
Further up the road on Bay Lake, the folks at Ruttger’s Lodge are also playing a waiting game. Ruttger’s is a fourth-generation family-operated resort and they can’t recall a time when Bay Lake’s ice was so stubborn.
“If we get rain it would really help. Once that lake starts to honeycomb then it goes pretty fast,” said Jack Ruttger.
The problem is that it shows little sign of honeycomb or the darkening appearance that typically signals it is soon to go.
And with ice still covering a vast majority of lakes in the northern two-thirds of the state, water doesn’t begin to warm sufficiently to trigger fish spawning.
The shoreline water temperature of Serpent Lake in Crosby is still a chilly 38 degrees.
Biologists say that 40 to 45 degrees is the preferred temperature for walleye to spawn.
While they await the fishing opener, anglers typically fish for crappie on lakes that have shed their ice cover. That’s not the case this year.
What’s badly needed, according to resort owners, is a combination of warm sunny days, some rain and strong wind.
And if guests at Ruttger’s can’t fish, they’ll at least hope to golf.
“The golf courses will be open, if not this weekend shortly after so we’re not hearing too much concern yet,” said Chris Ruttger.
But for die hard anglers, it’ quickly becoming nail biting time.
“It’ll go when it’s ready to go, and there’s nothing you can do about it,” Thurmer said.