MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — A vacant parking lot at Hardy’s Boats and Bait on Medicine Lake tells a statewide story.

Instead of ice houses, they see golden eyes and mergansers. But ducks are the last thing ice anglers want to see this time of year — and days like Friday do not help.

So with no lakes to fish, what is an angler to do? Fortunately, the St. Paul Ice Fishing and Winter Sports Show has just the tonic for what ails them: lots of shelters, augers, rods and reels.

Scott Peters of Nitti’s Hunters Point Resort on Lake Mille Lacs says there was nearly a foot of ice this time last year. The bays now are still too thin to support houses.

“It’s a short season for us, so, boy, we hope it gets cold fast,” Peters said. “It’s ready to go. It’s ready to turn as soon as the weather’s ready. The lake’s at about 36 degrees now.”

Traffic at Vados Bait in Spring Lake Park is slow, but this is Minnesota, where weather can change on a dime.

“It’s giving people an opportunity to come in and get ready for that ice,” Vados’ David Tuma said. “But unfortunately now, the weather’s supposed to be in the 40s again next week, so, you know, it’s still going to be a while before we can safely get out on the ice.”

And only a cold snap can bring them what they want. It is what resorters, retailers and ice enthusiasts are banking on in December; the tranquility of this winter pastime spent on a frozen lake.

“We’re just going to cross our fingers, hope it gets cold,” Mike Christensen, of Hunter Winfield’s Resort, said. “We need a foot of ice or so to get these houses on the water, and it’s going to be a little bit.”

So unless you are willing to make the long drive up to the Canadian border, like Lake of the Woods, you are simply out of luck.

There are, however, some die-hards that are still fishing from boats.

Bill Hudson