Ice-out approaches



A recent foggy morning near the Crosslake dam shows a mixture of ice and open water. Though the water never freezes close to the dam, it has begun to open up a bit with warm weather. Photo by Kate Perkins

The ice is just starting to pull away from the shore on area lakes, and though the area is still waking with the occasional skiff of snow on the ground, most of the winter’s snowpack has melted. Migratory birds are starting to arrive, maple syruping is on and, well, everyone’s eager for spring.

The median ice-out day for Whitefish Lake (upper and lower) is April 29, according to the DNR and its 32 years of records for that lake. And while that day is still more than a month away, ice-out is shaping up to be early this year, which is bound to make anglers happy.

According to the DNR, the earliest ice-out on record for Whitefish Lake is April 13, and that record was set just last year.  Lower Hay Lake saw its earliest ice out on April 7, 1998, while Ox Lake had its earliest ice out on April 9, 1973. Could this year break records?

Already lakes in the metro area are ice-free. This year White Bear Lake had the earliest ice-out in all of the DNR’s 88 years of record. The ice went out on that lake March 16, along with several other lakes in the cities.

This is an important time of year to remember ice safety and that the ice is not only constantly changing, but never totally safe. Ice that is honeycombed or pitted, as it can be in the springtime, is not as strong as the clear ice that lakes often form in the beginning of winter.

It’s also important to remember, as you take to the water this spring, that cold water can be dangerous. It takes only 30 minutes in cold water for one’s ability to swim to be impaired or lost. That’s why wearing a life jacket is important, especially in early spring when the water is still cold. Read more about cold water boating safety here.

If you live far away from the Whitefish Chain but want to keep an eye on ice-out, the real-time satellite imagery availabe on the MODIS  website is a great way to take a look. Though the lakes can only be seen on clear days, it’s interesting and fun to zoom in on your favorite area of the state (click the “250m” button at the top of the screen) and see how the lakes are looking.

This image from March 12 shows that much of the area’s snow has melted, and allows a clear view of the ice not only on the Whitefish Chain but also on Mille Lacs (note that you can see the cracks and heaves in the ice), Leech Lake and Red Lake.

You can also watch the DNR's 2016 ice-out map for near real-time ice out information.

It won’t be long now! Happy spring!

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