By Chris Schultz Winsted-Lester Prairie Journal & Howard Lake-Waverly Herald, Minn. March 6, 2000
New ice-out record probably on the way
Geese have retuned and are flying, robins have been seen in the area, the weather has been unseasonably beautiful, the ice on our area lakes has turned to a grey, slushy mess, and most likely, will be gone soon.
That's right, the ice will most likely be gone soon, and the actual date of ice-out I'm sure will be a new record.
In any case, the weather for late February and early March has been unbelievable. It's felt more like the middle of spring than mid- to late winter.
Regarding the lakes, the ice fishing season for walleye and northern pike in our area ended Feb. 29.
Actually, because of warm weather and melting ice conditions, just about all ice fishing for the season ended at that time. Fish houses also had to be removed from the lakes Feb. 29.
As of this writing, the ice is grey and soft, and on many of the lakes, the ice is already surrounded by a ring of water.
If the warm weather continues, we get more rain, and the March winds pick up, our lakes could be ice free by some time next week.
That would be a record.
On average, Howard Lake usually becomes ice free on or about April 15.
The earliest recorded ice-out date on Howard Lake is March16, that being in 1987.
Fishing the Crow River
Floating down the river and moving on with this little series of columns on the Crow River, the question at hand, and the one that draws the most interest, is fishing and why it has been so good the last couple of years.
In my opinion, the Crow River, both north and south forks, has always been a fairly good fishery.
Northern pike were easy to catch if the water was low and you were in the right spot. Walleyes were a bonus and caught on occasion.
Action from bullheads was always good and if those species weren't biting, a nightcrawler on the end of a hook almost guaranteed carp or suckers.
For fishing fun and not being too picky about what you catch, the river has always provided good action to the few anglers that fished it.
In the last few years, the fishing has gotten better and angling activity has increased tenfold.
Reason number one, especially on the south fork, our lack of snow the past few winters has kept the river at pretty stable levels. Rises and falls of the water level have not been as dramatic compared to most years.
Number two, in the areas of the river I fish, there are swamps and wetlands adjacent to the river that have been reestablished creating better water quality and fish habitat.
Number three, a few years ago, anglers started to pick up on the fact there are catfish in the river to catch. Some big ones, too.
More anglers started fishing the river in search of cats and found that walleyes were there too. We all know what most anglers will do to catch a walleye.
With the walleyes biting, the word got out, and so did more anglers.
In next week's column, we'll get the DNR's opinion of fishing the Crow River and take a look at some of their fisheries data on the river.
- The fishing season for northern pike and walleye ended in our area on Feb. 29.
- Remember to buy your new 2000 season fishing license. Your 1999 license expired Feb. 29.
- The 2000 walleye opener is for Saturday, May 13.
- Look for waterfowl, bald eagles, and a variety of songbirds to be arriving or coming through our area very soon. Bald eagles tend to follow the ice out line on their way to nesting grounds farther north.
- The Lester Prairie Sportsmen's Club will meet tonight at 7 p.m. at the clubhouse. The club will also be holding its annual father/son banquet Friday, March 17 at Lester Prairie City Hall. A demonstration on birds of prey will be put on by the Raptor Center. Tickets are available from club members.
- Interested hunters are reminded that harvest of "light geese" (snow geese, including blue-phased snow geese and the smaller Ross' geese) will be allowed from March 1 to April 30 this spring.
- Attend your favorite conservation organization's fundraising banquet this spring.