Ice-out should be this weekend

April 21, 2008

by Chris Schultz
I’ve been wondering for more than a few weeks now if spring will actually happen, or if we will make a somewhat unpleasant jump from late winter directly to summer.

If you can’t remember, cold, snowy, cruddy weather hit us hard back on Dec. 1, and, for the most part, has continued through a fair share of April. That ads up to an awful long four-plus months of winter, the longest winter we have had in quite some time.

Although it has been a long winter and a miserable April around here, there is one sure sign of spring and that is ice-out. Traditionally, ice-out occurs on a majority of our area lakes around April 15. In recent years, though, it has occured a week or two sooner then the 15th. This year, the ice is still hanging in there, but, with some warm weather and wind — rain wouldn’t hurt either — the ice will be gone this week.

We can only hope.

Below, you’ll find an interesting article from the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources on how lake ice melts.

How lake ice melts
From the DNR

A wonderful description of how lake ice melts away appeared on the web blog “Air Mass”, hosted by the Star Tribune’s Bill McAuliffe. Ed Swain, of the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency describes the process of freezing and thawing lakes.

1. In the late fall, the lake loses heat to the atmosphere, and then on a day or night when the wind is not blowing, ice forms.

The ice gets thicker as long as the lake can continue to lose heat.

2. In most Januaries and Februaries, snow both reflects sunlight and insulates the lake.

With a thick snow layer, the lake neither gains nor loses heat.

The bottom sediment is actually heating the lake water slightly over the winter, from stored summer heat.

3. Around March, as the air warms and the sun gets more intense, the snow melts, allowing light to penetrate the ice.

Because the ice acts like the glass in a greenhouse, the water beneath it begins to warm, and the ice begins to melt FROM THE BOTTOM.

4. When the ice thickness erodes to between 4 and 12 inches, it transforms into long vertical crystals called “candles.”

These conduct light even better, so the ice starts to look black, because it is not reflecting much sunlight.

5. Warming continues because the light energy is being transferred to the water below the ice.

Meltwater fills in between the crystals, which begin breaking apart.

The surface appears grayish as the ice reflects a bit more light than before.

6. The wind comes up, and breaks the surface apart.

The candles will often be blown to one side of the lake, making a tinkling sound as they knock against one another, and piling up on the shore.

In hours, a sparkling blue lake, once again!

LP sportsmen’s club trap-shooting begins Wed.

The Lester Prairie sportsmen’s club league nights begin Wednesday, April 23 from 6 to 9:30 p.m.

The 16-yard individual Lewis Class starts Wednesday, April 30 at 6:30 p.m.

Watertown to offer firearms training classes

The Watertown Rod and Gun Club will be hosting a firearms safety training class that starts Thursday, May 1, and runs through the month of May. Classes are Tuesday and Thursday nights.

For additional information, contact Patrick Cole at (952) 955-2911 or Tom Radde at (952) 446-1471.

Watertown Lions BBQ
From Gary Harding, Watertown Lions

This is the first in a series of BBQ articles I hope you find useful in your home Barbequing.

The Watertown Lions sponsor the Crow River BBQ Challenge each year in July.

This year it will be held July 18 and 19 at Highland Park in Watertown.

You should know that BBQ “Is Competition” not just at the level of expertise the competitors at the Crow River Challenge display but also the competition in your back yard.

Whether you’re trying to one up your brother-in-law, proving something to your wife, or just simply mastering the meat on your cooker, you are in a battle every time you set fire to your bbq cooker.

So lets get started talking about how to win that challenge.

The first goal towards winning is to understand what Barbequing really is.

Many think that anything cooked on a patio in anything that doesn’t look like the kitchen stove is barbequing.

In reality true BBQ dates back to the days of cave men when they dug a hole in the ground built a fire and suspended meat over it.

By today’s standards true BBQ is cooked “low and slow” meaning the temperature is held very low and the meat is cooked very slowly.

How low and how slow are subjects for another article?

If you thought throwing a steak on the grill was BBQ its not. Technically you are grilling at those high temperatures.

In order to gain mastery of your BBQ inner self and show that uppity in law what you’re made of you will need to have understanding of several key elements.

They are your cooker, your fire, your meat or produce, spices and seasonings, and of course the big thing in all types of cooking, timing.

I look forward to sharing thoughts with you on all of these techniques as we all learn to accept the BBQ Challenge.

Environmental education week encourages fisthand experiences for students
From the DNR

In an effort to increase environmental education in classrooms and provide opportunities for students to experience the environment firsthand, April 13 - 19 was declared Environmental Education Week in Minnesota.

Educators were provided with activities and encouraged to develop partnerships with schools, nature centers, zoos, museums, science centers and parks.

“The Minnesota Report Card on Environmental Literacy illustrates that there is still a need for citizens to be informed on environmental matters,” says Lee Ann Landstrom, chairperson of the Environmental Education Advisory Board (EEAB), the state board that guides the direction of environmental education in Minnesota. “The EEAB is pleased that the role of environmental education is being recognized and encouraged now and in the future.”

The EEAB was created by the 1990 Environmental Education Act to promote environmental literacy for all Minnesota citizens.

The Board accomplishes this by advising the Governor through the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency, state agencies, organizations and citizens on the implementation of, A GreenPrint for Minnesota: State Plan for Environmental Education. 

To learn more about environmental education, visit www.seek.state.mn.us. or call (651) 215-0256.

Question of the week
From the DNR

Q: As the snow melts in the spring, and during lengthy periods without rainfall, the DNR issues fire restrictions.

Is there a difference between a restriction and burning ban?

A: Burning restrictions involve the issuing of burning permits. Burning permits are required for running fires, such as a grassy ditch or field, or piled vegetative debris.

When restrictions are in place, permits are only issued for management or prescribed burns, or special burns such as construction companies burning trees and brush cleared from roads.

Burning bans, which are issued by the DNR commissioner, prohibit other types of fires. For example, bans may disallow campfires completely or restrict them certain hours of the day.

They may also restrict any fire outdoors, including smoking and barbeque grills.

Bans are only imposed when extreme fire conditions have existed for a long period of time.

Outdoors notes

– With ice out expected this week, it’s time to get your spring crappie fishing gear set and ready to go. Look for lakes like Waconia, Dutch, Swan and Big Waverly to provide some great action this spring. Drifting over shallow water flats with tube jig and crappie minnow has always been the best bet on our area lakes.

– Canada geese may have had another tough year of nesting. Last year the hatch was poor because of cold weather in early April just after geese began sitting on eggs and the weather this April has actually been worse.

– Look bald eagles migrating through our area next week. Eagles love to follow the ice out line on their way to nesting grounds farther north.

– Ringneck pheasants have started their spring mating rituals. Last week I saw one lucky rooster strutting through a group of 13 hens.

– Ring bills, blue bills and buffalo head ducks were a common site on small sloughs and pot holes in our area last week.

– Take the time to get outside and watch spring happen. Soon the grass will be green and the trees will be full of leaves.