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Snow, slush slow down anglers

A small but active community of fish houses could be seen on Norway Lake Dec. 19. The snow cover and slushy conditions have made ice fishing difficult. Tribune photo by Ron Adams

Snow and slush, even before the rain a few days ago, has slowed down the ice fishing season in the area.

But like true Minnesota anglers, that doesn't stop the hale and hearty from venturing out on the ice.

"They're catching crappies on Foot Lake and Norway (Lake)," said Dave Jensen at Brad's 71 Bait and Sport in Willmar. "But the snow and the slush have really put a damper on things."

Many reports put Foot Lake, Norway Lake, Ringo Lake and Solomon Lake as some of the top places to fish.

Jabran Mustafa, owner of J's Bait and Sports in Willmar, was out on Foot Lake Tuesday afternoon and commented on the conditions.

"By the pier (at Rau Park) there's a lot of slush. They're still catching crappies."

Fishing at Green Lake has been slow, according to an employee at Mel's Sport Shop who didn't want to be named, and there's not a lot of good ice, people have said. The surface has been really slushy, making traveling to a good spot difficult.

It's made more people think hard about grabbing the gear and heading outside.

"A lot of people, especially the older guys, aren't going to go out there unless they can drive out there. It's tough to get in and out," Jensen said.

Fewer ice houses have been reported on area lakes this year, most waiting for more ice and colder conditions.

"It's been a different ice fishing season," Mustafa said. "We haven't seen a lot of permanent houses like we have in the past. It's still been a good fishing season. Right now, you can see the fish are affected by the snow cover. I would say to keep the big permanents off the ice right now until after the rain."

Rain was in the forecast for Thursday and snow Friday, which might add to the misery that is this ice fishing season. But it might just be a blessing, Mustafa added.

"I like it because it's going to melt some of the snow and slush and freeze it really nice. If you clean the snow around the fish house, it will help the ice. So the rain will reshape some of the ice. When we get into the single digits, that will be good for the ice. The snow is just a big blanket of insulation."

Though it might take a few days after to see the benefits. One report into Mel's was of an angler who went out recently and drove his four-wheeler through the slush and snow to fish and had a complication when he was ready to return home. His four-wheeler wouldn't budge because the slush had froze the vehicle.