Ice anglers are venturing out in Willmar area

The ice fishing season has gotten off to a slow start, but area bait shops anticipate things will pick up this weekend. Despite previous worries about the supply of bait, they report being well stocked.

Area bait shops report they are well stocked with live bait and gear for the season, and anticipate some of that inventory will be going out of the doors this weekend as ice fishing activity picks up. Tribune file photo/Tom Cherveny

WILLMAR — Local bait shops are brimful with minnows and well stocked with everything from spearing decoys to electronic gadgetry.

They’re hoping to see some of it go out of the doors this weekend. A slow-to-start ice fishing season appears to be finally getting underway in earnest.

“We have all kinds of bait,” said Troy Haverly at Pete’s Surplus near New London.

He is among those who are anticipating that ice anglers will get out this weekend. There was some early ice fishing action, but he and others reported that things slowed since approximately four inches of snow fell last Sunday night into Monday.

Ringo Lake and Point Lake were among the early favorites before the snow arrived, Haverly said.


The snow cover has slowed ice making, but sub-zero temperatures at mid-week were helping. Most expect enough ice this weekend for foot traffic, but all urge anglers to be cautious and check ice thickness when they venture out.

Shelly Christiansen, at Mel’s Bait Shop and Sporting Goods in Spicer, said there has not been a lot of ice fishing activity to this point due to concerns about the ice.

In the Willmar area, the prairie lakes south of town generally see the most early season activity. Wakanda and Minnetaga are the favorites.

North of town, Ringo and Long Lake are early favorites.

Ice fishing has been slow to the west as well. Lynn Koenen, at Running’s Outdoors in Montevideo, said the shop has only been seeing sporadic bait sales in the past week, although he anticipates things will pick up this weekend. Those venturing to Lac qui Parle Lake have been heading to destinations north of the Milan Bridge area. There has been some open water on the south end of the lake.

Jeff Randall, at Milan’s Beach Resort, said the ice is taking hold on the lake and he expects to see foot traffic at his location this weekend. He knows there’s a pent up demand to get out. Every day, he’s watching as people drive their pickup trucks to the lake’s edge to scan the conditions.

Concerns about ice conditions have kept activity on Big Stone Lake to a minimum as well, according to Tanner Arndt at Artie’s Bait and Tackle in Ortonville. There have been some anglers “tip toeing” out on the lake, but with scattered snow drifts ice thickness has varied in the four- to seven-inch range. He is optimistic more will venture out this weekend as more ice is made, but he advises anglers to be cautious as always, and travel by foot.

There has been some snowmobile and four-wheeler activity on Lake Minnewaska, where ice conditions are better. Larry Jensen, at Minnewaska Bait in Starbuck, said there’s about six to eight inches of ice on the lake, and it is consistent. Some are beginning to pull out small houses. He cautions it’s too early for the bigger wheelhouses at this point.


Anglers are finding panfish on the Glenwood end of the lake in about 14 feet of water. They are also finding walleye in front of the high school campus on the lake’s west end in 24 feet of water. It’s an evening bite, Jensen added.

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