A far-out ice-out: Lake Minnetonka now clear, but state thaw lags


What's that old spring rhyme? April (snow) showers bring (late Minnesota ice-outs and) May flowers, right?

Progress has been made on the thawing of the Land of 10,000 Lakes' 11,842 actual lakes.

On Thursday, officials declared ice-out on Lake Minnetonka – one of the most anticipated ice-outs among metro lakes. The Freshwater Society and the Hennepin County Sheriff’s Water Patrol tells WCCO it's about 10 days later than normal.

An official tells WCCO 2-3 feet of ice were on the lake from December through March, due to the especially cold winter.

The Lake Minnetonka news came the day after another metro lake was de-iced. The Star Tribune reported an ice-out on White Bear Lake was declared Wednesday.

The paper also noted the two agencies – the nonprofit Freshwater Society, and the county Sheriff's Water Patrol – are working together calling ice-outs for the first time, after years of disagreements and different criteria.

Looking at the DNR's ice-out map, as of April 26 a good portion of the lakes in southern Minnesota and around the metro are now able to be traversed via boat.

But draw a line from North Branch (just north of the Twin Cities near the Wisconsin border) northwest through Mille Lacs, up through Bemidji and continue toward that corner of the state – not a lot of ice-out markers to be seen east of that.

According to the DNR's map of median ice-out dates, that area is mostly clear by April 28. A few stragglers farther north (Red Lake, Kabetogama, Gunflint) don't generally ice out until early or mid May.

That would include the Nisswa area, which will host the Governor's fishing Opener May 8-11. WCCO reports officials expect an ice-out on Gull Lake there in the final days of April.

And the lakes that have iced out at this point all seem to be a bit behind the average. Historically, many southern and metro lakes are good to go by April 7 – this year, none were ready before April 8.

The northeast corner of the state was hit by a whole lot of snow once again this past week. The area up by Grand Portage reported 12 inches to the National Weather Service Friday morning. Two Harbors got about 7 inches, and Duluth close to 5 inches.

The Duluth News Tribune says Iron Range cities reported about 3 inches.

On Lake Superior, record level ice continue to be a roadblock (or water-block) to the shipping season, MPR reports. A trip from Duluth to lower Lake Michigan, the first of the season, took two weeks – it normally is a three-day trip, the station says.

Meanwhile, businesses and anglers are crossing their fingers ice is gone from all the big fishing lakes by the May 10 opener.

The clock is ticking.

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