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Another sign of spring: Ice-out on some Minnesota lakes

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Enough ice has melted on a few lakes in southern Minnesota that the Department of Natural Resources declared them ice free earlier this week. Six lakes in Martin and Murray counties are the first in Minnesota to open up after our long and very cold winter, the Star Tribune reports.

Iowa Lake in Martin County was the first, opening up on Tuesday, according to the DNR’s tracking website. It was followed by nearby Hall Lake on Wednesday and Budd Lake on Thursday. Park and Smith Lakes in Murray County opened up Thursday and Lake Shetek on Friday.

Lakes in the metro area and farther north are still frozen over, according to the DNR. It's a repeat of last year's scenario, when ice-out was three weeks late across the central part of Minnesota, the Brainerd Dispatch reports.

Last year the lakes were still covered with ice for the Governor's Fishing Opener, so it had to be moved to open river water near Park Rapids, according to Dispatch. This year's opener is scheduled for Gull Lake near Brainerd May 8-11, and organizers are hoping the lake will be open by then.

The Minnesota Climatology Working Group (MCWG) said the best way to predict ice-out dates is to look at temperatures for the last half of April and the first part of May. This year's forecast calls for a cooler than normal April, May and June.

You might remember that last year, Minnesota had a string of very warm days in May, when temperatures reached into the 80s and even 90s.

“The large northern lakes lost their ice within a few days after this heat event and only the larger Boundary Waters lakes held onto their ice beyond May 17,” the MCWG reported.

New records were set for latest ice-out dates on several lakes last year, including Mille Lacs Lake which didn't see ice-out until May 16, 2013. That broke a 58-year old record.

Things can change dramatically over the course of just a year or two, though. It's just a distant memory now, but the winter of 2011-2012 was so mild that records were set across the state for the earliest ice-out dates -- many lakes were ice-free in March of that year, according to the Brainerd Dispatch.

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