Local Sage Offers His Best Guess: Green Lake Will Be Ice Free For Fishing Opener

Tribune file photo/ The ice left area lakes just in the nick of time for the 2013 fishing opener, but cold temps and a northwest gale made for rough fishing. Jason Amiot, left, of Big Lake and his father Ed Amiot of Walker bring their boat back to shore on Norway Lake on the opening morning.

SPICER – We only have to look back at 2013 to know just how long the ice can stick around.

The winter ice cover on Green Lake held on until Thursday, May 8 that year, or just a little more than a day before the fishing opener.

Will Green Lake be ice free when it hosts the  2018 Governor’s Fishing Opener on May 12?

“My guess is it will be open. We’ll have open water,’’ said Greg Melges, Mel’s Sports and Bait Shop of Spicer.

But he quickly added to be clear: “That’s my guess.’’

It comes with some experience. Melges, 79, has lived all of his life on Green Lake and has operated his popular business catering to those who love the outdoors for 61 years now.  

“I have never seen ice on the lake for the opener,’’ said Melges.

The May 8, 2013 ice out date for Green Lake was the latest ever, according to records dating back to 1897.

Melges said the average date for ice out on the lake is April 26, which he remembers well because it happens to be his late father’s birth date.

Records kept by the Minnesota Department of Natural Resource list April 16 as the median ice out date for Green Lake, with March 19, 2012 as the earliest ice out ever.

Tribune file photo/ Let’s hope this is not the image for the 2018 fishing opener, but it may be the case on Big Stone Lake for the April 21 border opener.

According to the records for median ice out dates, this is the week that local lakes should start shedding their winter ice.

Fat chance of that happening this year. At mid-week, the ice cover on local lakes ranged from 18 inches to reports of 24 and more inches. The estimate for Green Lake was 24 to 26 inches.

Other lakes in the area north of Willmar had around 24 inches of ice, from the reports that Brad Foshaug, Brad’s 71 Bait and Sports, Willmar, had been hearing as of Wednesday.

There was 18 inches of ice on Big Kandiyohi Lake south of Willmar earlier this week, according to reports received by Dave Coahran, fisheries supervisor with the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources in Spicer. The ice was reported to be “very variable and bad/soft,” he wrote in an email.

But people were definitely venturing out. One guy told him he had dropped his four-wheeler in the ice on Tuesday.

Melges said there were a few pickup trucks still venturing out on Green Lake, where the ice was still solid.

While there’s ice, there are only a few anglers. One here, one there kind of thing, according to Foshaug. “Not many want to go out and sit on a bucket anymore,’’ he said. Ice fishing activity dropped fast once the wheelhouses were pulled from the lakes last March, he noted.

Ice fishing activity is slow too on Big Stone Lake, where the 2018 border opener occurs on April 21. “We’re 95 percent sure there will be ice,’’ said Tanner Arndt, of Artie’s Bait Shop. He reported a good two feet of ice on the lake as of Wednesday.

There was ice on Big Stone Lake for the border opener in 2013, and that didn’t stop die-hard enthusiasts from pursuing walleyes.

Melges remains optimistic of seeing open water on Green Lake when Governor Mark Dayton and his entourage arrives. The weather can change on a dime, and when it does, “it (the ice cover) can go quick,’’ he said.


Tribune file photo/ The ice depth on area lakes ranged earlier this week from 18 inches on the lakes south of Willmar to 24 inches on those to the north.