Longtime family-owned ice fishing businesses open as ice conditions improve on Mille Lacs
It was a day that the Brandt family had been waiting for all ice fishing season: opening day for anglers.
“It’s a fantastic day, slowly but surely,” said Amanda Brandt, whose family has operated an ice fishing business for 62 years.
This year is one of the latest starts in all those years for Brandt’s Ice Fishing in Onamia due to poor ice conditions this winter.
“Safety is a huge concern,” Brandt said, “A couple of weeks ago, we had open water … 200 yards out.”
But the cold weather has brought more ice to their spot on the lake, where anglers pay to walk out, drive their ATVs and, when the ice gets thicker, drive out fish houses using their ice road.
The Brandts say they constantly measure ice conditions and, on Thursday, reported around 7-10 inches of ice up to a mile out.
“It’s definitely in our blood … a lot of customers we’ve grown up with our whole lives,” Brandt said. “I want people to come up and enjoy the resources,” Mille Lacs County Sheriff Kyle Burton wrote to 5 EYEWITNESS NEWS. “Just be safe and drill multiple holes before you get set up to confirm ice thickness.”
Minnesota’s Department of Natural Resources offers a guide for ice thickness.
Between Isle and Wahkon, Lyback’s Ice Fishing opened for anglers on Thursday due to more ice on the lake.
“I’m a little more cautious, but I’ve learned a lot over the years … what works on the lake and what doesn’t,” said Eddy Lyback.
The family business just started its 70th year on the lake. Lyback’s posts a daily ice fishing report, which Eddy said gets several thousand views each day.
“Everything’s been quiet up here,” Lyback said about the warmer winter. “Hopefully, people can recoup enough to come out all right.”
The winter walleye season runs until the end of February.
“We’re going to have a short season, about six weeks of fun,” Brandt said.