Cold Snap Good News for NE Minnesota Ice Anglers

Cold Snap Good News for NE Minnesota Ice Anglers Photo: KSTP/Todd Wilson

December 28, 2017 10:03 AM

While the state's recent cold snap has caused much grumbling and gritting of teeth, it's been welcomed by many who spend their days on the ice trying to catch fish.

"It's plenty cold out," said John Chalstrom, who owns Chalstrom's Bait and Tackle/Archery in Rice Lake, about 4 miles north of the Duluth airport. "And we've been waiting for a good batch of cold to really firm these lakes up."


Chalstrom said the fishing's been good recently on the lakes in that area – Rice Lake, Fish Lake, Island Lake – but that ice thickness has been around 9 inches.

"I think this cold blast will hopefully firm it up enough to get us past that foot mark," he said, adding that area anglers don't typically feel comfortable taking their pickups on the ice if it's less than 12 inches thick. State Department of Natural Resources guidelines say ice should be at least 8 inches thick for cars or small pickups, and at least 12 inches for medium or larger trucks.

RELATED: It's Colder in Minnesota Tuesday Than in the Arctic

"I'm sure these lakes are making more than an inch a night now," Chalstrom said.

The 21-below temperature early Wednesday in Duluth would help. And Duluth, sometimes an island unto itself when it comes to cold, wasn't alone. 

International Falls set a new record-low temperature of 37 below zero, according to the National Weather Service. And Cotton, about 45 miles north of Duluth, bested the normally-colder Embarrass by tallying a 41-below reading Thursday morning (Embarrass was at 40 below).  

Chalstrom said Thursday's frigid temps didn't slow business at the bait shop. But he had to make sure the store had plenty of 1-pound propane bottles on hand.

"Boy, you don't dare ever run out, because if you do, people look at you kind of cross-eyed," he said. "When they get to my place, their next stop is the lake, so they don't want to back-track into town." 

Chalstrom says the tail-end of the fall season brought a lot of rain and wet weather, which meant lake ice in the area didn't set up very evenly. That means anglers should be aware that spots that might usually have a little bit of current will likely have more current. "You might have a foot of ice, but watch for current spots where ice could be as low as 4 inches," he said.

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And so even if it seems safe to drive a truck, Chalstrom said, anglers need to use caution.

The Twin Cities reached a low of 8 below Wednesday, but a slight break in the cold spell Wednesday into Thursday is going to mean some snow, and a potentially icy Thursday commute.

KSTP Meteorologist Sam Ryan says the snow should arrive in the metro after midnight, but with the bulk of the 1-3 inches falling as the morning commute nears.

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Though the storm isn't expected to pack much of a punch, the timing of it and the cold temperatures could be a recipe for refreeze on the roadways and a clogged commute. 

A forecasted high of 15 degrees, though a change for the warmer, will still be too cold for deicing chemicals to be effective, Ryan says.  

Another round of Arctic air is expected this weekend, with Saturday's forecasted high at 2 below and Sunday's at zero.


Michael Oakes

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