The talk of the lake is ice out, which most are expecting to break the record this year, since there’s still 30-plus inches on the lake and no serious melting until tomorrow, April 26 — a month after last year’s record early ice out.
DNR records are contradictory on the latest ever. One page says it was May 7, 1965. Another says May 8, 1975. I’ll check the old Messengers to see if I can narrow that down.
There was also still ice on the main lake for the 1950 opener. I’ll check back on that date too, but it’s before good records were kept.
Messenger records go back to 1979. Latest since then was May 6 in 1996.
By way of comparison, here are average ice outs for area lakes. You can predict Mille Lacs roughly by these dates, but it does vary.
Mille Lacs: April 25 (revised from April 24 after last year’s early ice out).
Ann Lake: April 16 (drove past it today. Snow is mostly gone, but little melting has occurred)
Knife Lake: April 13
Sullivan: April 19
Farm Island: April 21
Big Sandy: April 21
Pepin went out April 16 this year — 16 days after the median. Record is May 19, 1843.
Albert Lea Lake was 18 days late (a record).
If Mille Lacs is similarly late, that would put us at May 10, the day before opener.
Here’s the map from DNR with the averages, earliest and latest for a bunch of lakes around the state: http://www.dnr.state.mn.us/ice_out/index.html?year=median
Here’s a map of ice outs so far this year, with lots of records being set: http://www.dnr.state.mn.us/ice_out/index.html
I’m guessing Ann Lake ice won’t be out until the end of next week, so we’re looking at Mille Lacs ice out right near opener.
Just a note on the potential overlap between tribal netting and angling opener, which folks are talking about:
Over the course of the tribal netting era, there’s been little direct conflict between anglers and netters at Mille Lacs.
Let’s keep it that way. There’s nothing the Twin Cities media would love more than to cover battles at the landings between netters and anglers, which would be bad publicity for the area.
There’s nothing I would love more than to sit in my office or at home and not have to cover any opener news except good weather and a good bite.
Everyone has a legal right to harvest by their own methods and to use the public accesses. Let’s be good neighbors.
There’s an ice-out contest on the Messenger’s Facebook page: facebook.com/millelacs. If you “like” us you can enter. In the case of a tie, winners will be drawn from one of Rob’s cowboy hats.
Three prizes will be given: free subscriptions and/or coupons to local establishments.
Oh, and I talked to Paul Fink, an Izatys townhome owner who has put a group of investors together to buy Izatys. Closing date May 3, with hopes of keeping the golf courses and other limited services open this season!
For more, see next week’s Messenger or the home page of the website.
The Messenger published Thursday, May 18, 1950, says that on Saturday of opener (May 13), the only open water was around Isle, Wahkon and Malmo. Boats were packed into areas of open water. On Sunday the 14th, the ice shifted and piled up on the west side, damaging buildings at the Kings X Resort. It seems clear from that that the ice was not out by today’s standards until at least May 15. Another story written Wednesday, May 17, said the lake was “finally open” and that most launches went out on Tuesday, May 16. I’d say May 15 is a pretty good guess for ice out that year.
The May 13, 1965, Messenger says ice went out “a little over a week ago,” but that ice could still be seen “in the distance.” So the DNR’s ice-out date of May 7 for that year is … not necessarily confirmed, but not disproved either. (BTW, on May 20 of that year the editor referred to comments calling Mille Lacs “The Great Dead Sea” — the earliest reference I’ve seen to that old saying, which crops up whenever the fishing is bad.)
Which brings us to 1975. I couldn’t find anything to confirm or deny the May 8 ice out date on the DNR map. Ice out apparently wasn’t big news that year.