Record ice out? Depends on which record

Yes, it’s been a miserable spring, but only the second-miserablest, according to the public TV show Almanac. Last Friday was the first time it hit 60 in the Twin Cities in 2013, which is tied for second latest.

We skipped right over 60 to 70, which didn’t hurt my feelings at all.

The crazy weather is great fodder for the climate change deniers, but more importantly, it’s fodder for speculation about a range of scenarios that could play out on opening day of the fishing season May 11.

Most are expecting to break the record for late ice-out this year, since there were still 30-plus inches on the lake before any serious melting began on April 26 — a full month after last year’s record early ice out.

But the ice out “record” can be defined in different ways. DNR records are contradictory on the latest ever. One page on the DNR website says it was May 7, 1965. Another says May 8, 1975.

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.

The 1975 Messenger does not include any information that would confirm or call into question the May 8 ice out date on the DNR website.

The Messenger’s official records go back to 1979. The latest since then was May 6 in 1996.

However, many old timers in the area remember opener in 1950, when there was still ice on the main lake. 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 — where boats were shoehorned in. I’ve heard folks say you could practically walk from one boat to the next.

The next day, Sunday, May 14, the ice shifted and piled up on the west side, damaging buildings at the Kings X Resort.

Another story written Wednesday, May 17, said the lake was “finally open” and that most launches went out on Tuesday, May 16.

Given that information, it appears that the ice went out on May 15, 1950 — the latest known date.

The ice on Lake Pepin went out April 16 this year — 16 days after the median. (The records go back a little farther for Lake Pepin. The latest ice-out ever was May 19, 1843.) On Albert Lea Lake, ice out was 18 days later than normal this year — a record.

Sixteen days late on Mille Lacs would mean May 11, opening day.

By way of comparison, here are the DNR’s average ice outs for area lakes.

Mille Lacs: April 25 (revised from April 24 after last year’s early ice out).

Ann Lake: April 16

Knife Lake: April 13

Sullivan: April 19

Farm Island: April 21

Big Sandy: April 21

I drove past Ann Lake this morning (Monday, April 29) and it’s not close. If the weather cools off on Wednesday, like it’s supposed to, I don’t see the ice going off before the weekend — or even early next week. If Mille Lacs is eight days later, that means you should bring your auger on May 11.

The Messenger is sponsoring an ice-out contest on our Facebook page. Deadline for entries is Thursday, May 2. If you’re not on Facebook, send your guess to or send it (postmarked by Thursday, May 2) to Mille Lacs Messenger, PO Box 26, Isle, MN 56342.

Three winners, chosen at random from all correct guesses, will receive free subscriptions or coupons to local establishments.

Brett Larson is the editor of the Messenger.


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