Saturday, May 2, 2009

Red Lake ice-out "probably" two weeks away

Chukuni River was open, May 14,2008
Pipestone Bay was frozen, 2008

Ice-free water at Bow Narrows

It's all up to the weather.

Will the next couple of weeks finally turn above normal and finish off the ice in Red Lake or will it stay unseasonally cool and delay the process?
Brenda and I, our dog Sam, and our staffers: Ben, Jenn, Emilie and Joe, are chomping at the bit to get into camp and get to work.

For sure it looks like we will see if our good friends at Viking Outposts can fly us from the Chukuni River in town to the narrows in front of camp as soon as the ice is clear in those places. This usually lets us get into camp a week before the ice goes out in the rest of the lake. Our hope is we will be able to do this next weekend.

We are so fortunate that Bow Narrows Camp is located in an area of the lake where the current melts the ice early, just as it does at the river in town.

There have been times where we were able to get into camp three weeks before ice-out in the main lake.

Last year, however, it ended up being only a few days advantage. If I remember correctly we were able to fly into camp on a Wednesday and our first guests arrived two days later, on Friday. Then a big wind came up on Saturday and smashed the ice out of the lake.
Hugh Carlson of Viking Outposts, phoned us at camp Saturday night to say he could see from the air that we should be able to get to town by boat if we favored the north shore which was clear.

On Sunday, staffer Mike Biloski and I took one of our fishing boats back to town to get our cabin cruiser, Lickety Split. We had to skirt a few ice sheets but made the trip OK. Ice sheets continued floating around the lake for about a week after that.

This shows how unpredictable ice-out can be.

Red Lake Publicity Board thoughtfully is posting a list of recent ice-out dates in its May newsletter.

They were: May 17, 2008; May 5, 2007; April 23, 2006; April 21, 2005 (a record); May 9, 2004.

From a camp operator's point of view, we need a couple of weeks ahead of guests arriving to get camp into shape for the upcoming season.

Docks always need rebuilding, firewood needs cut, boats need put in the water and cabins need maintenance before we settle in to the routine of fishermen coming and going every week.

The photos above are from our trip into camp last May.

We took off from the Chukuni River and as you can see Pipestone Bay was frozen shore-to-shore. So was the rest of the lake. It looked then like it could be weeks before it would clear.

But the narrows in front of camp was open and JB from Viking Outposts was able to land Viking's Beaver aircraft easily at our dock.

This year Bow Narrows Camp isn't opening until May 23, one week after walleye season opens May 16. After last year's experience with the late ice-out and with walleye season opening one day earlier than last year (it's always the third Saturday in May) we just felt it was better to be safe than sorry.

So when will ice-out come this year? No one can say but it looks possible that it will occur sometime in the next two weeks, or in other words, before the regular walleye opener May 16.

It just depends on the weather.

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