Thursday, March 7, 2013

Red Lake's ice-out probably average-to-late

Nothing has melted yet, a good thing if you're snowshoeing like Brenda
It's early to predict such things but from all the signs that I see so far, 2013 ice-out on Red Lake and other lakes in the region is going to be around the historic average or even later this year.
The average ice-out date for Red Lake is May 8. Ice-outs in recent years have been much earlier culminating in last year's record-early ice-out of April 13.
Red Lake had a long, cold winter with lots of snow and no melting has taken place to date.
The forecast from meteorologists is for normal late-winter, early-spring weather in the next two months. That means temperatures will get only slightly above freezing in the day and plunge to -20 C or about 0 F at night, with gradual warming as the year progresses toward May. Ocean currents that bring us our weather are cool this year and there should be none of what happened last March when temperatures went to the 20s C or 60s F. Such freakish temperatures are going to be more common with climate change but it just doesn't look like it's in the offing this spring.
So, of course, what does that mean for fishing on Red Lake? That's what everyone reading this will want to know.
Early springs are great for walleye reproduction but probably are not good for northern pike. As we witnessed last year at camp, walleye took advantage of the early April ice-out by spawning three weeks early. That means their eggs developed more quickly and their fry were bigger and better able to look after themselves as summer occurred.
Northern pike, however, didn't spawn until the photo-period was correct -- in early May. The water temperature by that time was far warmer than normal and it is probable that many of their young did not survive and the ones that did were at a disadvantage compared to the already-growing walleye.
So a normal or late ice-out should be good for the future of northern pike fishing. Don't feel too sorry for the walleye; there are about a trillion of them in Red Lake now. Their population can easily sustain a bad spawning year or two or three.
All the snow at Red Lake is also a good thing for pike. As it melts it will mean high water at the beginning of the spring, creating the mildly flooded conditions that allow pike to spawn among the bushes that line swampy areas and creeks. This is their preferred spawning sites. Pike eggs develop best in these areas that are clean of silt and algae and the pike fry are able to emerge and swim away before the lake level drops too low.
Northern pike will be on or near their spawning sites when fishing season opens May 18. That is just what our anglers who come the first couple of weeks want to hear.
A normal to late ice-out also will mean great lake trout fishing for the first couple of weeks at camp since the water temperature will be cold enough to keep these fish at the surface. We're beginning to see a resurgence in the lake trout population. All trout still must be live-released, however.
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