There is a growing concern about safe Lake Ice this season in Minnesota due to unseasonable temperatures. Many traditional ice-angling destinations have suffered catastrophic accidents due to unsafe ice, but Cook County currently boasts over 10 inches of ice on most of their lakes, some with a little less and some with more.
Ice is never to be considered completely safe, river mouths, springs, and heaves are all things to avoid on any lake, but the lakes in Cook County have made enough ice to support an ATV or Snowmobile, according to the MN DNR “General Ice Thickness Guidelines”. A few lakes even have enough ice to support a small vehicle.
One challenge this year has been finding easily accessible lakes, since many of the trails leading to traditional winter spots are exposed or barely covered in snow. Luckily there are still many “drive-to” lakes scattered throughout Cook County for anglers without a snowmobile or wheeler to access, and the bite has been hot!
Currently, the stream trout bite has been on fire with reports of 10-15 bites per angler on some of the designated Trout lakes. Lakers are also biting well, and a limit of 2 has been quick to get, leaving a lot of day to explore connecting lakes for other species, like Stream trout, Pike, Panfish, and Walleye.
Walleyes have always been tougher (not impossible) to catch in the winter months in our area, but the Trout action is incredible this season. I think the warmer temperatures have turned them on. Local anglers target Lake Trout, Brook Trout, Rainbow’s and Splake with an occasional sunrise or sunset Walleye trip to a variety of lakes in the Wilderness, and a short drive from Skyport Lodge on Devil Track Lake in Cook County, MN.
The lakes have been easy to walk across with only six or eight inches of standing snow above the ice, so many anglers are reaching further into areas that rarely get fished in the winter. For those willing to hike, there are endless options using Day-Use permits to enter the BWCA which is free and always available, and generally easier to fish than the closer destinations. Plenty of options up here, for the moment, so don’t give up on Ice angling this season. Cabin and room rentals are discounted so there has never been a better time to give winter fishing a try in Cook County than now!
What a catch! Family sharing the results of a good day on the ice.
What a catch! A beautiful fish pulled through the ice in January on a lake on the Gunflint Trail.