It's no secret that this winter has hung on longer than normal. Between cold temperatures and even a major late-season snow storm, it is just now starting to feel like spring with 50+ degree temperatures coming into the picture. With area lakes still covered in considerable ice (including Lake Vermilion with over 30 inches), will this late ice-out rival record late ice-outs for the area?

It's really hard to say, but warm temperatures, rain, and wind are the three factors that will chew away at ice quickly. Assuming we get plenty of all three, central and southern Minnesota lakes might open in time for the fishing opener on May 12, but it is still going to be tough to get all of the Northern Minnesota lakes opened up in a couple weeks.

So, how late are some of the latest ice-outs on record in Minnesota? The Minnesota DNR and MPCA have a data archive of a variety of lakes around the state, but not every single lake. Among the lakes on record, here are some of the latest ice-outs in the northern part of the state:

  • Gunflint Lake (on Canadian Border in BWCA) - June 3 (1936)
  • Lake Vermilion - May 23 (1950)
  • Leech lake (Main Basin) - May 23 (1950)
  • Rainy Lake - May 22 (1950)
  • Burntside Lake (near Ely) - May 22 (1950)
  • Lake Bemidji - May 22 (1950)
  • Lake of the Woods - May 21 (2014)
  • Fall Lake (near Ely) - May 19 (1950)
  • Deer Lake (near Grand Rapids) - May 18 (2013)
  • Gull Lake (near Nisswa) - May 18 (1950)
  • Kabetogama (near International Falls) - May 18 (1996)
  • Lake Winnibigoshish - May 17 (2013)
  • Pokegama Lake (near Grand Rapids) - May 17 (2013)
  • Red Lake (Upper and Lower) - May 17 (1996)
  • Mille Lacs Lake - May 16 (2013)
  • Johnson lake (near Silver Bay) - May 16 (2013)
  • McGuire Lake (near Warba, MN) - May 16 (2013)
  • Caribou Lake (near Lutsen) - May 15 (2014)
  • Whitefish Lake (near Crosslake) - May 14 (2013)
  • Pelican Lake (near Breezy Point) - May 14 (2013)
  • Lax Lake (near Silver Bay) - May 13 (1996)
  • Bearhead Lake (near Babbitt) - May 13 (2013)
  • Maple Leaf Lake (near Alborn) - May 11 (2013)
  • Moosehead Lake (near Moose Lake) - May 9 (2013)

While this late ice might encourage anglers to try ice fishing leading up to ice-out, remember that no ice is ever safe ice, especially late season. With the sun at a higher angle in the sky and warmer temperatures, faster ice melt and increased currents into lakes from streams and rivers can erode ice more quickly. Ice is also more quickly worn by rain and wind. Be sure to use extra caution while on ice, especially near the shore, where ice tends to melt first.