Nobody will argue this has been an abnormal start to winter in the Northland. By now, there's usually at least some snow on the ground and ice on lakes is generally solid enough to venture out with at least ATVs and snowmobiles. Not this year.

With potentially historic rain chances in the forecast and questionable ice on a number of area lakes, the final days of December 2023 are not like what we're used to.

As I am sitting here writing this, it is 38 degrees and foggy in Duluth, with a little occasional light drizzle. I happened to look out the window from my midday perch for the day, seeing something I don't remember seeing in my roughly 13 years in the Twin Ports.

I happened to look out at Lake Superior from the coffee shop I am enjoying a little time in, and lo and behold, there is not one, but a handful of fishing boats out on the big lake. While I can't say it has never happened before, I simply don't remember seeing that in my years in the Twin Ports area.

Nick Cooper - TSM Duluth
Nick Cooper - TSM Duluth

Usually by now, at least the harbor is frozen over and people are ice fishing out there. Just a couple of days ago, I was musing with a coworker about how there were people in boats in the harbor fishing. Again, usually unheard of this time of year. There is no ice to be seen on the big lake, and the ice in the harbor is pretty scant, making it easy for people to launch from a few of the boat launches in the harbor.

I don't blame the folks out there It's nearly 40 degrees and even ice on inland lakes is questionable in many cases. Especially on popular (and bigger) lakes like Red, Leech, and Mille Lacs. I've fished in September and October in a boat in colder weather. It's just so weird to see.

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Just another reminder of the bizarre start to this winter in the Northland. With that, I wish safe fishing to all the anglers out there as they look to scratch that itch. I know I want to get out Christmas week - likely on some small inland lake that (hopefully) has some decent ice on it. But with all of the rain, warm weather, and more rain in the forecast for Christmas, it's hard to say how fruitful that will be.

To my fellow anglers, just be safe and be smart. The DNR has been warning people all season so far that ice (as often always does) varies greatly right now. What might be great ice where you stand could be very unsafe not far from where you are. Check the ice as you go to your fishing spot with frequency, have safety gear with you (rope, floating gear, ice picks, etc.), and be sure to tell others where you're going fishing and when you plan on coming back in case something happens.

While it doesn't look promising from the NOAA long-range outlook for January, here's to colder weather and better ice ahead yet this season.

The 10 Commandments Of Ice Fishing In Minnesota & Wisconsin

While these aren't the only rules to abide by (see your local Minnesota or Wisconsin DNR regulations, for example), these 10 guidelines go a long way toward making sure you and other ice anglers have an enjoyable hardwater experience.

Gallery Credit: Nick Cooper

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