Lake of the Woods

Open water fishing is pretty much done for the season after the recent blast of cold, wintry weather. Fishing was good until most of the bays and harbors locked up with ice, Lake of the Woods Tourism reported in its weekly update. At last report, good numbers of walleyes and saugers were staged in traditional early ice locations across Pine Island and the entire south shore, Lake of the Woods Tourism said. That bodes well for good ice fishing when the lake freezes.

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Up at the Northwest Angle, ice has formed in back bays and harbors, on the Angle Inlet, from Young's Bay to Flag Island and across most of Flag Island flats, Lake of the Woods Tourism said. Larger stretches of the lake and current areas remain open. Ice fishing will be here soon, but the ice isn't safe yet.

Devils Lake

Waterfowl hunting has come to an abrupt halt in the Lake Region, said Mark Fisher, district wildlife biologist for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in Devils Lake. Nearly all puddle ducks and most diving ducks have moved on after the latest cold snap, Fisher said.

Devils Lake proper is all but frozen, Fisher said, with the only remaining open water in the Main Bay near Spirit Lake Casino and on the eastern shore of East Devils Lake. Giant Canada geese and tundra swans remain at huntable levels, but access to feeding sites is limited, especially because of heavy posting on private lands and the concurrent rifle deer season, Fisher said.

It's time to move on to ice fishing, and at this rate, that's not far off.

Bemidji area

There was at least one boat on Lake Bemidji last weekend, and a few of the large, deep lakes still had open water early this week, Paul Nelson of Bemidji Area Lakes Guide Service said. With anglers turning their focus toward ice fishing, small shallow lakes will freeze first, followed by large shallow lakes, small deep lakes and finally the large deep lakes, he said.

Large lakes such as Upper Red Lake and Lake of the Woods can be frozen out as far as you can see and still have open water somewhere in the middle of the lake, Nelson said. There already have been a few people on smaller lakes, and more will be going out soon, Nelson said, especially after Sunday, when the rifle deer season in the Bemidji area closes.

The general recommendations for ice safety are 4 to 5 inches of good, clear ice for walking, 6 to 7 inches for an ATV or snowmobile, 8-plus inches for small vehicles and large ATVs and 12 to 15 inches for medium-size vehicles. More than 15 inches of good ice is recommended for large vehicles and double-axle fish houses.

There is no reason to rush things, Nelson says. Ice conditions vary from lake to lake and from spot to spot, so everyone needs to be especially careful early in the season.

Area skiing report

• Buena Vista Ski Area near Bemidji: The slopes aren't yet open-the tentative opening date for skiing and snowboarding is Nov. 24-25-but the annual Open House and Ski Swap is set for 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 17, at Buena Vista Ski Area, 19600 Irvine Ave. NW, Bemidji. Free pizza, pop and cookies will be served, and there will be free drawings and live music. A portion of the proceeds from the sale of ski and snowboard gear goes to Ski Patrol training and medical education. Info: (218) 243-2231 or

-- Herald staff reports