Ice makes early exit
Lake L'Homme Dieu's last bit of ice melted away on Friday, April 2 this year, making it the earliest ice out in 10 years.
The last time the ice retreated so soon was in 2000 when it left on March 25.
This year's ice out - as determined by official Echo Press lake watchers - was 19 days earlier than last year's April 21 date and a full month ahead of 2008's May 2 ice out.
The April 2 date is tied for the fifth earliest ice out in the 143 years the newspaper has been keeping track of the occurrence.
The other earliest ice outs are: March 25, 2000; March 27, 1910; April 1, 1921; April 1, 1945; and April 2, 1981.
The newspaper received a whopping number of entries into its annual Ice Out Contest this year - 228. The guesses ranged from March 29 to May 14.
Eleven entrants nailed the exact date, April 2, and a drawing was held to determine the winner - Bob Stob of Alexandria.
You could say Stob had an edge - he lives on Crestwood Drive and has a good view of the lake. Stob wins a $50 gift certificate from Pete's County Market in Alexandria.
An early ice out is generally regarded as favorable for fishing although it's tricky to predict what the weather and lake temperatures will be like in the next few weeks.
Dick Gustafson at Christopherson Bait in Alexandria expects crappie fishing will pick up dramatically with the ice gone. "The crappies are going to take a beating in the next month," he said Monday. "A lot of people will be knocking them dead."
Because of the early ice out, walleyes and bass may be done spawning by the opener, Gustafson added. That means the walleyes will be spread out more and may drop into deeper water, he said.
Minnesota's walleye and northern season opens on Saturday, May 15 - a change from other years when it coincided with Mother's Day weekend.
The Echo Press has been keeping track of the ice out dating back to 1867. Lake Osakis was originally the official lake but the site was changed to Lake L'Homme Dieu in 1965.
The ice's most stubborn year was 1878 when it finally retreated on May 15.
Last year's contest drew 148 entries and seven people guessed the correct date, April 21.