Even though the weather hasn't been warm lately, it's still a good time to start thinking about spring - and when the ice will melt away on Lake L'Homme Dieu in Alexandria.

The Echo Press' annual Ice Out Contest is off and running. Official spotters from the newspaper will determine when the ice is essentially gone from the lake.

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The person who comes closest to guessing that date will receive a $50 gift certificate from Elden's Fresh Foods. In case of a tie, a drawing will be held to determine the winner.

Entry forms are in today's newspaper and will also be in the Lakeland Shopping Guide. (Only one entry is allowed per person.)

The deadline to guess when the ice will be off Lake L'Homme Dieu, the "official" ice-out lake, is Friday, March 17 at noon.

Last year, the ice was gone from the lake on March 26 - the earliest ice out in four years.

More than 200 people entered last year's contest. The winner was Jamie Lorentz of Miltona, who nailed the exact date along with 12 others. A drawing determined the winner.

The Echo Press has been keeping track of ice-out times dating back to 1867. Lake Osakis was originally the official lake but the site was changed to Lake L'Homme Dieu in 1965.

Ice-out dates have ranged from the earliest, March 25 (in both 2000 and 2012), to the latest, May 15, 1878.

The ice has left the lake on May 1 or later just seven times in the last 100 years.

RECENT ICE OUTS

Here are the ice-out dates on Lake L'Homme Dieu over the past 20 years.

2016: March 26

2015: April 11

2014: April 26

2013: May 13

2012: March 25

2011: April 22

2010: April 2

2009: April 21

2008: May 2

2007: April 18

2006: April 9

2005: April 11

2004: April 7

2003: April 13

2002: April 16

2001: April 26

2000: March 25

1999: April 10

1998: April 7

1997: April 26