Early ‘ice out’ good news for anglers, businesses

With Rainy Lake having its earliest “ice out” on record last week, local boating stores are enjoying record sales while fly-in fishing services and resorts are well ahead of schedule.
In fact, all signs are pointing towards a promising summer ahead.
“The fact that we’ve had a poor snowmobiling winter, people are buying boats real early and in record numbers,” said Chuck Arpin Sr., co-owner of Pinewood Sports, adding the early spring weather also has been helpful.
Arpin said the early ice out–combined with the growing success of the Fort Frances Canadian Bass Championship in July–has seen a surge in popularity in what he termed “upper-scale” fishing boats.
Meanwhile, Rusty Myers owner Angie Korzinski said they are about three weeks ahead of last year’s schedule and look to be in store for a better season than a year ago.
But she also noted the early ice out doesn’t necessarily mean more business for them due to the fact the walleye fishing season doesn’t open until May 16.
Still, a mild winter also works in favour of anglers eagerly awaiting the opener next month. Early ice out generally means warmer water and more active fish.
But Al Meline, a guide out of Nestor Falls, said although he’s about three weeks ahead of last year’s schedule, spring trout fishing so far has been less than spectacular.
In fact, he reported ice remains in the bays on Crow Lake, causing the fish to stay in the deeper water.
Local MNR spokesperson Peter Wilkins said the ministry doesn’t keep an accurate record on exactly when the ice goes out on Rainy Lake. Instead, he admitted calling the resort owners directly to ask if the ice has gone out near their business.
“Years ago, they used to go by if you could travel from International Falls to Kettle Falls,” Wilkins laughed from his MNR office yesterday afternoon. “But now voyageurs travel overhead by plane.”
Wilkins said he heard the ice out went out April 13 in the south arm of Rainy Lake but not until the 15th on the north arm, which traditionally goes out a “day or two” later.
Voyageurs National Park east of International Falls confirmed the ice did go out April 13. The previous earliest ice out recorded on Rainy Lake was April 18, occurring in 1976 and 1987.
The latest recorded ice out was May 18 in 1996.