We got a little rain last week which softened up the ice in many places throughout the midwest. There was a lot of standing water on the ice where we were at in Southeastern North Dakota on Saturday and the ice was slushy. The ice fishing season isn’t over, but its days are limited. With several daytime highs above freezing in the forecast for the coming week, the ice conditions will continue to slowly deteriorate.
My biggest piece of advice for ice fisherman is to get hard-sided ice fishing houses off the ice immediately. The mandatory removal dates aren’t for a few weeks (Minnesota dates, North Dakota is March 15), but it is a good idea to move them now. While the ice conditions might not be dire just yet, the rain and warm weather will make the accesses and boat ramps very slushy. If your house requires a truck or ATV to pull it off, get it now before driving vehicles on the ice is impossible.
I posted an article on early ice safety a couple months ago and the same guidelines apply now that we are entering the “late ice” period. Always have the proper safety gear (safety picks, flotation device, throw rope). Always fish with a partner on the ice and let others know where you will be fishing and when you plan to return. Check the ice condition as you move with a spud bar and by drilling holes to check ice thickness.
I love the “late ice” period! There is some of the best panfish action of the year, but it is super important to be safe out there so your best day of ice fishing isn’t your last.