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Satellite imagery shows ice disappearing fast on Lake of the Woods

Upper Red Lake and Lower Red Lake also were ice-free Tuesday, according to satellite imagery and DNR reports.

Ice 5.10.22.JPG
Satellite imagery from Tuesday, May 10, 2022, showed a definite decline in the amount of ice remaining on Big Traverse Bay of Lake of the Woods.
Contributed / MODIS Today
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GRAND FORKS – If the past three days are any indication, there’s at least a chance that Lake of the Woods could be ice-free by Saturday, May 14, Minnesota’s fishing opener.

Satellite imagery from Tuesday showed a big change from Saturday, May 7, the last day the sky was clear enough to see Lake of the Woods from the satellite view. Tuesday, a large stretch of the south shore had open water, and the satellite imagery clearly showed thinner ice and numerous fissures in the ice that remained on Big Traverse Bay.

Lake of the Woods has risen by 25 inches since early April, the Lake of the Woods Control Board said.

Stiff southwest winds gusting to 26 mph Tuesday clearly had pushed the weakening ice sheet north. By comparison, satellite imagery from May 7 showed Big Traverse Bay mostly ice-covered, except for a couple of pockets of open water at Morris Point and Lighthouse Gap past the mouth of the Rainy River.

Ice 5.7.22.JPG
Satellite imagery from Saturday, May 7, 2022, still showed a fair bit of ice on Lake of the Woods.
Contributed / MODIS Today

Upper Red Lake and Lower Red Lake also were ice-free Tuesday, based on satellite imagery. Three days earlier, ice on Upper Red obviously was disappearing fast, while a larger sheet of ice lingered on Lower Red Lake.

The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources declared Upper and Lower Red ice-free on Tuesday. The earliest ice-out recorded on Upper Red since 2011 was March 27, 2012; the latest ever recorded was May 15, 2013; and the median ice-out date is April 30.


On Lower Red, the earliest ice-out since 1983 was April 1, 2012; the latest was May 17, 1996; and the median ice-out date is April 28.

If the ice is off Lake of the Woods by Saturday, it will fall at least five days short of 1996, when the ice didn't go out until May 19, the latest ice-out recorded during the years from 1976 to 1997. In 2014, Lake of the Woods wasn't declared ice-free until May 21.

The median ice-out date on Lake of the Woods is May 5, and the earliest ice-out date in the 1976 to 1997 time period was April 26, 1976. More recently, the earliest ice-out on Lake of the Woods was April 8, 2012.

There we were, standing on the shore of Lake of the Woods on the opening day of fishing season. And we had it all to ourselves.

The big question beyond ice-out, of course, is what the weather will be like for the fishing opener. Considering the lousy weather that has characterized much of the spring to date, Saturday isn’t looking too bad. In Bemidji, for example, the National Weather Service is forecasting a mostly sunny day with a 20% chance of showers and thunderstorms, a west wind of 6 to 14 mph gusting to 24 mph, and a high near 66.

In Lake of the Woods country, the NWS Saturday forecast for Baudette, Minnesota, calls for a 30% chance of showers and thunderstorms, mainly after 1 p.m., and a mostly sunny sky with a high near 63 degrees. A southwest wind of 7 to 15 mph is in the forecast, with gusts up to 25 mph.

In Grand Forks, Saturday’s forecast calls for mostly sunny with a 20% chance of showers and thunderstorms, a high of 61 degrees and breezy, with a 9 to 14 mph west wind increasing to 15 to 20 mph in the afternoon, with potential gusts up to 30 mph.

Brad Dokken joined the Herald company in November 1985 as a copy editor for Agweek magazine and has been the Grand Forks Herald's outdoors editor since 1998.

Besides his role as an outdoors writer, Dokken has an extensive background in northwest Minnesota and Canadian border issues and provides occasional coverage on those topics.

Reach him at bdokken@gfherald.com, by phone at (701) 780-1148 or on Twitter at @gfhoutdoor.
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