Mille Lacs Lake - Wigwam Bay ice

A fish house sunk into Wigwam Bay on or about Dec. 10, on the west side of Mille Lacs Lake between Garrison and Onamia, about 30 yards from the shore and 50 yards from the access, according to a local resident who witnessed the event.

Don’t be like Bob. We’ll just call him Bob because we don’t have the names of the people who have chosen to ignore local resorts’ recommendations and have gone through the ice in locations that weren’t ready to support them. Thankfully, no injuries or fatalities have been reported.

Within the last week and a half, there have been accounts of a fish house falling through the ice, a snowmobile on the north end of the lake going in and, most recently, a four wheeler breaking through the ice.

Though temperatures have recently been extra cold, ice thicknesses are all over the place, according to various reports. The heavy amount of snow, approximately 15 to 20 inches according to DNR reports, has insulated the ice making it more difficult for the cold to permeate down to make more ice.

Resorts on Mille Lacs over the weekend, for the most part, have allowed snowmobiles and ATVs (with tracks) out, but only on roads and only in certain areas.

Nitti’s Hunters Point Resort, located on the east side of Mille Lacs Lake, reported on Dec 13. varying ice thicknesses with ice at about 8 inches thick, and past the rock wall, ice thickness dropping to only about 2 inches in some locations. They are hoping with the continued cold weather and wind blowing some snow off the lake that more ice will form soon.

Chapman’s Mille Lacs Resort and Guide Service reported about 8 inches of ice over the weekend and at least a foot of snow with water shooting up when a 2-inch hole was drilled. Last weekend, the resort allowed walkouts, snowmobiles and ATVs with tracks out on the ice. They emphasized people must stay within the bay.

Beachside Resort in Wahkon opened up their access this weekend. They reported about 8-10 inches of ice with a coned off boundary where ice is much thinner. The resort, as of Dec. 13, allows snowmobiles and track machines but has no plowed roads as the ice conditions have not permitted. They stated that track machines are recommended over standard ATVs as there is a lot of snow with up to 12 inches in some areas reported.

Barnacles Resort and Campground reported on Dec. 15 that they are now allowing foot traffic, sleds and wheelers out to the first break only, with no side by sides. They said people must use the road to get to the first break and stay in the middle of the road with no traffic venturing off to the sides of the road where there is less ice.

Mac’s Twin Bay Resort on Dec. 12 reported that there would be just foot traffic out again last weekend with no ATVs or snowmobiles. They reported there is still very inconsistent ice and slush pockets with a couple spots found with just two inches of ice, three inches of slush and two more inches of snow ice. They reported that other areas have more ice but that a lot of the ice is snow ice, so it will not be as strong as the clear ice. They said that on the bright side, there has been some nice northerns and walleye caught in the bay this week.

Owner of Mac’s Twin Bay, Kevin McQuoid, said that it may be awhile before the ice is ready for vehicles. “It’s even more of an insulator when the ice is thin, it sinks a bit and gets water in between the snow and ice,” said McQuoid. “Then you get the bottom layer of ice with water on top of that, then another layer of ice with a snow covering over that. This is why I didn’t let the four wheelers go out. The other bays to the south had more ice before the big storm and are consistently 9 to 10 inches, except when you get out of the bay.”

Randy Simons, of Randy’s Rental in Onamia, said that ice conditions are very unpredictable this year. “The early snowfall on the thin ice has made ice conditions inconsistent in thickness,” said Simons. The slush pockets we’re finding can be on thin ice as the snow is acting as an insulator and the slush that has water mixed with it is making the ice hard to freeze so the thin spots are taking longer to freeze as we have endured cold temps in mid November and the big snow in early December. People feel that the winter is further along than it actually is.”

Barnacles Resort & Campground in Aitkin said Monday they are now allowing foot traffic, snowmobiles and four wheelers out to the first break only, with no side by sides allowed out.

“There are 4-10 inches just past the first break,” said Barnacles’ owner Jim Kromer. “It is mostly 8-10 inches with spotty 4-inch areas where there is more snow. However, there is about 300 feet before you get to the first break that only has 2-3 inches of ice.”

Barnacles has similar restrictions as other resorts only allowing people to use the road that is plowed, to stay in the middle of the road and not to venture off th road where there is less ice. “The road was previously flooded and has plenty of ice,” added Kromer. “There is a lot of cracking with flooding further out which is making ice with this cold weather and depleting any snow that was out there. Stay tuned.”

As the ice fishing season progresses, check with local resorts for current ice conditions as we continue into the ice fishing season.

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