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Brad Dokken: Spring 2018 will go down as one of 'those' springs [Grand Forks Herald :: BC-OTD-DOKKEN-COLUMN:GF]

GRAND FORKS, N.D. - This spring is showing all the signs of a late arrival.

I was reminded of that the other day, when a memory popped up in my Facebook feed with a blog post I'd written March 27, 2017. The Rainy River on that date was open all the way to Wheeler's Point, where the river enters Four-Mile Bay of Lake of the Woods, and the ramp at Wheeler's Point had been cleared of ice and was accessible to boats of all sizes.

This year, the Rainy River on March 27 was open at Birchdale, Minn., some 40 miles upstream from Wheeler's Point, but not much farther, and the river closer to Lake of the Woods remained locked in thick ice.

That means open water on the border river is at least 10 days behind last year's pace and perhaps even more.

Time will tell.

As much as I like winter, this one is starting to drag. It reminds me of the winter of 2014, another one of those winters that seemed as if it never would end.

That year, much of Lake of the Woods was ice-covered for the May walleye opener. And with high temperatures below the freezing mark in the forecast for the next several days, I'll be surprised if Lake of the Woods this year is ice-free by opener, which is Saturday, May 12.

There's 4 feet of ice out there in places, and it's going to take some serious help from Mother Nature to change that. And right now, she's not much interested in cooperating.

If history is any indication, that's not necessarily a bad thing because in both 2014 and 2013 - another late spring - walleyes were stacked in Four-Mile Bay and lower reaches of the Rainy River, and fishing served up a veritable big-walleye bonanza.

As open water in the Rainy River continues its march downstream, anglers in Lake of the Woods country again this year likely will have the opportunity to pick between ice fishing and boat fishing right through April 14, when walleye season closes on Minnesota-Canada border waters.

That's a pretty cool opportunity, all things considered.

While this spring seems late, the benchmark I use to mark an early spring is 2012 - an unusually early spring - when a friend and I fished in a boat on Lake of the Woods on April 14, and the big lake appeared to be completely ice-free. That same year, I did spring yard work March 17 at the getaway on the Canadian border.

This year on March 17, there was at least a foot of snow covering the yard.

A recent snowstorm put the kibosh on a pike fishing trip some friends and I had planned on Devils Lake. We've rescheduled the event, and by all indications, we shouldn't have any trouble getting out on the ice. The accesses might be sloppy, but the areas where we set up for pike aren't that far from shore so we can always walk.

The only thing that could put our rescheduled pike trip on hold once again would be a spring snowstorm.

Fingers crossed it doesn't happen, but the way this spring is acting, it certainly isn't beyond the realm of possibility.

It's one of "those" springs, for sure.


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