ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

Winter's warm start has some businesses sweating

BATTLE LAKE -- Temperatures are expected to dip this week during what's been an exceptionally warm December for the region, but the forecast is doing little to comfort Ryan Draeger, owner of Barky's Resort on Otter Tail Lake.

2204832+121515.N.FF_.HOTWINTER.2.JPG
Ryan Draeger, owner of Barky’s Resort, seen Monday on Otter Tail Lake, has already had to cancel a number of ice fishing reservations and expects to lose more this season as there is no ice yet. Michael Vosburg/Forum News Service

BATTLE LAKE -- Temperatures are expected to dip this week during what's been an exceptionally warm December for the region, but the forecast is doing little to comfort Ryan Draeger, owner of Barky's Resort on Otter Tail Lake.

Like many who work in lakeside businesses, Draeger is longing for the water to freeze, which is unlikely to happen if regional temperatures pop back to almost 30 on Sunday after hitting zero Friday into Saturday, as the National Weather Service predicts. And on Tuesday night, the region may get up to 6 inches of snow, which insulates ice.

Draeger, 33, has already had to cancel a handful of ice fishing reservations this season, "and I'm hoping, hoping I don't have to cancel more, but it really doesn't look good."

By this time last year, ice fishing was well under way at Otter Tail Lake. On Monday afternoon, miles of murky water stretched out from a rocky shore.

"It's like being a racecar driver and not having any wheels on your car," said Ross Hagemeister, owner of Meister Guide Service.

ADVERTISEMENT

Hagemeister, 43, has been a fishing guide for 21 years and said he hasn't seen Otter Tail open this late since about 10 years ago.

Across the region, the pleasant weather is having a not-so-pleasant effect on lakeside businesses, including restaurants, gas stations and even automotive shops.

"Nobody's coming up," said Joy Perala, a bartender at the Otter Tail Supper Club and Lounge. "We don't have no snow for snowmobilers, we don't have no ice for the ice fishermen, and that really does have a lot to do with our business in the winter."

The Fargo area last saw a temperature of zero degrees on March 5, according to the National Weather Service. If the temperature hits zero Saturday, it will be the longest gap between zeroes since 2001.

Hagemeister said three days in a row of near-zero temperatures would be sufficient to create 6 inches of ice on Otter Tail, and he's optimistic the lake could get that by Christmas if temperatures stay below 30 degrees.

"The really big group that we don't want to miss are the holiday people, and I think all the establishments in the region feel the same way," he said.

But the lake also needs a break from snow and wind, as snow can insulate the ice and wind can blow it off, Draeger said.

On Monday, wind and poor ice conditions caused several sheets of ice to break up on Upper Red Lake, stranding 50 people in their fishing houses, who were then rescued. The Beltrami County Sheriff's Office is advising anglers to stay off the ice.

ADVERTISEMENT

Hagemeister waits until a lake has 7-8 inches of ice before taking clients out, and recommends that when in doubt, subtract 2. If you've been told there are 6 inches of ice on a lake, plan for 4.

Otter Tail probably won't have even 4 by the end of this week, but "I'm just hoping for it to freeze over," Draeger said. "A start would be nice. A start would be real nice."

Related Topics: WEATHERFISHING
What To Read Next
The North Dakota Highway Patrol investigated the Wednesday, Jan. 25, crash.
Fundraising is underway to move the giant ball of twine from the Highland, Wisconsin, home of creator James Frank Kotera, who died last month at age 75, 44 years after starting the big ball.
“We see that when things happen in the coastal areas, a few years later, they start trending toward the Midwest,” said Rep. Ben Krohmer, serving his first term in the House.
“This is sensationalism at its finest, and it does not deserve to be heard in our state capitol,” Rep. Erin Healy, a Democrat and one of 10 votes against the bill in the 70-person chamber, said.