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Scanning the 10-day forecast — and hoping

Sam Cook

DULUTH — Well, this is getting a little old, isn't it?

This November in April, I mean.

A buddy called the other day.

"It was four below in International Falls this morning!" he complained.

Yeah. I was out shoveling a fresh skiff of snow the same morning. I hadn't bothered to check the thermometer. I was out there scooping away, thinking, "Pretty nice morning. Crisp. Clear. Must be about 20."

Back inside, I checked: Six degrees.

You know you've become too acclimated to northern Minnesota winters when six degrees feels like a balmy day.

And let's just get to the heart of the problem: When will the ice go out?

I understand that it's still more than a month to the Minnesota fishing opener on May 12 — but it's less than a month to Wisconsin's May 5 general opener. Some of us are getting a little antsy. And a few of us were planning to go north in late April to fish lake trout in Ontario. Hmmm. Maybe that was a bit too optimistic.

Every day, a lot of us pull out our phones or awaken our tablets and punch up the weather forecast. We already know what the near-term predictions are — more cold. But we quickly scroll, scroll, scroll to the far end of the forecast to see if — maybe, possibly, surely — there's a warming trend on the way. But, no. The last I checked before this story's deadline, the best that forecasters could muster was a high of 38 or 40, with lows still well below freezing.

There's something wrong with the world when the lakes are still making ice in April. I love living in a stimulating four-season climate, but I must not have read the fine print where it says that in some years, three of those seasons have to fight it out for the six months left over after winter. Or before winter.

These lingering winters, hanging around like stray cats, make it especially tough on resorts and outfitters and campgrounds trying to get their places opened up and spiffed up before the opener. They have water lines to open, cabins to prep, docks to put out, motors to check, downed branches to haul off and a lot of other items on their lists. All of that has to happen in a tight window bracketed by snowmelt, ice-out and opening day.

Somehow, they'll get it all done or figure out how to get by. They always do.

And we all remember the few years when ice remained on some lakes for the fishing opener. Let's not even give that thought the respect of further discussion.

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