It probably isn't a big surprise that we're seeing ice-out on some lakes already, but when you compare this year's dates to when the ice normally goes out, it is a pretty big difference.

The Minnesota DNR is reporting dozens of lakes across the state have already reached "ice-out", beating previous early ice-out dates by significant margins.

While they don't track every single lake's ice-in and ice-out, the Minnesota DNR does keep records for many of the state's over 10,000 lakes each year - and this winter continues to make history.

How does the DNR define 'ice-out'?

The Minnesota DNR says the definition varies from lake to lake. When it comes to citizen observers, there are a consistent set of criteria for each lake to ensure consistent data from year to year. In some cases, it means when the lake is completely ice-free. In other cases, it means when you can navigate between two points in a watercraft or the lake is 90% free of ice.

How did we get here?

Warmer-than-normal winter conditions across the state didn't really allow for a "normal" amount of ice to develop on lakes. On many popular ice fishing lakes, it isn't uncommon to see 3 feet of ice by the time we reach the later part of winter. This year, many anglers counted themselves lucky to find a consistent amount of ice that measured over foot to 16 inches.

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Not only was this year's ice less thick than usual years, but it was also often inconsistent in thickness and poor in quality due to regular warm weather and rain.

When you add up the thinner-than-normal ice, warmer-than-normal weather, and lack of snow to insulate the ice we have (and protect the shorelines from early melt), early ice- out across the state should shock nobody.

What lakes have already seen ice-out in Minnesota?


The Minnesota DNR is reporting ice-out on several Southern Minnesota lakes, with no lakes north of St. Cloud reporting ice-out as of the time of this post being published. With more warm weather in the forecast for next week, the number of lakes is bound to continue to grow and expand northward.

The northernmost lakes that have seen ice-out include Briggs, Julia, and Rush east of St. Cloud, and Pleasant Lake just south of St. Cloud. These lakes normally see ice-out by early April. They all reported ice-out this year on March 3 - a whole month earlier than normal.

A number of smaller Twin Cities area lakes, including Prior Lake, Goose Lake, and Keller Lake have all reported ice-out in the first couple of days of March, about a month earlier than normal as well. Many of the bigger lakes like Waconia and Minnetonka are seeing ice start to pull away from shore.

Lakes farther south including Swan Lake near New Ulm saw ice-out on February 24, significantly earlier than the average ice-out date of April 4 - or Cannon Lake near Faribault, which saw ice-out this year on February 28, a month earlier than the average ice-out date of March 31.

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According to 2022 data from the Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development

Gallery Credit: Nick Cooper - TSM Duluth