Heavy snow, thinner-than-usual ice and even rain have combined to make the Northland’s frozen lakes a mess in recent weeks. Travel on many lakes has been tough if not impossible for ice anglers. Some people have reported even snowmobiles getting stuck.

Most northern Minnesota conservation officers mentioned the slush problem in their latest weekly report, and reports of tough going have come from many anglers. It’s been a problem in Northeastern Minnesota since the big Thanksgiving weekend blizzard. But now even Northwestern Minnesota, which had been spared earlier, was hit by heavy snow after Christmas, spurring slush problems there.

"Lakes are a mess. Snowmobile trails are a mess south of Two Harbors,'' Conservation Officer Jake Willis told the News Tribune on Thursday. "The winter started strong, but this is certainly a lull."

Conservation Officer Matt Miller in Duluth reported “ice anglers are really struggling with slush as warm weather continues.” Some lakes haven’t even fully formed ice safe enough for ATV travel.

Conservation Officer Sean Williams in Ely reported that “warmer weather and heavy snow did not improve the slush and ice conditions on area lakes. Some lakes, including Burntside, continue to be dangerous for travel.”

High Banks Resort on Lake Winnibigoshish had this report Wednesday: "11 inches of ice with 20 inches of snow cover. No truck travel. No wheel houses. No ATVs. No ice roads. Snowmobile traffic only."

Meanwhile, the thick blanket of snow continues to insulate many creeks and sloughs, making them impassable for snowmobile trail groomers. Several trails remain closed due to this problem. We’re going to need a lot more cold weather and no more heavy snows for the problem to be solved.

Gale-force winds a week ago were the culprit in destroying safe ice on parts of both the Duluth-Superior Harbor and Chequamegon Bay, where anglers had been safely fishing. Some of those areas are now open water again.