Ice-out on Lake Minnetonka could be 20 days earlier than last year

The ice still isn't officially "out" on Lake Minnetonka, but the Freshwater Society said it could be declared on Saturday, which would be 20 days earlier than last year.

Executive director Steve Woods said Thursday there's still plenty of ice on the lake, but there's enough open water for winds to start "battering the ice sheet around."

Woods spoke with Lt. Kent Vnuk of the Water Patrol, who expects to begin boat patrols with the Freshwater Society on Friday. The patrol encountered 1 to 2 inch ice on Crystal Bay, the lake's deepest bay, and they were able to navigate through Black Lake into Cooks Bay.

"It also appears Excelsior Bay used yesterday's wind to blow out toward Gale and Big Islands. Tanager Lake is clear—the Tanager channel was the last place to clear in 2014. Main lake is still mostly covered, but thin," Woods said in an email.

In 2014, the Hennepin County Sheriff's Office and the Freshwater Society jointly declared ice-out April 24 – the first time both have declared ice-out at the same time.

Ice-out is declared when a boat can travel without obstacles on Lake Minnetonka through the Narrows bridge, around Big Island and back to the Sheriff's Water Patrol Unit in Spring Park, according to the Hennepin County sheriff's office.

The Freshwater Society founder Dick Gray describes the standard for determining ice-out as "when it is possible to travel by small boat from any one shore to any other shore through any passage on the lake." Last year, they declared ice-out a day later than the county.

Typically, ice-out on the lake occurs in mid-April and an unrelenting winter resulted in a May announcement in 2013 -- among the latest on record.

The last five ice-outs, according to the Freshwater Society:

-April 24, 2014

-May 2, 2013

-March 21, 2012

-April 14, 2011

-April 2, 2010

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