May 3, 2015: That’s It!

Tom Hutton is not only one of my professional pilot colleagues at Walsten Air, he’s also a member of the Kenora Flying Club. Today he took me out for an hour in the club’s Cessna 172, and we could not find any significant ice.

If you hurry to Heenan Point, you might be able to pick up enough to fill a picnic cooler, but it was going fast, and by this evening there won’t be enough left to make a decent martini.

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Quarry Island, Sultana Island, Pine Portage Bay and Heenan Point

If you click on this picture to see it full size, you can make out a tiny patch of ice clinging to the tip of Heenan Point. By the time you read this, it will probably be gone.

We flew as far south as Sioux Narrows.

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Sioux Narrows

No ice.

We flew as far west as Allie Island and had a look at the area south of the Barrier Islands where Andrew found ice yesterday.

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Ferrier Island, looking north at the Barrier Islands

Those patches in front of the wing strut are just ripples on the otherwise glassy water. No ice.

We checked around Scotty and Middle Islands, where a few pans were floating yesterday.

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Bald Island and Queer Island in the middle distance. Scotty Island, Middle Island the Hades and Hay Island further back.

No ice.

I’m calling it. Lake of the Woods is ice-free as of May 3rd, 2015.

It looked as if there was still ice on Shoal Lake, but by the time the daily satellite picture was taken, none was visible. If Matthew or anyone sends me another photo before it is gone, I will insert it here.

Lake of the Woods Ice Patrol will now go dormant until next spring.

Thanks to everyone who helped by visiting, commenting or sharing with friends. We ran the hit counter up from 70,000 to 130,000 this spring, and peaked at over 2700 hits on a single day (April 28th). Anxiety last year about ice persisting into fishing season and even the May long weekend drove hits to 3700 one day, but I knew we’d never match that during a normal spring like this one.

Special thanks to all the pilots who donated their time and flying expenses to help me provide better coverage. In approximate order of first appearance: Andrew Kozlowski, Matthew Render, Al Nelson, Rob Reboks, Dave Thiele (and his daughter Alice and son Eric on camera duty) and Lindsay Kitson.

Much of what you see here was made possible by the other folks at Walsten Air: the bosses who allowed me leeway in my flight path, the dispatcher who assigned me flights returning to Kenora without passengers, the maintenance department that alerted me to non-revenue flights, and our pilots. I think every single one of our pilots chipped in this year by flying while I took pictures or taking pictures for me on days when I could not. We have a great crew.

As a former float-plane pilot, I’d like to sign off with a safety reminder. Kenora has a busy water aerodrome on Safety Bay. During take-off and landing, aircraft have the right of way over boats. Please watch out for them and try to keep clear during these critical phases of flight. After the plane has landed and dropped “off the step” to taxi slowly, the plane has the same rights as any other boat. However, they have no brakes and do not steer all that well. It would be nice (and safest) if you would treat them like sailboats and keep a wide berth. Thanks.

I’ve been neglecting my other hobby for two months while I did this blog. If you want to see how my efforts as a science fiction author are panning out, you are welcome to visit Timothy Gwyn* Writes, (*my pen name) a blog where I comment on books I have read, conventions I am going to, and the occasional publishing success. Otherwise, I’ll be back here around the middle of March 2016.

Have a great summer on Lake of the Woods!

Tim Armstrong

May 2, 2015: Almost Gone!

Andrew Kozlowski went looking for ice this morning. He didn’t find much. The three large patches of ice that Pam and I photographed yesterday have all shrunk. The Manitou is almost entirely clear and ice cover on Bigstone Bay has dropped from 75% to 30%. The only big patch of ice remaining is the one south of the Barrier Islands, and it’s much reduced.

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Scotty Island

A small patch of ice north of Scotty Island is all that remains of the ice in the Manitou.

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Scotty, Middle and Hay Islands

This second shot looks east at Scotty, Middle and Hay Islands from over Mather Island. Ice that was hugging the west shore of Scotty is gone, but for three tiny floes.

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Robertson Island

This is the largest patch of ice remaining on Lake of the Woods. It is south of the Barrier Islands. This photograph is centered on Robertson Island, south of Allie Island, looking east.

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Allie Island, East Allie Island and the Eastern Peninsula

This is an overview of that same patch of ice, with the Eastern Peninsula stretching out from the right side of the picture. Beyond that, Andrew Bay is all open water.

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Middle Island, the Hades and Hay Island

Just remnants of ice remain near Middle Island, and Bigstone Bay is more than half open.

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Bigstone Bay

A closer look shows that enough ice remains on Bigstone Bay to block boats from departing Pine Portage Bay from Northern Harbour.

These pictures were taken on Saturday, late in the morning. By evening, much of this ice will be gone, the rest will be going on Sunday, and we should be 100% ice-free by Monday.

Some ice may hold out on the south end of Shoal Lake for a day or two longer.

May 2, 2015: Bigstone Bay

Just a quick update to show you how fast Bigstone Bay is melting. Andrew Kozlowski sent me this picture taken around ten or ten-thirty Saturday morning.

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Bigstone Bay

Also, Matthew Render sent me an update on Shoal Lake. This one is from Friday, May 1st.

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Shoal Lake

I’ll have more photos from Andrew’s flight later today. He says there isn’t much ice left!

May 1, 2015: Kenora Area

On the Trans-Canada Highway this weekend, there will probably be a convoy of boats on the way to Kenora. When they all go in the water, the lake will rise a foot. Besides busy boat launches, what can those boaters expect?

The lake is open in the area near Kenora.

Click any of these pictures to see 3264×1080 resolution.

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Kenora waterfront

This first photo looks south over Devil’s Gap, and you can see that ice still limits how far you can go. Town Island and Scotty Island are reachable, as long as you watch out for floating pans of ice. After that, it gets tricky.

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Devil’s Gap, Treaty Island

Treaty Island dominates the center of this picture, with Devil’s Gap at the left. You don’t have to go far past Gordon Island to encounter floating ice.

WARNING: floating ice can pin you against the shore if the wind changes!

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Matheson Bay to Town Island

Here’s a closer look at Matheson Bay, Galt and Gordon Islands, and Town Island. This area is mostly navigable with caution. In the background, Bigstone Bay is almost entirely ice, and at the right, the Manitou is still frozen, too.

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Middle Island and Scotty Island

A little further from town: Lunny’s Island, Bells Island and Nantons Island are in the foreground of this picture, and you can see quite a lot of ice in that area. I actually took this photo to show Scotty Island, Middle Island and the Hades. Some of my oldest followers have properties in that area. It looks as if you might be able to creep into this section of the lake, but there is so much ice that you would be at the mercy of the wind.

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Bigstone Bay

Bigstone Bay is still nearly all frozen, but it is starting to let go along the shore.

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Bare Point and Matheson Bay

As we turned for the airport, I snapped one last picture of the area from Bare Point to Devil’s Gap, just to get different light on the ice patches.

If you’re going boating this weekend, remember that wind may push ice around, cutting off your retreat, so this is not the time of year to cut corners on your boating safety gear.

Looks like we’re set for a warm and mostly sunny weekend. Enjoy!

April 30, 2015: Sioux Narrows to Kenora

Warm weather is doing a number on the ice. As I write this, it’s 18ºC in Kenora, and forecast to hit 19ºC Friday and 22ºC on Saturday.

On the way out of Kenora this morning I snapped a few quick pictures. Here are three. Click on them to see a larger, more detailed version.

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Bald Indian Bay, Bare Point, Matheson Bay

Bald Indian Bay on the left, Bare Point right off the nose, Matheson Bay on the right. This picture really shows how much ice is still out there south of Bare Point. In the background you can see that Scotty Island is still about half enclosed in ice. Ice in the Manitou is looking really soft.

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Matheson Bay, Town Island

This is a closer view of Matheson Bay. Town Island is not entirely clear.

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Northern Harbour, Longbow Lake

I had to take a look at Northern Harbour, just to see for myself how much it changed in just two days. Wow.

On the return to Kenora in the afternoon, I angled slightly south so I could get a look at Sioux Narrows before turning towards the airport.

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East end of Long Bay, Regina Bay

Ignore the black streaks- my smartphone takes a very strange view of the rapidly moving propeller. Long Bay and Regina Bay are open.

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Long Point Island

This is as close as I got to Sioux Narrows. One patch of white ice survives quite close to the narrows- it might be visible from the famous bridge.

Time to swing north for Kenora.

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Witch Bay and Andrew Bay

Witch Bay and Andrew Bay are open. Notice that there are three huge patches of ice to the north. The one on the left is south of the Barrier Islands, the one in the middle is the Manitou, and the one on the right is Bigstone Bay. All three can be seen on today’s Satellite picture, where they look like one big patch of variable grey.

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Andrew Bay and Pipestone Point

Lots of open water south of Hay Island. Moore Bay has been open for a week or more. The trick is getting to it.

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Moore Bay, Hay Island and Bigstone Bay

From Kenora, the lake is still pretty much impassable south of Scotty Island. For now. Things are changing fast.

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Pine Portage Bay, Bald Indian Bay

This is the follow-up to the morning shot of Northern Harbour. Yes, you can get Gary to put your boat in the water. But it will be a day or two before you can go anywhere.

It’s going to be warm for several days. More ice will give way on Friday, and there will be further change over the weekend. I still think we’ll be into next week before the lake is 100% open.

April 29, 2015: Shoal Lake

Here’s a little mini-update on Shoal Lake. I only saw it from a distance, but Air Canada pilot Matthew Render flew right over it and sent me this picture.

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Dominique Island and the west shore of Shoal Lake

He says the whole west shore is opening up, and the north shore is open all the way from the reserve to Clytie Bay. Shoal Lake is still showing some of the whitest ice in the region, and it is usually later to let go than Lake of the Woods, so this is a good sign. Just days to go now!

Matthew sent pictures of Shoal Lake last spring, too. His Air Canada flights sometimes take him right overhead on the way in or out of Winnipeg. Thanks, Matthew!

April 29, 2015: Clearwater!

Clearwater Bay is wide open. Arriving at Kenora from the north this afternoon, I aimed slightly west to take a look. I could not see any ice there. Zigzag and Corkscrew Islands are both accessible.

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Clearwater Bay, Deception Bay, Zigzag Island

The photo above looks south west at Clearwater Bay’s west end, mainly the area around Zigzag Island and Deception Bay. Zigzag Island is home to the Zig Zag Yacht Club and Deception Bay is where Pye’s Landing is. The white stuff in the distance is ice on Shoal Lake. The southern half of Shoal is pretty solid.

Remember, you can click on the pictures to see a larger more detailed version, and then you can click again to zoom in on that.

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Clearwater Bay, Corkscrew Island

This is the east end of Clearwater, including a good view of Corkscrew Island. No ice here!

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White Partridge Bay

White Partridge Bay is all clear. Look in the distance if you want to see ice. There is still plenty further south. I’m not sure about the Manitou, but south of the Barrier Islands looks frozen. I couldn’t fly that far out over the lake today.

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Keewatin Bay, Portage Bay, Safety Bay and Jackfish Bay

All the bays close to Keewatin and Kenora are now clear. Portage Bay, where the Keewatin Recreation Center is, and Keewatin Bay, by the Keewatin Bridge, are entirely free of ice. In the top right corner of the picture, you can still see ice beyond Scotty Island.

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Keewatin Bay, Safety Bay, Jackfish Bay

A closer look at Keewatin and the boat launches there, as well as Two Bears Marina.

I did take a look at the Minaki area earlier, but I was still too high for good pictures. I can report that Gun Lake and Pistol Lake are clear. There is some ice on the north half of Big Sand Lake. The Winnipeg River from Minaki to Kenora is all clear, including Locke Bay.

I have a report from a trusted source (Hi, Doug!) that ice has let go along the shore at Northern Harbour as far out as the island, so I called owner Gary Hall to get the word. He says he’s never seen the ice go so fast in Pine Portage Bay. Here’s the scoop as of 6:00PM Wednesday: the ice is out as far as the first two islands. Gary is putting metal boats in the water today, and will probably start on the fiberglass craft tomorrow (Thursday, April 30).

That’s all for now. I’ll try to get pictures down around Bigstone Bay tomorrow, and perhaps I can manage a glance towards Sioux Narrows or the Manitou.