Lingering Great Lakes Ice Slows Spring's Arrival
Additional ice coverage and cold, of course, are not necessarily bad for the lakes. In the case of Lake Superior, which has hit some record low water levels in recent years, winter ice cover reduces evaporation, which causes considerable water loss across its 31,700 square miles.
The ice also can help some fish species.
“In the shallow waters where whitefish spawn, ice cover protects their eggs from destructive wind and wave action,” reported NOAA. “Ice cover with little or no snow cover allows light penetration at the surface to promote algae growth. At the base of the food web, algae support living organisms in the lakes, including valuable commercial and sportfish species.”
The late ice on the inland lakes, however, has slowed egg harvest for walleye, according to some tribal fisheries.
“They might spawn under the ice, meaning that we wouldn’t be able to get our nets out in the water,” said Larry Wawronowicz, natural resources director for the Lac du Flambeau Band of Lake Superior Chippewa.
Some ice damage has been reported to shoreline properties on the Great Lakes and some inland lakes. In early May, ice crashed ashore on Lake Mille Lacs in Minnesota, in walls of frozen water that menaced homes and a resort.
Most people of the Mille Lacs Band of Ojibwe, however, are well familiar with the moods of their lake and have adapted to it, said Susan Klapel, the band’s newly appointed commissioner of natural resources and the environment. The fish harvest will take place as the season allows, she said.
“We’ve been around the lake long enough to know, A, you don’t put your house right by the lake and, B, the lake will throw some things at you,” she said. “This is what the lake does, and we just adjust.”
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