The Sand Bay Rainy Lake Ice Road is open and ready to lead anglers to their houses.
The private road, plowed and maintained by Travis Thompson, has up to about 20 inches of ice below it, but surrounding areas may be a bit thinner.
“With this mild winter, we’re lucky to have it open,” Thompson said of the road last week. “Everybody that’s out there is happy.”
He urged people to take care on other parts of Rainy Lake, noting he believes the ice is just 7 inches at American Narrows and 6-9 inches at Rainy Lake City.
Meanwhile, Thompson said he enjoys creating the road, but said it’s not profitable at the rates he charges, knowing the thousands of dollars of wear and tear on his plow truck.
He said he believes one resort that plows and maintains a private ice road on Lake of the Woods charges $22 per entrance.
“They make more money in one day than I have made in seven years,” he said of his history with the road.
He’s hoping to come closer to breaking even by offering two-, four- and six-person fish house rentals.
Sand Bay Ice Road
The ice road is accessible for a $5 daily pass, or a $150 season pass, and starts at Rainy Lake Marine, off Highway 11 east.
Pay the daily fee at the drop box at the access; contact Thompson at 218-244-4152 to buy a season pass, and to rent a house.
Thompson has a few guidelines for use of the road, adding that ice on other parts of the lake are experiencing slush and pressure ridges.
1. When placing a house on the ice, plow a large area and put the house smack in the middle of the bare ice.
2. Park 100 yards from the fish house; the ice may not support the combined weight of the house and the pick up. And, don’t park next to other pick ups — there are more fish away from other people, anyway.
3. Don’t use snow to bank the house; the ice may not support the house and the banked snow.
4. Don’t drive off the road, other than to place a house off it. Some ice roads may not be checked as much as the Sand Bay road for ice thickness.
5. Don’t place holes near snowbanks, as it will likely cause flooding and will make the bank heavier.
6. Drive slow. He said he’s witnessed people driving 40-50 mph on the road, and almost shut it down earlier this year because of it. The ice is likely thick enough now, but speed can cause ice to “flex” ahead of the vehicle, making it unstable.
7. Pick up your garbage. The law requires it, and Thompson is tired of picking it up for others.
8. Stop before the road’s end, which is just about 100 feet from the Canadian border.