Ice fishing plan delayed

Action on a proposal to allow ice fishing on Lake Alice is not expected until sometime in 2015. Originally it was hoped the proposal would be accepted much earlier and that ice fishing would commence on Lake Alice in the winter of 2014-15.

While the process has been delayed, the Lake Alice Ice Fishing Plan remains on track for possible approval, which could lead to the lake opening up for ice fishing in the winter of 2015-16. If so, it would be the first time in history.

Lake Alice National Wildlife Refuge is located near Churchs Ferry, north of sprawling Devils Lake. Like Devils Lake, Lake Alice has grown in size and depth for several years. However, neither boat fishing or ice fishing has been previously allowed on Lake Alice.

The public comment period for the Lake Alice Ice Fishing Plan ended Dec. 20. It was believed at that time the plan was on track for a 2014 decision to be made by the USFWS regional director in Lakewood, Colo., as to which of five alternatives would be proposed. The alternative favored by supporters of the plan was that Lake Alice be restricted to ice fishing only. It is believed that alternative was the most likely to receive final approval.

Other alternatives included no fishing, ice fishing and limited shore fishing, unrestricted fishing, and fishing restricted to specific times and dates. Matt Sprenger, Lake Alice NWR, has been working to forward the proposed alternative to the USFWS national office in Washington, D.C. The process slowed due to the need to involve townships affected by possible approval of the fishing plan.

“Nothing is being held up at either the regional or national office,” explained Sprenger. “We’re working with township folks on road access because we’d like to move forward. There are some concerns about lake access and we’re working through those concerns.”

Sprenger said there was not necessarily township opposition to the fishing plan, but rather they needed to be informed of possible changes in traffic if the plan was to be adopted.

“We’d all like to see the process move quicker,” said Sprenger. “We’ll submit the package to the regional office, then the Washington office, then another round of public comments nationally. Once they receive those comments we could see a final ruling in September or October of 2015 and, potentially, could open Lake Alice to ice fishing in the winter of 2015.”

Lake Alice was once separated from Lake Irving. However, due to rising water levels throughout the Devils Lake region, Lake Alice and Lake Irving have joined as part of the northern reach of Devils Lake. Even through the two lakes share common water, fishing is allowed year round on Lake Irving but not on Lake Alice. The proposed ice fishing plan would eliminate problems associated with boundaries encountered during the winter and open a new section of water to ice anglers.