TONKA BAY — Families across the Lake Minnetonka area are stuck at home as schools across the state of Minnesota have closed and businesses and organizations order employees to work from home due to the COVID-19 (coronavirus) pandemic.

In the lake area, excitement builds for ice out as the weather warms up and the ice thaws leaving a lake of patchwork water and ice.

Every year, Al & Alma’s Supper Club & Charter Cruises in Mound starts the month of March with its ice out contest — submissions end on St. Patrick’s Day.

This year, the earliest guess is March 26 and the latest is May 6, owner Jay Soule told Lakeshore Weekly News. The winner of the contest receives a $200 gift card, which can be used for both the supper club and the cruises.

Soule said it’s a great way for the organization to start off every spring.

Marinas across the lake are also preparing for spring. The Caribbean Marina at 135 Lakeview Ave. in Tonka Bay is preparing for ice out by installing a portion of new docks and de-icing around the older docks to protect them from shifting ice, Kelly Wischmeier from the marina told the paper.

“We miss our slip customers as well as the visitors of the gas dock and the restaurant. We are also looking forward to getting our employees back to work,” Wischmeier said.

Wischmeier said as of yet, the marina has not received any direction from the state of Minnesota or Hennepin County about restrictions due to COVID-19.

“We are operating as if a normal boating season will happen despite the current issues,” Wischmeier said.

Businesses aren’t the only ones getting excited about ice out, folks around the lake are getting antsy to get out on the water.

Johnny Range shared a photo of his son James Range holding a paddle on a piece of ice on The Lake Minnetonka Fan Club Facebook page on March 17 with the caption, “First lake Minnetonka paddle boarder 2020.”

“My brother did it when he was around my age and I thought it was fun,” James Range, 9, told Lakeshore Weekly News. He said, despite not wearing shoes in the photo, his feet weren’t cold on the ice.

Johnny Range explained that when his older son, Johnny Range Jr. was around James’ age, he posed for a very similar photo on a piece of ice in the spring but with a chair and a fishing pole. They saw a similar opportunity this spring. (Johnny Range noted when both photos of his sons were taken, they were in very shallow water and parents were nearby.)

The Range family of Mound is ready to get out on the water, Johnny Range said. They are looking forward to fishing, swimming, paddle boarding and more when the ice fully melts.

The Uelemen family of Tonka Bay is also looking to get out on the water. They took their paddle boat out on the partially frozen lake on Friday, March 20.

“We will start boating to Excelsior and Wayzata for food and ice cream until the water is warm enough and then we will spend the summer wakesurfing, wakeboarding, skiing and tubing with friends and family. We can’t wait,” she told the paper.

According to the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources, the median ice-out date on Lake Minnetonka is April 13. Last year, Ice out was declared on April 20.

As of March 24, ice out has been declared on five Minnesota lakes, the DNR’s website shows, all in the southern third of the state. The earliest ice-out date is North Silver Lake in Martin County, which was declared ice free on March 19.

Frances Stevenson is a reporter for the Lakeshore Weekly News, covering the communities around Lake Minnetonka.

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