AUSTIN, Minn. (AP) -

Minnesota wildlife officials say lake levels in southern Minnesota are about 12 to 18 inches lower than normal.

T.J. DeBates is a fisheries supervisor in the Waterville area. He says the southern part of the state will need late-season snowfalls along with early spring and summer rains to return lakes to normal levels.

An Austin Daily Herald report says the lower lake levels don't seem to have affected ice fishing. DeBates says the lack of snow cover this winter has allowed sunlight to penetrate ice, causing aquatic plants to grow and improving levels of dissolved oxygen.

That helps the population of northern pike, which experienced mass die-offs in last summer's unseasonably warm temperatures. However, DeBates cautions that another extremely hot summer could take another severe toll on fish populations.