Will the lakes be ice-free by the opener?

Published 11:52 am Saturday, May 4, 2013

For some reason, I am having a hard time getting into the mood for this year’s fishing opener. I suppose the 10-or-more inches of snow that we received this past Wednesday and Thursday may have something to do with that. In spite of the growing list of weather setbacks we have been experiencing — like the snow — the show must go on, and next weekend after all is the official Minnesota fishing opener.

I have been attending the Governor’s Fishing Opener since 1995, and each year is always just a little bit different. In 1996 the opener was held in Bemidji, and that was another late year for ice-out. I will usually leave for the opener early on Friday morning. On this particular opener, as I drove past Leech Lake, I noticed that the ice was still on the main lake, but the bays were open. The ice on the lake we fished in the Bemidji area had just come off on Wednesday, so fishing was not exactly the best. On the way home as I passed Leech Lake once again, it was now completely open, and it took just two nice days for it to look like a totally different lake.

This year’s fishing opener will be in the Park Rapids area, and from the news releases that I have been receiving from the Department of Tourism, they assure us that we will be fishing on open water. The Minnesota Department of Tourism, Minnesota Department of Natural Resources and the host community join together to feature a different area of the state each year.

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At the core of Minnesota’s great fishing is a system of DNR research, management and effective law enforcement. This system has made Minnesota one of the nation’s top five angling destinations. It is the foundation that generates $3 billion in annual Minnesota retail sales and supports 43,000 Minnesota fishing-related jobs.

Your license dollars are the fiscal foundation of this fish and wildlife management. License fees increased on March 1, for the first time in 12 years. The increase, which passed in 2012, was critical to maintaining the world-class fishing and hunting that Minnesota enjoys.

Each year as the opener approaches, I look forward to learning about the area that I will be fishing. As the time draws near, I also anticipate meeting the person who will be hosting me and my friend Jeff Anderson, who is a sportscaster from Watertown, S.D. I actually met Jeff quite a few years ago at one of the openers, and we have been fishing together ever since. The opener is also a time for us to catch up on how our families are doing and what we’ve been up to for the past year.

In the years that I have been attending this event, I have had the opportunity to meet some very nice folks. I would usually refer to the person that I fished with as a guide, but they now prefer that we call them hosts, because most of them are just average or above average fishermen who know the area. Over the years, I have fished with some actual guides and also with some who could actually be guides. I have also fished with one or two very nice folks who would probably have a hard time catching a bullhead in Waterville. This is what makes each year unique, because not all of the hosts are going to find fish, but what they can teach you about a lake or the area that you are fishing is invaluable.

Yes, I will be fishing on open water, but what body of water and who I will be fishing with will remain a mystery for a few more days. Good luck to everyone who ventures out for the walleye opener this year.

If last weekend was a preview of things to come for the upcoming fishing season, then it should be a pretty good one. The crappies were biting hot and heavy on Fountain Lake last weekend, and all you had to do was take a drive past Hatch Bridge to know that the bite was on.

My grandson, Trevor, was going to take grandpa fishing Saturday evening, but unfortunately an accident with his truck at the landing put those plans on hold. But, I am sure that there will be plenty of those days still ahead. The weather on that weekend was just about perfect, and there were limits of crappie being caught, as evidenced by the number of fishermen lining the banks of the lake. So on Sunday, my grandson Dylan and I decided to give it a try. We had planned on fishing by the bridge. Unfortunately, so did most of the fishermen in the area. Neither one of us are big fans of fishing in crowds, so we opted to go to Edgewater and try our luck from shore. This proved to be unproductive, so we changed our plans and tried the channel by Frank Hall Park with the same result. Even though we didn’t catch any fish, the time spent fishing with a grandson was reward enough.

Until next time, be safety conscious and don’t forget your life jacket as you head out for this year’s Minnesota walleye fishing opener.

Please remember to keep our troops in your thoughts and prayers because they are the reason we are able to enjoy all the freedoms that we have today.


Dick Herfindahl’s column appears in the Tribune each Sunday.