On the eve of the opener, last few Minnesota fisheries continue to push toward ice-out [videos]
Most of the Minnesota lakes that still held ice as of late last week reportedly saw ice-out over the last couple of days.
Pair that with a favorable forecast Saturday for the Minnesota fishing opener, and there’s suddenly hope for anglers, resorts and the like after hope seemed in extremely short supply in recent weeks.
?Minnesota walleye opener will be a pleasant one. You will need the jacket and gloves tonight, but grab the sunblock and sunglasses for Saturday afternoon. ?#minnesotaWalleyeopener #walleye #anglers #fishing #MNwx #NDwx #WDAZwx #WDAYwx pic.twitter.com/LVDPR9xl0Y
— Andrew Whitmyer (@AWhitmyer) May 11, 2018
Some 500,000 anglers traditionally fish on the opening weekend, the kickoff to Minnesota’s summer tourism season. But after an April that was so cold that the ice grew thicker on some lakes instead of deteriorating as it normally does, whether those anglers would be in boats or on ice on some lakes was up in the air until just recently.
As of last Friday, most big walleye lakes across the northern half of the state still had ice, including Mille Lacs, Leech, Winnibigoshish, Red, Vermilion, Kabetogama and Lake of the Woods. But according to the DNR’s ice-out map, Red and Vermilion saw ice-out on May 8, Kabetogama and Leech on May 9 and Winnie on May 10.
While Lake of the Woods hadn’t yet reported ice-out as of early Friday afternoon, May 11, the Rainy River is completely open and there’s open water past the gap where it flows into Lake of the Woods, according to reports. So besides a few lakes within the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness in far northern Minnesota, of the main big walleye lakes, only Lake of the Woods, Mille Lacs and Rainy Lake held any ice of note as of Friday, according to reports.
The high temperature Friday was only expected to get in the 50s across the state, but spots of rain Friday could help the ice-out cause for those remaining lakes. The forecast for opening day called for plenty of sun and highs in the mid-60s across much of the state.
The sale of fishing licenses also has heated up. On Thursday, May 10, the DNR reported the sale of more than 16,000 licenses Tuesday and Wednesday for an overall total of about 277,500, according to reports.
THE GOVERNOR’S OPENER
Gov. Mark Dayton will fish the 71st annual Minnesota Governor’s Fishing Opener Saturday on Green Lake in the Willmar Lakes Area of west-central Minnesota, which recorded its ice-out May 3. There were still 29 inches of ice on the lake just 18 days earlier.
Dayton’s guide will be local resident and anger Kelly Morrell, who considers Green Lake to be his home base.
“Green Lake is the jewel of Kandiyohi County. At 5,000 acres, it is the largest body of water and also includes the largest variety of fishing habitat. It is a fisherman’s dream lake,” Morrell said in a statement.
Learn more about the lake in the video below from DNR Fisheries Chief Don Pereira.
NEW NORTHERN PIKE REGULATIONS
Along with the walleye season, the northern pike season also opens Saturday, and Minnesota has given its pike regulations a complete revamp for 2018. The old statewide daily limit of three has given way to three distinct zones with different rules designed to take down the surplus of small “hammer-handle” northerns in many lakes while protecting the fierce predators elsewhere.
Most of Minnesota lies in the north-central zone, where limits will rise to 10 to encourage anglers to keep more small northerns. No more than two can be longer than 26 inches, and all from 22 to 26 inches must be released. In the northeast zone, anglers can keep two but must release all from 30 to 40 inches, and can keep only one over 40 inches. In the southern zone, anglers can keep two pike, with a minimum size of 24 inches. So be prepared to measure.
The new zones don’t apply to border waters. Special regulations are in place for more than 90 individual waters, so check the 2018 rulebook.
For more on the regs, see the video below from Pereira.
— The Associated Press contributed to this report