From how to buy a license to making fishing opener memories to being a good steward out there, here is a useful list ahead of Saturday's Minnesota fishing opener.
Lake ice-out data is valuable this week, owing to the intense winter conditions that have lingered up north. The state's climatology office gives regular updates and has handy maps showing lake status and historical data. A good number of northern lakes, like Twenty Lake in Hubbard County and Aerie Lake in St. Louis County, reached ice-out a little more than a week ago, with several setting records. Online at bit.ly/MNlakeice.
Buy your license
Resident or nonresident, there are multiple ways to get a fishing license:
- Go online to the DNR fishing web page (dnr.state.mn.us/licenses/fishing/)
- Also online, the DNR has a searchable database, by county, of places that sell licenses. (dnr.state.mn.us/licenses/agents.html)
- Call (888) 665-4236 (1-MN-LICENSE).
License sales are down
Overall Minnesota fishing license sales were down 25 % from a year ago for the Wednesday before the opener (365,023 to 274,744). Sales traditionally increase daily as the opener gets closer. Last year, 32,064 licenses were sold the Friday before the opener. Sales for the year were down 5% last year from 2020, according to Department of Natural Resources records.
Fishing in the Neighborhood, aka FiN, a program through the Department of Natural Resources, collaborates with park departments, lake groups and schools to make fishing more accessible in the metro area. Specialists also regularly stock metro lakes with muskie, crappie, bluegill, perch and other species. (You can find species and where they were stocked on the DNR's website). For example, the 2021 stock report at Powderhorn Lake included 109 adult black crappies, 550 adult bluegills, 1,190 channel catfish, 28 adult northern pike and 135 adult perch.
Need a pole to get to them? FiN has donated fishing rods to county parks departments across the metro. See the list online at dnr.state.mn.us/fishing/fin/tackleloaner.html.
Learn how to target species
The DNR has a series of Outdoors Skills videos archived. Start online at bit.ly/DNRfishskills to find how-to videos on fishing everything from sunfish to crappie to walleye. While there, you also can register for DNR webinars, like Walleye Fishing for Beginners (noon, May 18) and Youth Fishing Leagues (noon, May 25).
Get regional intelligence
Minnesota fisheries managers write "outlooks" in different regions of the state. For example in the Central Region, which includes the metro, the walleye bite holds promise at Lotus Lake, a 245-acre lake north of Chanhassen. Last year's survey found the highest catch rates for walleye ever recorded on this lake. Walleye caught ranged in length from 10 to 24 inches and averaged 15.7 inches. Spring Lake, a larger lake southwest of Prior Lake, also had a high success rate.
In the Northwest Region, this fishing season is predicted to be strong. Strong natural year classes of walleye and supplemental stockings have established "abundant" populations, according to the report. Some favorite spots for the opener, with shallower and warmer water this time of year, include Walker, Anna, South Ten Mile, Orwell and Fish lakes.
See all the reports online at dnr.state.mn.us/fishing/outlooks.html.
Sunfish limits broaden
New sunfish regulations, part of the state's Quality Sunfish Initiative, began March 1. The rules lower limits on 52 lakes and related waters to help protect the popular species. Anglers can keep only the set number of fish per day, a reduced limit of five to 10 fish on most lakes. Sunfish spawn in large colonies in spring and early summer. As nest-protectors, male sunfish play a key role in fish ecology. When they are caught, the remaining small males lose competition to spawn, and mature at smaller sizes. Read the regulations for more details.
Be good stewards
You're ready to fish, but your boating responsibility continues off the water, too. Any lake users are required to remove all aquatic plants or animals from their watercraft and drain all water to help prevent the spread of aquatic invasive species like zebra mussels and Eurasian water milfoil.
Michelle Morey, president, Women Anglers of Minnesota (WAM):
I've been fishing my whole life, but until recently, I didn't start my season until late May or early June when the weather warmed up. After I joined Women Anglers of Minnesota, I realized I was missing some of the best crappie fishing of the year, and started getting out earlier. In turn, I was weather-rugged and anxious for something new when the Fishing Opener rolled around. However, my opener tradition is a bit nontraditional.
For the past few years, a friend and I have brought our kayaks to a lake the DNR stocks right before the opener. I call it Disneyland for adult anglers. The water is clear and you can see trout swimming all over (although they are smart buggers and still hard to catch). It's not at all the serene, picturesque, Minnesota lake like most people envision. In fact, it's quite the opposite. It's hard to find a parking spot, the shores are packed with people, and kayaks, canoes and fishing innertubes fill the lake. But as nontraditional as it is, I look forward to it every year. There's plenty of time for serene and picturesque lakes later in the season.
(WAM has its big Meet and Greet Open Water Tournament June 3-4 at Arrowhead Resort, Alexandria. Details at womenanglersmn.com)