The fishing opener is almost upon us; the weather is warming up and the ice is finally off area lakes. The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR) estimates roughly half a million anglers going fishing this Saturday, May 12, the day the season opens for walleye, sauger, northern pike and trout in lakes.
This weekend is also Mother’s Day and what better way to celebrate mom than to take her fishing? All moms fish for free during ‘Take a Mom Fishing Weekend’.
All other anglers from ages 16 to 89 are required to have a valid fishing license. Anglers can purchase licenses at any DNR license agent, online with a mobile or desktop device at mndnr.gov/buyalicense or by phone at 888-665-4236. Mobile buyers will receive a text or email that serves as proof of a valid fish or game license to state conservation officers. Anglers must be in possession of their license when fishing or traveling from an area where they were fishing. According to the DNR, the top two fishing-related regulation violations are for not having a license in possession and not having a valid license.
Late ice out
Deb Sewell of the DNR Division of Fish and Wildlife said the official ice out date for Grindstone Lake was May 5; this is just short of the record set in 2013, which was May 7. This year’s late ice out dates could possibly make it easier for anglers to find fish on the opener.
Sewell said, “Grindstone was stocked with 5,000 rainbow and 2,500 brown trout on Thursday, May 3, a later than normal stocking date. These fish will have had less time than normal to disperse throughout the lake and may be attracted to food sources in the shallows.”
Fishing on other lakes could be easier as well. Some walleyes may still be close to shore after spawning, and crappies, sunfish and bass will be in shallow bays that warm up faster than open water, she added.
One complication of the late ice out is the short amount of time it gave the DNR to properly prepare the 1,500 public accesses it manages. According to Sewell, docks may not be in place at all lakes by the opener. It may be a good idea to bring boots or waders along to make boat launching easier in case there is no dock in place.
Another warning the DNR has for anglers is that some rivers and lakes are at flood levels. Many river access sites are under water, and there are some reports of lakes with high water where boaters may be required to proceed at slow or no-wake speeds on the entire lake.
For more information including a map showing where ice out has occurred, check mndnr.gov/wateraccess.
There are new regulations in effect this year. In our area, the bag limit on northern pike has increased from three to ten. However, all northerns between 22 and 26 inches must be released and no more than two northerns over 26 inches may be kept. The DNR website says in order to accurately measure your fish, lay the fish flat on its side, squeeze the tail from tip to tip, and measure from the nose or jaw (whichever is longer) to the farthest tip of the tail when fully extended.
Though the season for northern and walleye is opening this weekend, both largemouth and smallmouth bass are catch and release only until May 26.
For further information on regulations visit the DNR website at https://www.dnr.state.mn.us/regulations/fishing/index.html.