Fishing Opener: A tackle box full of tools, helpful data, and how-to tips

From how to buy a license to making fishing opening memories to being a good host there, here’s a handy list before the Minnesota fishing opens on Saturday.

Ice-out updates

The lake ice data is valuable this week, due to severe winter conditions that have been stuck in the north. The state’s Bureau of Climatology provides regular updates and has hand maps showing the state of the lake and historical data. A large number of northern lakes, such as Lake Twente in Hubbard County and Lake Erie in St. Louis County, hit ice just over a week ago, with several records set. Online at bit.ly/MNlakeice.

Buy your license

Resident or non-resident, there are several ways to obtain a fishing license:

License sales are down

Overall Minnesota fishing license sales are down 25% from a year ago on Wednesday before opening (365,023 to 274,744). Sales traditionally increase daily as the opening approaches. Last year, 32,064 licenses were sold on the Friday before opening. Last year’s sales were down 5% compared to 2020, according to Department of Natural Resources records.

borrowing equipment

Nearby Fishing, also known as 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 musky, crappie, bluegill, perch and other species. (You can find the species and where they are stored on the DNR website.) For example, the 2021 Powderhorn Lake inventory report included 109 adult black crappie, 550 adult bluegills, 1,190 catfish, 28 adult northern pike, and 135 adult perch.

Do you need a column to reach them? FiN has donated fishing rods to county park departments across the metro. See the list online at dnr.state.mn.us/fishing/fin/tackleloaner.html.

Learn how to target species

DNR has a series of archived external skills videos. Start online at bit.ly/DNRfishskills to find how-to videos on fishing for everything from sunfish to crappie to walleye. While you’re there, you can also sign up for DNR webinars, such as Walleye Fishing for Beginners (noon, May 18) and Youth Fishing Associations (noon, May 25).

Get regional information

Minnesota fisheries managers write “forecasts” for different areas of the state. For example, in the Central District, which includes the metro, it’s a walleye bite at Lotus Lake, a 245-acre lake north of Chanhassen. Last year’s survey found the highest walleye catch rates ever recorded in this lake. Their caught lengths ranged 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 hunting season is expected to be strong. According to the report, strong natural year-rounds of light-colored socks and complementary socks established large populations. Some of our editorial favorites, with shallower and warmer waters this time of year, include Walker, Anna, the South Ten Mile, Orwell, and Fish lakes.

See all reports online at dnr.state.mn.us/fishing/outlooks.html.

The sunfish’s borders are expanding

The new sunfish regulations, part of the state’s sunfish quality initiative, began March 1. The rules lower the limits on 52 lakes and related waters to help protect the popular species. Fishermen can only keep the specified number of fish per day, with a reduced limit of five to 10 fish in most lakes. Sunfish spawn in large colonies in spring and early summer. The male sunfish plays a major role in the fish’s environment as a protector of nests. When caught, the remaining young males lose competition to breed and mature to smaller sizes. Read the regulations for more details.

Be good agents

You’re ready to fish, but the responsibility for your boating continues out of the water, too. Any user of the lake is required to remove all aquatic plants or animals from their watercraft and drain all water to help prevent the spread of invasive aquatic species such as zebra mussels and Eurasian waterfowl.

opening memory

Michelle Morey, President of 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 was warm. After I joined the Women Anglers of Minnesota, realizing I was missing out on some of the best crappie fishing of the year, I started getting out early. In contrast, I’ve been ravenous for the weather and craving for something new when the fishing opener is spinning. However, my opening traditions are a bit unorthodox.

For the past few years, my friend and I have brought our kayaks to DNR Stock Lake just before opening. I call it Disneyland for big fishermen. The water is clear and you can see trout swimming everywhere (although they are smart animals and still difficult to catch). It’s not quite the quiet and picturesque Minnesota lake at all as most people imagine. In fact, it’s quite the opposite. It’s hard to find a parking spot, the beaches are full of people, and the lake is filled with kayaks, canoes, and inner tube fishing. But as funky as it is, I look forward to it every year. There is plenty of time for quiet, picturesque lakes later in the season.

(WAM is holding the Big Open Water Meet and Greet from June 3rd to 4th at Arrowhead Resort, Alexandria. Details in womenanglersmn.com)

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