From how to buy a license to creating Fishing Open memories to being a good steward, here’s a helpful list ahead of Saturday’s Minnesota Fishing Open.
Lake ice data is valuable this week, due to intense winter conditions that have persisted in the north. The state climatology office provides regular updates and has handy maps showing lake conditions and historical data. A number of northern lakes, such as Twenty Lake in Hubbard County and Aerie Lake in St. Louis County, hit ice just over a week ago, with several record highs. 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 were down 25% from a year ago for the Wednesday before the opening (365,023 to 274,744). Sales traditionally increase each day as the opening gets closer. Last year, 32,064 licenses were sold the Friday before the opening. 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 Department of Natural Resources program, works with park departments, lake groups and schools to make fishing more accessible in the metro area. Specialists also regularly stock metropolitan lakes with muskellunge, crappie, bluegill, perch and other species. (You can find the species and where they were stored on the MNR website). For example, the 2021 stock report at Powderhorn Lake included 109 adult black crappie, 550 adult bluegill, 1,190 channel catfish, 28 adult northern pike, and 135 adult perch.
Need a pole to get there? FiN donated fishing rods to county parks departments across the subway. Consult the list online at dnr.state.mn.us/fishing/fin/tackleloaner.html.
Learn to target species
The DNR has a series of outdoor skills videos archived. Start online at bit.ly/DNRfishskills to find how-to videos on fishing, from sunfish to crappie to walleye. While there, you can also sign up for DNR webinars, like Walleye Fishing for Beginners (Noon, May 18) and Youth Fishing Leagues (Noon, May 25).
Get regional information
Minnesota fisheries managers write “outlooks” in different regions of the state. For example, in the Central region, which includes the metro, the bite of walleye is promising at Lake Lotus, a 245-acre lake north of Chanhassen. Last year’s survey revealed the highest walleye catch rates 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 North West region, this fishing season should be intense. According to the report, strong natural year-classes of walleye and additional stockings have established “abundant” populations. Some favorite places to open, with shallower, warmer waters this time of year, include Walker, Anna, South Ten Mile, Orwell, and Fish lakes.
View all reports online at dnr.state.mn.us/fishing/outlooks.html.
Sunfish Boundaries Expand
The 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 popular species. Anglers can only keep 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 captured, the remaining small males lose competition to spawn and mature to smaller sizes. Read the rules for more details.
Be good stewards
You’re ready to fish, but your navigational responsibility also continues out of the water. All 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 such as zebra mussels and Eurasian watermilfoil.
Michelle Morey, President, Women Anglers of Minnesota (WAM):
I’ve fished all my life, but until recently didn’t start my season until late May or early June when the weather warmed up. After joining Women Anglers of Minnesota, I realized I was missing some of the best crappie catches of the year and started dating earlier. In turn, I was weatherproof and anxious for something new when the fishing opening rolled around. However, my opening tradition is a bit untraditional.
For the past few years a friend and I have taken our kayaks to a DNR stocked lake just before opening. I call it Disneyland for adult anglers. The water is clear and you can see trout swimming everywhere (although they are smart and still hard to catch). It’s not at all the serene, scenic Minnesota lake that most people imagine. In fact, it’s quite the opposite. Parking is hard to find, the shores are packed with people, and kayaks, canoes, and fishing tubes fill the lake. But as untraditional as it is, I look forward to it every year. There is plenty of time for serene and scenic lakes later in the season.
(WAM is hosting its big Meet and Greet Open Water tournament on June 3-4 at Arrowhead Resort, Alexandria. Details on womenanglersmn.com)