After a long, extraordinarily cold winter, the last of the stubborn ice is receding from many Minnesota lakes in time for the fishing opener this weekend.
MPR News reports the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources tells anglers lakes are mostly open south of a line from roughly Bemidji to Grand Rapids to Duluth. The ice is officially out on Gull Lake near Brainerd, the site of Gov. Mark Dayton's fishing opener on Saturday.
It's quite the improvement over last year's opener, when the northern lake where the governor was supposed to fish was iced over, so he fished in a river instead. Last spring, ice didn't clear Lake Winnibigoshish, a big walleye lake near Grand Rapids, until four days after the opener. This year, the ice is clearing just in time, according to resort owner Gail Heig.
"This year is looking really good, we are getting our docks in, and there's a lot of open water on Winnie," she said.
The Duluth News Tribune reports anglers are wondering if they’ll be able to launch their boats on lakes in the northernmost section of the state. While many smaller lakes are open, others still have ice cover. Resort owners on Lake Vermilion expect some floating ice this weekend, but say boats should be able to launch. But an early opening day and a late ice-out are tough on the lake’s resorts, sad Jay Scihelde, president of the Lake Vermilion Resort Association.
“It definitely hurts you,” Schelde said. “In the fishing community, the word spreads like wildfire. I see it on Facebook: ‘Is the ice going to be out?’ ”
Northland's NewsCenter reports anticipated warmer temperatures and thunderstorms are making anglers and resort owners optimistic the melting trend will accelerate.
"DNR surveys and krill surveys and netting surveys are awesome for walleye this year. We're expecting a very, very good season," said Schelde.
The DNR warns that waters remain dangerously frigid and reminds anglers – and anyone else in the boat – to be sure to wear a life jacket while on the water.
Also just in time for the fishing opener: The Department of Natural Resources has unveiled out a new Fish Minnesota website.