Opener countdown: Ice receding on many Minnesota lakes

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Anglers eager to drop an inaugural line are likely breathing a sigh of relief with the news that the thick winter ice is receding on many of Minnesota's lakes as state's fishing opener approaches.

The Associated Press notes that the Department of Natural Resources' online ice-out map shows many lakes across the southern two-thirds of the state are ice-free. The dividing line closely followed U.S. Highway 2 from Duluth to East Grand Forks. The AP story says that even north of that line, many smaller lakes should be open and many larger lakes should at least have some open water.

Despite the record cold of the past winter, more of Minnesota's lakes are expected to be ice-free Saturday than were clear for last year's opener. Gov. Mark Dayton had to fish on a river in the 2013 Minnesota Governor's Fishing Opener; the lakes near Park Rapids where he had planned to fish were still frozen over. Now Gull Lake near Nisswa, the place where he plans to fish on Saturday, is expected to be wide open. Lt. Gov. Yvonne Prettner Solon will also be on the water there on Saturday, May 10.

High water levels from record April rainfall will currents and waves could be challenging for even the most experienced boaters.Despite the rising temperatures, DNR officials warn that water temperatures will still be frigid and dangerous.

"Falling into that icy water can be deadly," aid Kara Owens, DNR boat and water safety specialist. She urged everyone going out in a boat to be sure to wear a life jacket, because cold-water shock from a tumble in the icy water can cause cardiac arrest or an involuntary gasp that causes drowning.

WDAY in Fargo reports that the popular Detroit Lakes area is gearing up for its busiest season of the year. The station reported that there was still ice on the lakes last year at this time, which kept anglers off the water and left local bait and sporting shops struggling for business. But the optimism for this year's opener is already creating excitement there.

"I’ve always said growing up I think we have two unofficial holidays, it's the deer hunting opener and it's the Minnesota fishing opener," said Jake Judd, a fisherman in the area.

Wisconsin's fishing opener was this past weekend, but the Associated Press reported that Gov. Scott Walker didn't catch anything during a trip to northwestern Wisconsin to kick off the season. Walker's office released a statement early Saturday afternoon saying Walker traveled to Balsam Lake this year.

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