fishing outlook is good, experts say

MARSHALL – Minnesota’s 2016 fishing season officially kicks off Saturday with walleye, northern pike and stream trout seasons opening on lakes across the state. Each year, nearly half a million anglers take to the water on Minnesota’s 10,000-plus lakes on opening weekend.

“We sell about 1.3 million fishing licenses throughout the year. As part of the recreational economy, it’s huge,” said DNR Fisheries Chief Don Pereira. “Over $1 billion based on federal surveys in direct costs, and when you add the indirect economic multipliers, we’re looking at about $4 billion affecting the state economy.”

This year, the Minnesota governor’s fishing opener is being held on Big Sandy Lake near McGregor.

“That’s a lake that has always been a good walleye lake, and we’re going to make it a better walleye lake,” Pereira said. “We’ve got special regulations up there that at first glimpse appears to be working well. We think that if we can build up the number of wild fish in Big Sandy, we’ll see more wild reproduction of walleye, which is great.”

The fishing outlook in southwestern Minnesota is good, according to Pereira, who said the spring spawning season was successful and warmer water temperatures will increase fish activity.

“All the walleye and northern pike in the southwest (part of the state) are going to be well past spawn so they’ll be recovered by that and should be ready to bite,” Pereira said.

But the air temperature is looking like it will feel closer to winter than spring on opening weekend. With fluctuation temperatures over the past few weeks, DNR Conservation Officer Matt Loftness said cold weather could put a damper on some people’s fishing plans.

“We’ve had 94 degree temps and we’ve had 34 degree temps… where things are going in between… it’ll be interesting,” Loftness said. “It wouldn’t be the first time is snowed on the opener.”

Loftness said he has seen anglers out fishing for panfish and crappie already this spring and reported some luck on Lake Yankton and Lake Shetek. But beyond the fish, Loftness said his biggest concern is for safety on the water.

“We want everybody to be safe out there and have fun,” Loftness said. “We’re really trying to preach for people to make sure they’re checking their boats.”

Before heading out on the lake, Loftness said to make sure your boat’s registration is up to date, that everything runs properly and that the necessary amount of life jackets are on board. Boats with an enclosed fuel tank are also required to have a working fire extinguisher on board.

“That’s the majority of violations I encounter on opening weekend. Boating violations, no life jackets or no fire extinguisher,” Loftness said.

New in 2016 is a catch and release season for bass, Loftness added. Anglers were not allowed to fish for bass until Memorial Day weekend in the past, but now between opener and that time, anglers will be allowed to catch and release bass across the state.

the Catch-and-Release Length state record fish program for muskellunge, lake sturgeon and flathead catfish. The DNR said these large fish and typically targeted as trophies and commonly caught and released by anglers.

Anglers wishing to participate must complete an application and a photo of the fish displayed alongside a ruler and a photo of the angler with the fish. The length of the fish is to be measure in a straight line from the tip of the snout to the tip of the tail with the tail squeezed, and the girth of the fish is to be measured around the thickest portion of the body.