ISLE, Minn. - Two weeks before the popular Walleye fishing opener on Minnesota Lakes, there was fishing on the large lake. However, it was ice fishing for crappies, a bad sign since the lake remains locked in winter ice.
The "Governor's Opener" is in Park Rapids this year, but the legal opening of the Walleye season hits every Minnesota fishing hole. Resorts on lakes like Mille Lacs fill up with eager anglers anxious to land a big one on opening day. The weekend is usually guaranteed money in the pockets of the resorts, but not this year.
"Probably the latest (ice out) we have seen it in the 20 years we have been here," said Tina Chapman of Chapman's Resort in Isle. "They are definitely calling and questioning, the same question that everybody asks. 'Is the ice gonna be out by opener?' but no one's cancelled."
"At this point I believe we did have one cancellation because they were nervous," said Daron Stenvold, owner of the Fishermen's Wharf resort on Sunset Bay. "I think there is a lot of people that come up just for opening fishing. I do not know what is gonna happen to those people. Are they gonna come the following weekend is my guess. We had quite a few reservations for the following weekend which is greater than the normal amount."
Stenvold said he intends to have a "three weekend" opener, as opposed to his usual "two weekend" opener. He expects a lot of fishing enthusiasts will drive in on the two weekends after the official opening weekend, since he has seen record reservations for those weekends so far.
State Climatologist Pete Bouley said the ice is holding on in Minnesota lakes about two weeks past the normal ice out dates this year. Since Mille Lacs median "ice out" date is April 25th, a two week delay would predict open water on the lake around May 9th, very close to the fishing opener on the 11th.
The Department of Natural Resources said the Governor's Fishing Opener in Park Rapids will go on as planned regardless of any ice in the lake. The DNR's Steve Carroll said there is a river near the lake that can be used for fishing if the lake is still frozen.