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What to know ahead of the Minnesota fishing opener

Bill Sherck of "Minnesota Bound" chatted with KARE 11 about the fishing outlook.

MINNESOTA, USA — The countdown has begun.

In less than two weeks, on Saturday, May 14, the state of Minnesota will celebrate the fishing opener for walleye, pike and bass. After a chilly April, however, some lakes in northern Minnesota and Canada may be iffy for the opener due to ice.

To get some insight, KARE 11 chatted with outdoors expert Bill Sherck of "Minnesota Bound." Here's a transcript of that conversation, edited for clarity:

KARE 11: What are you most excited about this season? 

SHERCK: Well, the opener is like a holiday in Minnesota! That in itself is exciting — looking forward to that, getting the boats and all the gear ready, and all that stuff. What's unfortunate this year is the weather. Weather is weird and ice conditions are just unusual right now.

KARE 11: Would you say it's worse this year than you've seen in the past?

SHERCK: Yes, it's later for sure. You think back about 10 years ago, we had a couple of years where lakes weren't open at the opener. We're kind of in that pattern this year. And everyone's got their crystal ball. They're all watching their web cams on the different lakes. Canadian border, right now, it sounds like those lakes will not be open in the middle of May — which is crazy, but it happens. Brainerd Lakes, that depends on what the weather does. If things go well, some of the lakes will be open; some might be frozen. Or if the sun and the rain don't do what we need them to do, they might be shut down. Here in the Twin Cities, it's going to be perfect. And that's great!

KARE 11: Do you think lakes, especially here in the metro, will be overcrowded due to exploding popularity during COVID?

SHERCK: When COVID hit, everyone bought outdoor gear. They bought the boats, RVs, fishing rods, kayaks, all kinds of stuff. So, the last two years, it's been really busy outdoors, which is great news. People are used to it, and they keep saying, 'well people are going back to work, so nobody has time to get outdoors.' But, if you talk to bait shops, sports stores, or boat dealers, people are still getting outdoors. 

KARE 11: Would you say you've been pleasantly surprised by the added interest in fishing during the pandemic?

SHERCK: COVID obviously has been awful. But there are small benefits. Here in Minnesota, when the Canadian border closed, the parks and resorts flourished because people stayed close to home. And I think maybe they learned just how great Minnesota is. Not just resorts — parks. Three Rivers parks, the state parks, the county parks. Tons of people. And that's all good, because we always say, the more people who use and appreciate the resources, the more fans you've got, the more you protect.

KARE 11: If people are worried about the status of lakes up north, what would you suggest they try for something a little bit different?

SHERCK: If you talk to the bait shop folks about what's happening with our weather right now, they'll say, don't think of it like your conventional walleye opener. Think about it as your opportunity to get outdoors. My favorite walleye lake is probably going to be frozen, but that doesn't mean we don't go and fish for pan fish on smaller lakes, or go down to southeast and fish the trout streams, 700 miles of fishable water. There are all kinds of opportunities. You just have to take advantage of them. These are weird years, the weather is different. We can't control that, so we try not to pout about it. You just find other things to do.

It's an exciting time of year, yes. But we just wish the weather was stable. Everyone's looking at their crystal ball; 'what's my lake going to do?' We'll know more in about four days. They're saying, this Friday will kind of tell people what the lakes are going to do. The line seems to be about Brainerd. If we get the warm weather this week, and the moisture does what it's supposed to do, the lakes might open. But if it's not perfect, they're saying a week from now, most of those lakes could still be frozen. Crystal ball stuff. Nobody knows.