Fishing opener is coming up fast
With one of the earliest ice-out dates ever recorded -- the ice has officially been off Detroit Lake since April 2 -- area anglers are hoping that this year's fishing opener will be better than ever.
"I think we're setting up for a pretty excellent opener," said local fishing guide Brad Laabs of Detroit Lakes. "Looking at the forecast, it's not looking like it's going to be tremendous weather, but right now we're seeing water temperatures that are where we were at in early June last year.
"We're going to have some active fish, especially in the shallow water and shallow flats, and the inside edge of emerging weed lines."
Because of an unusually warm April, leeches and night crawlers will be a factor in catching fish this year, Laabs added.
"Usually this early in the season, when you have cooler water temperatures, it's almost exclusively minnows (being used as live bait)," he said. "I really think leeches and crawlers as well as minnows are going to be a factor this year -- definitely more so than last year."
"If we get some sun, we should have a very good opener," said John Store, owner of Quality Bait and Tackle in Detroit Lakes. "It's all weather related."
"The crappies have been biting for a month," he added, noting that with cooling temperatures this past week, they have begun to seek deeper waters, which will make it difficult for anglers to catch them without a boat.
Jim Wolters, DNR fisheries manager for Detroit Lakes, said that conditions had been "looking pretty good until this cold front came in.
"It was an early year for walleye spawning, and pike and suckers -- those species are pretty much all done (spawning)," he added.
"As far as crappies and bluegills and bass, they were starting to move into the shallows, but water temperatures have dropped and they've left the shallows, waiting for warmer weather," Wolters continued.
Because temperatures have cooled a bit, Wolters said he expects it will be "closer to a normal opener."
Despite the threat of snow in the forecast this weekend, however, Laabs said it was unlikely there would be a sufficient drop in water temperature to affect fishing conditions too drastically.
"If we start to get a bunch of snow, that could change, but it would take a lot to drop the water temperatures now -- it's around 60 degrees. We didn't get over 60 until the first week of June last year," he said.
Wolters also said that now is a good time for anglers to make sure all their boating and fishing licenses are current, go over any changes in boating regulations and make sure that their life jackets and other safety equipment are up to date -- "all the stuff we might tend to forget that first time out."
The state fishing opener is set for one week later than usual, on May 15 -- which may be good news for the anglers, Store said.
"It (the weather) is going to come around," he added. "This weekend is generally the opener, but we've got them all fooled ... we'll get the fish next weekend instead."