Ice puts chill on walleye opener in DL
The late ice-out on area lakes this season has put a damper on the walleye fishing opener.
“We don’t make any money, and it’s a weekend we don’t get back,” said John Store, owner of Quality Bait & Tackle in Detroit Lakes.
Resorts that cater to anglers have been seeing cancellations and reschedulings, said Dan Berg, owner of Lakecrest Resort on Long Lake near Detroit Lakes, and president of the Minnesota Resort and Campground Association.
“If people are there to fish, and they can’t put their boat in the water, they’re not going to come,” he said. “For those resorts that really cater to early fishing, it’s certainly going to be a negative thing — if you lose a weekend you can’t make it up.”
On Thursday, Doug Anselmin, the general manager of the Holiday Inn in Detroit Lakes, held out hope that the ice would still clear in time for Saturday’s opener.
“In the change I’ve seen (in the lake) just from this morning to this afternoon, I’m thinking we might make it,” he said. “We have quite a bit of open water in front of the hotel right now. If we get good sunshine and the wind keeps up, we might make it, which would be awesome.”
There isn’t much bait and tackle business right now, Store said, although there have been some people fishing for panfish along the rivers and open lake shoreline.
But some of that will come to an end on Saturday.
A number of river reaches in northwestern Minnesota will be closed to fishing when the fishing opener arrives. Most closures will last until midnight Friday (May 17) and are necessary to protect concentrations of walleye, the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources said.
Closed through Friday in this area are:
- The Otter Tail River in Becker County below the Highway 10 culvert near Frazee.
- The Pelican River in Becker County below Bucks Mill Dam to Buck Lake.
- Long Lake in Hubbard County below the inlet culvert south of State Highway 34.
Closed immediately until further notice are: Toad River in Otter Tail County, the inlet to Big Pine Lake upstream to County Road 13.
Closed through May 24: Unnamed water in Hubbard County which is the connection between Lake Emma and Big Sand Lake.
No fishing will be allowed during these periods in the specified areas. Signs will be posted at access points within the closed areas.
The closures, due to late ice cover, also include portions of the Mississippi, Tamarac, Clearwater, Turtle and other rivers.
“The closures are necessary to protect adult walleye that have concentrated around historic spawning sites,” said Henry Drewes, DNR Northwest Region fisheries manager. “It’s always a difficult decision to close the areas and restrict recreation. Our first responsibility is to the long-term health of the fishery.”
This is the first time since 2008 that so many locations have been closed on the opener, Drewes said.
Prior to that, extensive closures occurred in 1996 and 1997. There are likely to be concentrations of spawning fish in other areas and anglers are encouraged to practice catch-and-release.
Although closed to fishing, there are no restrictions on boat travel through these areas.
Store said Thursday that lakes in the Alexandria area were still frozen, and he hasn’t heard much talk of anglers heading south for the opener.
“Sure, you’re going to find open lakes, but you’ll have lots of competition and a lot less fish,” he said.
“We’ve been here 11 years,” he said, and it’s the first time the lakes have remained largely frozen for fishing opener. “This is the latest ice-out since 1950,” he added.
For those who do venture out, or fish from shore, he said walleye like to hang out around the edge of the lake ice, in his experience.
The fishing opener remains important to the tourism industry.
“That’s a group of people that help fill the hotel,” Anselmin said of the Holiday Inn. “Obviously a lot of people are playing wait-and-see. We’ve still got a few rooms left Saturday, I’ll get you in them,” he said.
Berg predicts a Monday ice-out date, but he prefers to look at the big picture: winter is finally over.
“Summer is here, it’s going to get warm and people still need to think about a vacation at a resort in Minnesota,” he said.