Tom Landwehr: Get outdoors, experience what only MN offers
The canoe paddle in your hands dips into glassy water near Ely. A loon call breaks the quiet. Seeing the sunrise through aspen trees, your canoe loaded with fishing and camping gear, you realize that only in Minnesota could you spend your entire life exploring and never get to all the scenes like these in our great state.
We are blessed in Minnesota to have an abundance of natural resources. Minnesotans love them as do our visitors. So do our children when we explore our state with family, and so do anglers looking forward to the May 10 fishing opener.
Only in Minnesota do we have such a winning combination of lakes and rivers, public accesses, and fish species that make for an overwhelming abundance of quality fishing experiences. We have more than 1.5 million licensed anglers in a state where it’s fair to call fishing the Great Minnesota Pastime.
Yet it’s not a given that we will continue to realize the unique natural beauty that our state has to offer. Adults and children alike have a wide array of recreational options that involve nothing more than electronics. Inertia can keep us on the couch or checking off to-do lists rather than spending life-enriching time on the water. A “plugged in” population tends to “tune out” the outdoors.
That’s why it is as important as ever to get out and enjoy what only Minnesota has to offer. There’s no better time to start than this spring, with a fishing rod in hand when the fish are biting. And consider the opportunities.
Only in Minnesota can you put in a canoe and continue that trip from Ely, paddling the Voyageurs’ canoe route through the border waters wilderness, and land at Grand Portage looking out to the largest freshwater lake in the world. Fantastic fishing for walleyes and smallmouth will keep you busy on the inland waters, and the lake trout is king on Superior.
Fishing for brook trout and steelhead along the North Shore will also bring you through beautiful towns with shopping opportunities like Grand Marais, Two Harbors and Duluth.
Or, head to northwestern Minnesota, near Hallock, where you can fish for channel catfish in the Red River of the North and not far away see trophy, world-class elk running around on some of the largest remnants of tall-grass prairie left on the globe. A short jaunt east lands you in Warroad, on the shores of Lake of the Woods, a truly phenomenal fishery shared with Canada, where giant sturgeon lurk.
Head to southeastern Minnesota, where you can stay at a welcoming bed and breakfast in quaint towns like Lanesboro and Preston, then experience blue ribbon trout fishing in beautiful bluff country. Not far away, the mighty Mississippi River provides outstanding fishing on a dizzying array of species near towns like Winona and Red Wing.
Only in Minnesota can you catch a basket of jumbo perch and dandy walleyes in Big Stone Lake near Ortonville, then head downstream to Lac qui Parle near Appleton and relish the great crappie bite. A short jaunt downstream, near the towns of Olivia and Redwood Falls, 50-pound flathead catfish are caught with regularity in the Minnesota River.
Or, if like me, you live in the cities, don’t go far at all, because only in Minnesota are there so many of these opportunities readily available in a metropolitan area. The Mississippi, Minnesota and St. Croix rivers are all there to be enjoyed, as are hundreds of lakes with public accesses or public fishing piers.
We have 800,000 registered boats in the state. Hunting and fishing is a $2.4 billion dollar industry here. Visitors to our parks spend about $280 million in this state. And visitors to our trails add $2.6 billion dollars to our local economies. Spring is when we get outdoors, and after this long winter, we are anxious to do so!
Minnnesota is truly an outstanding place. This fishing opener, get out-of-doors and experience the life that only Minnesota has to offer. What’s your excuse? The fish are biting.
(Tom Landwehr is commissioner of the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources.)