ST. PAUL -- Fresh off a torrid start to fishing license sales in 2020, it appears anglers are gearing up for another busy year in Minnesota in 2021.

Fishing license sales up to May 1, two weeks before the May 15 Minnesota general fishing opener, were up 12% over last year, according to data from the state's Department of Natural Resources.

Among all types of licenses available, some 286,086 licenses had been sold by May 1 compared to 255,841 at that point last year, the first year of the ongoing pandemic.

This year’s pace is even more impressive compared to pre-pandemic 2019, with 2021 total license sales up nearly 58%.

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As of now, it's the fastest start to Minnesota fishing license sales in at least the last 21 years.

Individual resident license sales are up 18% over last year and nonresident individual licenses are up a whopping 55% over 2020. Sales of resident youth licenses for anglers ages 16-17 are down 9% from last year, possibly because more kids are back in school and other activities as pandemic restrictions ease.

It’s too early to say if the trend will hold all year — whether more people are fishing or more are just buying licenses earlier in the year — but it appears the trend of slowly declining fishing license sales seen in recent years has been reversed during the pandemic.

Still, the current pace likely won’t hold by season's end as license sales slow. By the end of summer 2020, overall Minnesota fishing license sales were up about 10% over 2019 after being up 48% in May.

The increase in fishing pressure has spurred the Vermilion Lake Association and other groups to ask anglers to keep only half their legal limit of fish this summer.

By the end of the year Minnesota will sell nearly 1.2 million fishing licenses that are required for most anglers age 16 and older, except for some special circumstances.

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