The Minnesota fishing opener was uniformly cold and windy, but conservation officers across the state reported seeing success for many of the traditionalists who showed up.
“The hardcore anglers who braved the cold did all right,” wrote Thomas Wahlstrom, a Department of Natural Resources conservation officer based in Tofte along the north shore of Lake Superior.
Wahlstrom’s summary, incorporated in the DNR’s weekly roundup of conservation officer reports, said he saw some nice limits of fish while on patrol Saturday and Sunday.
A similar report came from Conservation Officer Sean Williams in nearby Ely. Anglers who didn’t surrender to temperatures well below freezing were rewarded with a steady bite from walleyes and northern pike, he said.
“Although the weather was not cooperating the fish were, and angling success was high on most lakes that were patrolled,” Williams wrote.
And in that same region, walleye chasers on Lake Vermilion had “pretty good luck” despite snow squalls, high winds and 30-degree temps, according to Tower area Conservation Officer Marc Hopkins.
Big waves rocked anglers on many lakes during Saturday morning’s kickoff and a group of Baudette area fishermen who were anchored on Lake of the Woods near Zippel Bay State Park told Conservation Officer Nicholas Prachar that they rescued a pair of anglers whose boat had capsized after taking on water.
As told to Prachar, the men cut the anchor line on their own boat to speed toward the sunken craft. The two people were pulled from the icy water, saving them from what would have been a devastating accident, Prachar wrote.
This year’s opening weekend might have drawn large crowds under milder conditions. As of Friday, the DNR had sold 382,367 fishing licenses. That was the highest pre-opener sales total in nearly a decade. The previous high was 401,992 in 2007. License sales are expected to top 1 million before the 2016 season ends.
Good fishing on the opener was reported on Leech Lake, Mille Lacs, Lake of the Woods and Rainy River.
But the bite was reported to be slow around Detroit Lakes, Moorhead, Perham, International Falls, Brainerd, Lake Minnetonka and Park Rapids. In Hill City, where northerns were plentiful but walleyes were not, some anglers had to scoop snow from their boats.
Conservation Officer Chris Vinton from Perham said the brutal conditions didn’t equate to misery.
“Even though conditions were less than ideal, all anglers were in good spirits,” he wrote.