With one exception — shiner minnows — bait should be plentiful statewide for anglers this weekend when the inland fishing season begins for walleyes and northern pike.

“Shiners might be a little short in some areas,” said Ron Meuwissen, owner of Ken’s Bait Service in Chaska, a wholesaler who supplies bait shops in about a 100-mile radius of the Twin Cities.

“With the kind of climate we have in Minnesota,” Meuwissen said, “we just can’t raise all the shiners people want.”

Leeches and nightcrawlers will be available, he said, as will sufficient supplies of fathead minnows.

“Actually with the ice going out so early and the water warming up, trapping fatheads has gone well,” he said. “It’s been a lot better than when the ice goes out 10 days before the opener and you have to rush to get your minnows out of cold water.”

Phillip Koep of Urbank Live Bait in Clitherall, Minn., in Otter Tail County, agrees shiners could be somewhat hard to find this weekend.

Koep’s problem, he said, is that zebra mussels have infested two lakes where he traditionally has harvested shiners, Otter Tail and West Battle, closing those waters to minnow catching.

Koep delivers bait throughout north-central Minnesota.

“The shiner supply from me will be shorter than last year, but I would say in general shiners will be about as available as they were last opener,” Koep said.

Though leeches won’t be in short supply, they’ve been a challenge to trap in recent weeks up north, Koep said, because of cold water temperatures.

Sunny and warm

Sunny to partly sunny skies with temperatures ranging from about 60 to 70 degrees statewide are predicted Saturday for the fishing season opener.

A high of 73 degrees is expected in Rochester with Alexandria topping out at about the same temperature. International Falls should reach a high Saturday of about 60.

Winds should be fairly calm: generally from the north at 9 miles per hour in International Falls and about the same in the Twin Cities and south to Rochester.

Fishing begins at 12:01 a.m. Saturday.