Tracy Beager and his 12-year-old daughter, Kassia, of Rosemount watched their bobbers dance in the waves of motorboats that occasionally sped past the public pier they fished from Sunday at Crystal Lake in Burnsville.
"Usually if you get here in the morning, you can catch something," Tracy Beager said.
Dad and daughter didn't mind being boatless.
"I have a small boat," Beager explained while checking his minnow. "But I actually have more fun fishing from shore. Plus, the boat landing here usually is crowded; if there's no parking spot, you have to wait forever to launch your boat."
The Beagers were among seven anglers who enjoyed a bluebird summer morning to fish at the wooden pier -- one of 350 piers, platforms and shore- fishing sites in Minnesota. The state might have the highest number of boats per capita in the nation, with more than 800,000 registered, but there have never been more places to fish without floating a boat.
And those spots are enormously popular.
"Sometimes you get here and it's packed," said Carlos Rabago of Burnsville, who fished Crystal Lake for muskies, using a larger sucker minnow and heavy-duty fishing gear. He has no boat, but says the action can be good from shore. A friend recently landed a 43-inch muskie and Rabago said he caught a 36-incher.
"There's some nice fish in here," he said.
Launched in 1984, the program went through a building boom in the 1990s, though in recent years, funding shortages have resulted in more maintenance work than construction. However, the state added five new piers and replaced 15 others last year, using almost $600,000 in Clean Water, Land and Legacy Amendment dollars. The tally now includes 300 piers, 31 platforms and 22 shore-fishing sites.
"It's the most we've ever had," said Nancy Stewart, fishing pier coordinator for the Department of Natural Resources. The goal of the piers and shore- fishing sites is to provide fishing opportunities for kids, older adults, those with disabilities and those without boats.
"They get a lot of use," Stewart said.
The piers often are the result of cooperative agreements with counties, cities or other governments. The land where they are installed often isn't owned by the state. There is more demand than money. "I have about 50 requests for piers," Stewart said.
Nearly all are floating piers, which rise and lower with water levels. They cost $25,000 to $35,000 to install, and are built by Minnesota prison inmates. They generally last 20 or so years before needing major repairs.
"They're not cheap, but it's not a bad investment for 20 to 25 years of fishing, either," Stewart said.
Municipalities, fishing groups and service clubs often raise money to pay for the piers, Stewart said.
Doug Smith • email@example.com • Twitter: @dougsmithstrib