Angler woes: First a late ice-out, now a bait shortage

  • Article by: DOUG SMITH , Star Tribune
  • Updated: May 12, 2013 - 12:23 AM

Ice on lakes has prevented minnow trapping, and the leech situation is also bad. “I’ve never seen anything like this,” a wholesaler said.

hide

Minnows, such as these fatheads, and leeches could be in short supply early in Minnesota’s fishing season because of the late warmup this year.

Minnesota anglers just can’t win: First they had to deal with lakes covered with ice on the fishing opener. Now the cold spring means a live bait shortage, too.

“You can’t trap minnows with ice on the lakes,’’ said Phil Koep, owner of Urbank Live Bait in Clitherall, Minn., a major bait wholesaler that serves 75 bait shops across northern Minnesota.

He has gotten some fathead, crappie and sucker minnows, but no spottail shiners — a favorite of many anglers who fish northern Minnesota waters. Lakes Winnibigoshish, Mille Lacs and Red — major suppliers of shiner minnows — all were ice-covered last week, as were smaller lakes that also are tapped for the precious minnow.

And anglers who prefer leeches are mostly out of luck, too. The ponds and lakes where they normally are harvested also have been ice-covered.

“I’ve got no leeches,’’ said Ron Meuwissen, owner of Ken’s Bait in Chaska, a wholesaler who serves about 100 bait shops within 100 miles of the Twin Cities. “Last year I had 3,000 to 4,000 pounds by April 1.’’

Many of his leeches come from the White Earth and Red Lake Indian reservations, where lakes remain ice-covered .

Both Meuwissen and Koep expected to get some leeches soon, and they hope the minnow harvest picks up, but they said the live bait shortage likely will last at least several weeks, until ice disappears and waters warm.

Both said the situation is rare.

“I’ve been doing this for 38 years, and I’ve never seen anything like this,’’ Koep said. “My sales will be down 50 percent.’’

Said Meuwissen: “Once the opener comes and goes, that business is gone. You don’t make it up.’’

Shiner minnow shortage?

Besides weather, the discovery last year of zebra mussels in Lake Winnibigoshish also will reduce the availability of shiner minnows this season, said Ben Kellin, owner of Ben’s Bait in Grand Rapids.

That’s because the Department of Natural Resources is closing the lake to minnow harvest on May 22 — the average date that Winnie water temperature hits 55 degrees, which triggers zebra mussel reproduction. The invasive mussels produce microscopic larvae called veligers, which suspend in the water.

“We want to reduce the risk of spreading zebra mussels to other waters via bait transfers,’’ said Chris Kavanaugh, DNR area fisheries manager in Grand Rapids.

But shiner minnows spawn in shallow water — when they can most easily be caught — when water temperature is about 60 degrees.

That means few shiners will be caught in Winnibigoshish this year.

“Winnie’s shiner is the smallest, nicest-jigging minnow,’’ Kellin said. “That’s what the real uproar is among true anglers here. They will miss that beautiful little minnow.’’

Kellin estimated Winnie shiners are worth about $1 million. He said the DNR should close the lake to minnow harvest when the water temperature hits 55 degrees.

“Then it’s a moving target,’’ Kavanaugh said. “We feel more comfortable having a date that everyone knows.’’

He said the DNR is trying to identify other lakes with shiners that could fill the void.

Lake Mille Lacs, another major supplier of shiners, also closes May 22 to minnow harvesters because it, too, is infested with zebra mussels.

Freeze-out?

Another factor could spell trouble for minnow-loving anglers. The long, cold winter has killed off some shallow minnow ponds.

“We know a lot of them froze out, because we can drive around and see the dead minnows,’’ said Jeff Koep, cousin of Phil Koep, who owns Spruce Center Bait in Miltona, Minn., a wholesaler who serves 40 bait shops and resorts in the Alexandria area.

But until minnow trappers start trapping in earnest, no one will know the extent of the freeze-out and whether the loss of some ponds will result in a larger minnow shortage.

“I’m hoping it’s a temporary thing, otherwise it’s going to be a long summer,’’ Meuwissen said.

And it’s uncertain whether any of this will affect live bait prices. For now, prices are stable.

Meanwhile, just as anglers are an optimistic lot, so too are bait dealers.

“I think it will be a great summer, once it gets going,’’ said Jeff Koep. “The economy is a little better. People are buying boats. We know the business is there if we can get them the product.’’

 

Doug Smith • doug.smith@startribune.com

Twitter: @dougsmithstrib

  • get related content delivered to your inbox

  • manage my email subscriptions

Click here to send us your hunting or fishing photos – and to see what others are showing off from around the region.

ADVERTISEMENT

Kansas City - J. Vargas 7:07 PM
San Francisco - R. Vogelsong
Detroit 10/26/14 8:30 AM
Atlanta
Buffalo 10/26/14 12:00 PM
NY Jets
St. Louis 10/26/14 12:00 PM
Kansas City
Houston 10/26/14 12:00 PM
Tennessee
Minnesota 10/26/14 12:00 PM
Tampa Bay
Seattle 10/26/14 12:00 PM
Carolina
Baltimore 10/26/14 12:00 PM
Cincinnati
Miami 10/26/14 12:00 PM
Jacksonville
Chicago 10/26/14 12:00 PM
New England
Philadelphia 10/26/14 3:05 PM
Arizona
Oakland 10/26/14 3:25 PM
Cleveland
Indianapolis 10/26/14 3:25 PM
Pittsburgh
Green Bay 10/26/14 7:30 PM
New Orleans
Washington 10/27/14 7:30 PM
Dallas
New Orleans 10/30/14 7:25 PM
Carolina
Buffalo 3:00 PM
San Jose
Boston 6:00 PM
Toronto
NY Rangers 6:00 PM
Montreal
New Jersey 6:00 PM
Ottawa
Dallas 6:00 PM
NY Islanders
Detroit 6:00 PM
Philadelphia
Chicago 7:00 PM
St. Louis
Pittsburgh 7:00 PM
Nashville
Tampa Bay 7:00 PM
Minnesota
Florida 8:00 PM
Arizona
Washington 9:00 PM
Calgary
So Florida 17 FINAL
Cincinnati 34
Troy 13 FINAL
South Alabama 27
BYU 30 FINAL
Boise State 55
(6) Oregon 59 FINAL
California 41
North Texas 21 FINAL
Rice 41
UAB 17 FINAL
Arkansas 45
Rutgers 24 FINAL
(16) Nebraska 42
Maryland 7 FINAL
Wisconsin 52
Texas 0 FINAL
(11) Kansas State 23
Minnesota 24 FINAL
Illinois 28
Memphis 48 FINAL
SMU 10
North Carolina 21 4th Qtr 6:03
Virginia 27
San Jose St 17 3rd Qtr 4:20
Navy 31
Northern Ill 21 4th Qtr 11:55
Eastern Mich 17
Akron 21 3rd Qtr
Ball State 13
Massachusetts 20 3rd Qtr
Toledo 14
Ga Southern 27 3rd Qtr
Georgia State 17
(25) UCLA 24 2nd Qtr 3:49
Colorado 7
Ohio U 7 2nd Qtr 0:36
Western Mich 28
Kent State 0 2nd Qtr 9:00
Miami-Ohio 7
(1) Miss State 2:30 PM
Kentucky
Oregon State 0 1st Qtr 12:43
Stanford 0
Fla Atlantic 0 1st Qtr 12:52
(23) Marshall 0
Louisiana Tech 0 1st Qtr 14:30
Southern Miss 0
Georgia Tech 7 1st Qtr 12:57
Pittsburgh 0
(22) West Virginia 0 1st Qtr 13:04
Oklahoma State 0
Texas Tech 7 1st Qtr 14:09
(10) TCU 0
Michigan 0 1st Qtr 14:53
(8) Michigan State 0
Boston College 0 1st Qtr 13:00
Wake Forest 0
Central Mich 0 1st Qtr 13:49
Buffalo 0
Vanderbilt 3:00 PM
Missouri
Old Dominion 3:00 PM
Western Ky
UNLV 3:00 PM
Utah State
Temple 4:00 PM
UCF
(15) Arizona 5:00 PM
Washington St
Texas-El Paso 6:00 PM
TX-San Antonio
Wyoming 6:00 PM
Colorado State
Syracuse 6:00 PM
(21) Clemson
Texas State 6:00 PM
ULM
(3) Ole Miss 6:15 PM
(24) LSU
(4) Alabama 6:30 PM
Tennessee
So Carolina 6:30 PM
(5) Auburn
(13) Ohio State 7:00 PM
Penn State
(20) USC 9:00 PM
(19) Utah
(14) Arizona State 9:45 PM
Washington
Nevada 10:59 PM
Hawaii
(2) Florida State 10/30/14 6:30 PM
Louisville
Troy 10/30/14 6:30 PM
Ga Southern
Cincinnati 10/31/14 7:00 PM
Tulane
Tulsa 10/31/14 7:00 PM
Memphis
Purdue 11/1/14 2:00 AM
(16) Nebraska
(17) Oklahoma 11/1/14 2:00 AM
Iowa State
Oklahoma State 11/1/14 2:00 AM
(11) Kansas State
(10) TCU 11/1/14 2:00 AM
(22) West Virginia
Texas 11/1/14 2:00 AM
Texas Tech
Northwestern 11/1/14 2:00 AM
Iowa
Maryland 11/1/14 2:00 AM
Penn State
Air Force 11/1/14 10:30 AM
Army
ULM 11/1/14 11:00 AM
Texas A&M
Duke 11/1/14 11:00 AM
Pittsburgh
Wisconsin 11/1/14 11:00 AM
Rutgers
Rice 11/1/14 11:00 AM
FIU
(18) East Carolina 11/1/14 11:00 AM
Temple
UCF 11/1/14 11:00 AM
Connecticut
Boston College 11/1/14 11:30 AM
Virginia Tech
North Carolina 11/1/14 11:30 AM
Miami-Florida
Washington 11/1/14 12:00 PM
Colorado
Central Mich 11/1/14 12:00 PM
Eastern Mich
Western Mich 11/1/14 1:30 PM
Miami-Ohio
Western Ky 11/1/14 2:00 PM
Louisiana Tech
NC State 11/1/14 2:00 PM
Syracuse
Texas State 11/1/14 2:00 PM
New Mexico St
Virginia 11/1/14 2:30 PM
Georgia Tech
BYU 11/1/14 2:30 PM
Middle Tennessee
Indiana 11/1/14 2:30 PM
Michigan
Florida 11/1/14 2:30 PM
(9) Georgia
Georgia State 11/1/14 2:30 PM
Appalachian St
Kentucky 11/1/14 3:00 PM
Missouri
Kansas 11/1/14 3:00 PM
(12) Baylor
Houston 11/1/14 3:00 PM
So Florida
(20) USC 11/1/14 3:30 PM
Washington St
Arkansas State 11/1/14 4:00 PM
Idaho
South Alabama 11/1/14 4:00 PM
Louisiana
New Mexico 11/1/14 4:30 PM
UNLV
UAB 11/1/14 6:00 PM
Fla Atlantic
(5) Auburn 11/1/14 6:00 PM
(3) Ole Miss
Arkansas 11/1/14 6:00 PM
(1) Miss State
Old Dominion 11/1/14 6:00 PM
Vanderbilt
Colorado State 11/1/14 6:00 PM
San Jose St
Stanford 11/1/14 6:30 PM
(6) Oregon
Tennessee 11/1/14 6:30 PM
So Carolina
Southern Miss 11/1/14 7:00 PM
Texas-El Paso
(7) Notre Dame 11/1/14 7:00 PM
Navy
Illinois 11/1/14 7:00 PM
(13) Ohio State
(15) Arizona 11/1/14 9:30 PM
(25) UCLA
California 11/1/14 9:30 PM
Oregon State
San Diego St 11/1/14 9:30 PM
Nevada
Wyoming 11/1/14 9:45 PM
Fresno State
(19) Utah 11/1/14 10:00 PM
(14) Arizona State
Utah State 11/1/14 10:00 PM
Hawaii
Los Angeles 0 1st Half 10:00
Seattle 0
D.C. 3:00 PM
Montreal
Toronto FC 6:30 PM
New England
Portland 7:30 PM
FC Dallas
Colorado 9:00 PM
Vancouver FC
Montreal 23 FINAL
Ottawa 17
Saskatchewan 27 FINAL
Calgary 40
Hamilton 3:00 PM
Toronto
Brt Columbia 6:00 PM
Winnipeg
Hamilton 10/31/14 6:30 PM
Ottawa
Winnipeg 11/1/14 3:00 PM
Calgary
Brt Columbia 11/1/14 6:00 PM
Edmonton
Toronto 11/2/14 11:00 AM
Montreal
Connect with twitterConnect with facebookConnect with Google+Connect with PinterestConnect with PinterestConnect with RssfeedConnect with email newsletters

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

question of the day

Poll: Should the lake where the albino muskie was caught remain a mystery?

Weekly Question

ADVERTISEMENT

 
Close