Whatever the condition of Minnesota lakes on the May 12 Fishing Opener — ice-covered or not — the approximately 1,500 public accesses managed by the Department of Natural Resources (DNR) might be in less-than-ideal shape, the agency warned this week.

“I want Minnesotans to know that we are doing everything we can to get ready for the Fishing Opener,” DNR Commissioner Tom Landwehr said, “but mostly what we need are warmer temperatures and sunshine.”

In total, the state has about 3,000 public-water access sites, about half managed by the DNR’s parks and trails division.

“Winter weather is always a challenge to Minnesota’s public water access sites,” Nancy Stewart, DNR water recreation program consultant, said. “Because of the late ice-out this year, DNR crews will have a shorter window than usual to get boat ramps and docks ready for the May 12 fishing opener, but we will have as many of them ready as possible.”

Repairs are regularly needed to accesses after Minnesota winters, Stewart said, in part because freezing temperatures and ice cause concrete to crack and buckle on the ramps. This year, widespread snow has prevented crews from assessing and repairing damage.

Public lands defended

Under the microscope nationwide and in Minnesota, public lands will be the focus today in St. Paul, when hunters, anglers, hikers, paddlers and other outdoor users rally at 3 p.m. in the Capitol rotunda.

In recent years, hunters and anglers have fought state and national legislative efforts intended to sell off public lands or prevent their acquisitions, David Lien of Grand Rapids, Minn., noted recently in an Op-Ed published in the Grand Rapids Herald Review.

In Minnesota, efforts to promote the “no-net-gain” of public lands also has gained favor among some legislators and county administrators, Lien added.

Organized by Minnesota Backcountry Hunters and Anglers and co-hosted by the Minnesota Conservation Federation, the Minnesota Deer Hunters Association, the Minnesota Environmental Partnership, Pheasants Forever, Ducks Unlimited and Sportsmen for the Boundary Waters, among other outdoor groups, the gathering is intended to remind legislators that outdoor recreation in Minnesota is a multibillion-dollar business that depends on public lands.

More information is at mnpubliclandsday.org