With the possible exception of portions of Lake of the Woods and some other northern border waters, Minnesota’s 4,500 fishing lakes and 16,000 miles of fishable rivers should be ice-free and generally in good condition when the state’s inland angling season begins Saturday at 12:01 a.m.

The statewide walleye spawn occurred within a normal range of dates this spring, and as a result fishing is expected to be good. Action likely will be better for male walleyes, many of which will remain in or near spawning areas, which generally are shallower and warmer than other waters.

Some 500,000 anglers are expected to be afield Saturday, and will ring up a significant portion of the $2.4 billion in fishing-related retail sales registered annually in Minnesota, according to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. The state ranks third nationally in angling-related sales.

Opener weather is forecast to be seasonal, with highs in the low 60s south and the low 50s north. Late morning and early afternoon showers are possible statewide. Morning winds are expected to be southerly, changing to westerly and/or northwesterly later in the day. The forecast calls for slightly brisker winds in the south than north, perhaps in the 10- to 12-mile-an-hour range.

 

Ice-out overview

Ice-out dates on some of the state’s largest walleye-producing lakes were close to their historical medians, including:

• Leech: Ice out, May 2. Median: April 28. Latest: May 23, 1950.

• Mille Lacs: Ice out, April 28. Median: April 25. Latest: May 16, 2013.

• Minnetonka: Ice out, April 20. Median: April 13. Latest: May 5, 2018.

• Vermilion: Ice out, April 30. Median: April 30. Latest: May 23, 1950.

• Otter Tail: Ice out, April 27. Median: April 15. Latest: May 13, 2013.

• Kabetogama: Ice out, April 30. Median: April 29. Latest: May 18, 1996.

• Crane: Ice out, April 24. Median: April 27. Latest: May 14, 2014.

 

Caution advised on rivers

Many major Minnesota rivers remain high, with some at flood levels, and the Department of Natural Resources (DNR) urges anglers to use caution while boating these waters.

On some rivers, public accesses might be affected by the high water. Otherwise, said Nancy Stewart, DNR water recreation program consultant, “Boaters will find good launch conditions at most public accesses for the fishing opener.’’

 

Number of licenses sold down

Through Monday, the DNR sold 244,081 fishing licenses, compared to the 261,401 licenses issued last year at the same time.

This year’s 244,081 is lower than the number sold at the same time in six of the past nine years. It’s likely the late-arriving spring delayed purchases that will be made later in the week, or in early summer.