Five ways this year’s opener en route to and on Upper Red Lake was different:
• Though traffic northbound Friday afternoon on I-35 was on a par with past openers, traffic on Hwy. 2 into and west of Grand Rapids seemed down, with fewer pickup-boat rigs.
• Northern Minnesota bait shops didn’t appear as busy Friday as they typically are on the day before the opener.
• Access to the bait shop at West Wind Resort on Upper Red Saturday morning was limited to three anglers at a time.
• To encourage social distancing, West Wind restricted the number of boats that could be launched at its access. Still, the lake was as crowded on this opener as it was last year.
• The annual ritual of gathering after fishing in the resort’s restaurant for a beer and burger and to trade tales in its fish-cleaning house were, well, different. Only three anglers at a time were allowed to clean fish, and the restaurant was open for takeout only.