Like so many things in this time of a pandemic, Minnesota’s time-honored fishing opener won’t be quite the same this year.
This is the weekend when Minnesotans usually dig out their tackle boxes, hitch up their boats and line the highways to their favorite spots across the state.
But this year, Department of Natural Resources officials are urging Minnesotans to fish close to home, keeping in the spirit of Gov. Tim Walz’s stay-at-home order.
“This is not the time to travel long distances to fish, since travel can spread the COVID-19 virus, particularly to rural communities that may have more virus-vulnerable populations,” said DNR Commissioner Sarah Strommen.
Staying close to home, according to DNR and state health officials, means no overnight stays, traveling no farther than what can be done to and from on a single tank of gas or a single charge for EV drivers, and bringing all the necessary supplies. Officials suggest anglers buy their fishing licenses online and then save them to their smartphones.
The stay-at-home order doesn’t expressly prohibit people from traveling to their cabins. But again, state officials strongly advise people to stay close to home so they don’t spread of the virus in rural communities that are home to older residents and American Indians, both groups that have a higher incidence of underlying health conditions that make them more vulnerable to the virus.
Anglers often visit convenience and grocery stores and gas stations — the same places small-town residents go and where one viral transmission could have a serious impact on a rural community, Strommen said.
While at boat launches, shore fishing areas and fishing piers, anglers are reminded to stay at least 6 feet from those who live in other households. DNR officials advise anglers to share a boat only with those in their immediate household and maintain a minimum 6-foot distance from other boats.
If ramps are crowded, anglers are asked to find another fishing spot.
“Let’s remember that part of the fishing opener tradition is teaching the next generation,” Strommen said. “Let’s teach them to protect our fellow Minnesotans by finding the many wonderful fishing opportunities we have close to home. It’s an important lesson that goes beyond fishing. We can have a great opener and stay safe.”