The only ice that anglers will encounter this weekend on Minnesota's fishing opener will be in their coolers or glasses.

And besides open water, decent weather with partly cloudy skies and temperatures in the 60s should greet the expected half-million anglers who will wet a line beginning Saturday. Cooler temperatures and a better chance of rain are forecast for Sunday.

Still not bad, considering anglers have sometimes faced snow squalls on the opener.

The last of the winter's ice was expected to depart far northeastern Minnesota lakes before Saturday, meaning we experienced an early ice-out statewide this spring.

"It was about 10 days early, and definitely earlier than the last two years," said Pete Boulay of the Department of Natural Resource's climatology office. "It's a nice change."

Ice-out on Lake of the Woods was declared last Thursday, and the ice departed Sea Gull Lake on the Gunflint Trail on Friday and on Saganaga Lake on Saturday.

For anglers, the only potential fly in the ointment is a lack of water.

"They will find low water levels," said Nancy Stewart, DNR boating access program coordinator. Lack of snow and rain has left many lakes low, which means anglers could be more susceptible to hitting sandbars, stumps and rocks.

"Call ahead, talk to locals, make sure you're prepared," Stewart advised.

The DNR's 1,600 public boat landings will be ready by Saturday, she said, and the other 1,400 public accesses should be ready, too.

Doug Smith