Minnesota is tracking an explosion of interest in fishing as the Department of Natural Resources approaches a peak sales period for fishing licenses.

New information will be released Monday, but sales of licenses two weeks ago were 41% ahead of last year’s pace. The fastest-growing category was “resident youth,” covering licenses sold to 16- and 17-year-olds. Those sales almost doubled to 8,770 licenses in the latest report. Total sales were up to 255,500.

Local bait shop owners have theorized that Minnesotans are turning to fishing to fill a void left by the closure of organized sports like baseball, softball, soccer and spring hockey.

Fishing license sales will spike over the next few days in advance of the traditional fishing opener, set for 12:01 a.m. Saturday.

Anglers this year aren’t worrying about frozen lakes. Ice-outs as far north as the Canadian border were being recorded throughout the week. Some lakes along the Gunflint Trail were still frozen Friday, but lakes as far north as Upper Red Lake northeast of Bemidji were ice-free.

Joe Henry, executive director of Lake of the Woods Tourism, said Friday that there’s plenty of open water on the American side of Lake of the Woods. In addition, all public accesses to the Rainy River and Four-Mile Bay have reopened after a temporary shutdown in April.

But it appears that the Boundary Waters Canoe Area will not open in time for the fishing opener. The U.S. Forest Service said this spring’s closure of the BWCA will be “in conjunction” with Minnesota’s stay-at-home order. The order now runs through May 18.