Minnesota anglers are anxiously awaiting the fishing opener that's just two weeks away, but many are wondering whether the weather will keep them on ice this year.
According to the Department of Natural Resources, it's a real possibility -- especially since even the southern lakes with open water will likely still feel the effects of the frozen lakes farther north.
At Wayzata Bait & Tackle, it's already been a strange and slow spring.
"Never ice fishing on the fishing opener that I can remember," said Tim Sonenstahl. "I can remember them wearing snowmobile suits and having snow storms and stuff, but nothing that had ever stopped them from getting out on the boat on the opener."
Sonenstahl watched the ice houses leave Lake Minnetonka two months ago, and he's been waiting for the ice out ever since. Now, he's hoping for any open water for this year's fishing opener.
"Minnetonka is sitting right now with about 18 inches of ice," he said. "They're going to have ice up north no matter what because they are sitting on over 30 inches on most of the lakes up there plus 18 inches of snow."
While he believes some anglers may stay closer to the metro on May 11, Sonenstahl said that's not necessarily good in the long run -- for business or for bait.
"It's going to put more pressure on the southern part of the state," he predicted. "There are not a lot of big walleye lakes in the southern part of the state, and that's the main fish they want to target for the opener."
As for bait to entice a bite, Sonenstahl said minnows may be tough to come by.
"Ice or no ice here, the bait conditions are going to be tough," he said. "That's where we get our bait from, is up north. You have to have open water to get the fish to swim to get into the minnow traps so they can be shipped down here to be sold."
Historically, state climatologists say it may not be the first time ice will be far from out on opening day.
"It all depends on the weather," said Pete Boulay, a climatologist with the DNR. "If things turn and you have a long stretch of warm -- above normal -- days, a lot of wind, sunshine, that will help. That will really erode the ice quickly."
So far, organizers promise that -- no matter what -- the governor's opener will be a go, but the DNR is doubling down on water warnings.
"We are definitely reminding people the ice is just not safe right now," said Kara Owens. "Think about cold water, because even if there is an ice out in the body of water that you are fishing in, the impacts of cold water can be very deadly."
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