The 66th annual Governor’s Fishing Opener set for this weekend in Park Rapids may be one for the record books.
As of today, many lakes in the area still have lots of ice, enough so that even a couple of days of warm temperatures are unlikely to make it disappear in time for Saturday’s walleye opener.
Dennis Mackedanz of Park Rapids is in charge of this year’s event. He figures the ice on most lakes will shrink enough so that anglers will be able to find at least some open water.
“I’ve been watching it every day this past week,” Mackedanz said. “We’ve made significant progress in the last few days. Several of the lakes look like they’re going to have open water by Saturday morning. The question is, is it the whole lake? Probably not.”
Fortunately, the people of Park Rapids have a “Plan B.” Gov. Mark Dayton will likely spend a lot of time fishing the Fish Hook River, which enters Fish Hook Lake from the south.
Jason Durham, a Nevis kindergarten teacher, will guide the governor for the day. Durham, who’s been an area fishing guide for 22 years, said visitors to the Park Rapids area won’t have too much trouble finding open water for fishing.
Public access landings, however, may not have docks installed yet, as the state Department of Natural Resources and local counties couldn’t get that work done while there was still ice along the shores.
“The fortunate thing for our community is that we have so many lakes situated close by, and a lot of those are smaller bodies of water, most of them under 2,000 acres,” Durham said. “So we’re going to have other areas to fish, because those lakes have opened up, so anglers are going to go lots of different directions and fish a lot of different lakes.”
Here’s what a lot of northern Minnesota lakes look like this week.
This City of Bemidji work crew is busy with spring clean-up on the shore of Lake Bemidji. But most of the lake is still covered in ice. Open water began appearing this week following several days of warm weather, but there will still likely be ice on the lake on Saturday.
That’s probably going to be true for most larger lakes in northern Minnesota.
Here’s a Department of Natural Resources map that pinpoints which lakes are free of ice. The DNR relies on data from the public, so it’s certainly not accurate. But it does show that the state has a long way to go before all if its waters are ice free.