Diehard anglers are likely in the know, but not everyone may realize that the Minnesota walleye and northern pike fishing opener does not fall on Mother's Day weekend this year.
Mother's Day is Sunday, May 9; the fishing opener follows a week later, on Saturday, May 15.
To many, it may seem like the May 15 fishing opener is late, but in a way it's not.
"Technically, it used to be the weekend closest to the 15th," said Sherree Wicktor, owner of S&W Bait on Highway 371 north of Brainerd/Baxter. "This year, May has five weekends and one is the 15th. So when you look at it that way, it's right where it belongs."
May 15 is the latest possible opener under Minnesota statute, which says the walleye and northern pike opener is the Saturday two weeks prior to the Saturday of Memorial Day weekend, the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources said in a news release.
"In the long run, it actually tends to work out better when (opening day) is a couple days later. Conditions warm up, product availability, as far as live bait, is always better."
— Jason Erlandson, Dave's Sportland Bait and Tackle, Nisswa
Jason Erlandson, manager at Dave's Sportland Bait and Tackle in Nisswa, said the opener feels a bit later this year as people usually expect it to fall between May 10-12. He expects some customers to be a bit confused by it. However, he feels a later start date can actually be to everyone's benefit.
"In the long run, it actually tends to work out better when (opening day) is a couple days later," he said. "Conditions warm up, product availability, as far as live bait, is always better. If we get warmer weather and a couple of extra days, it usually helps stores and anglers get what they want. Really, fishing tends to be a little better too."
Of course, those who remember Mother's Day based on when fishing opener is should be vigilant and not get confused.
"The guys better remember Mother's Day is the weekend before," Wicktor said. "They better make sure they do flowers or whatever, otherwise they may have trouble on opener."
The DNR also issued a correction for the fishing guidelines book, which listed the wrong dates for Take a Mother Fishing Weekend, when Minnesota mothers can fish without purchasing a license. This year's event is Saturday and Sunday, May 8-9. Minnesota statute defines that event as the weekend coinciding with Mother's Day.
"The guys better remember Mother's Day is the weekend before (fishing opener). They better make sure they do flowers or whatever, otherwise they may have trouble on opener."
— Sherree Wicktor, S&W Bait north of Brainerd/Baxter
Ice has been off the lakes well in advance of the opener; however, bait shops are still waiting for water temperatures to warm so they can stock spottail shiners.
"They haven't started to run yet," Wicktor said. "The water has to be warm long enough and they have to run in areas we are allowed to trap them. So hopefully it warms up not too early, but early enough for us to get them."
Shiners are usually the most popular bait for opening weekend. Wicktor said she expects people to use many of the classic fishing opener tactics.
"I'm going to guess most of them will be shallow," Wicktor said. "Traditionally, spottail shiners or golden shiners, or some people use leeches on opener, but that's kind of a toss-up. It used to be all about Lindy rigs but nowadays it's half Lindy rigs and half jigging. The younger generation prefers to jig and the older generation prefers Lindy rigs."
For Erlandson, shiner availability is yet another reason a later opening day may be good.
"In years where it’s colder or there is an early opener, that stuff is harder to get," he said. "Bait trappers haven’t been able to spend as many days getting them and when the water is colder, it’s a little more challenging. This year, with an extra timeframe and hopefully warmer conditions, I assume that should be in better shape for people."
Wicktor is hopeful this year's opener will be another successful opener, as it was last year. She and other bait shop owners are also likely hoping to retain the new and returning anglers who turned to fishing last year when many other activities were canceled because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
"Last year we had a lot of younger people get into fishing, and people who hadn't fished before, because they couldn't do anything else," Wicktor said. "I'm hoping enough of them got hooked on it that they stay fishing. For my industry, I think it was a decent year. We're having trouble getting everything, just like everybody else, but I think it's going to be a good year."
Wicktor did say, however, that she anticipates a lasting bait shortage due to restrictions on where and how bait can now be trapped.
"There's going to be a shortage from now on as far as bait goes," she said. "We have so many regulations. We can't import anymore. We can't trap infested waters, which are most of our lakes nowadays. It cuts down on where we get our bait. And you can't hold the minnows too long because they get old."
Erlandson echoed that sentiment, saying some products may be harder to come by this year, at least early on in the season.
"Supplies are a little more limited, so if you find what you want, I wouldn’t wait,” Erlandson said. “We're sitting OK at this point, but I know there are places where that is going to be a big challenge for them."
Travis Grimler may be reached at 218-855-5853 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Facebook and on Twitter at www.twitter.com/@PEJ_Travis.
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