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Minnesota’s fishing opener only a few days away

Minnesota’s general inland fishing season starts at 12:01 a.m. Saturday, May 13, for walleye, northern pike and bass, although bass fishing is catch-and-release only until May 27.

Springtime fishing in central Minnesota.
Jamie, left, and Lynn Harker fish for crappies Monday, May 8, 2023, on Serpent Lake in Crosby. The father and son pair were searching for panfish in the shallows.
Steve Kohls / Brainerd Dispatch

BRAINERD — In just a few short days, anglers will be hitting the open water and dropping a line on Brainerd area lakes for the start of Minnesota’s open water fishing season.

The good news — area lakes appear to be free of ice or close to it. The bad news — there’s a shortage of bait, so anglers will need to search to find what they want or change up their tactics.

James Hope, employee at Sportland Bait & Tackle in Nisswa, said bait harvesters for the past couple of years have been getting fewer minnows than they used to and this winter that number decreased even further because of winter kill due to ice and snow on the bait trapping ponds.

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“Bait is going to be difficult to come by this year,” Hope said. “Prepare for the fact there might not be a lot of bait going around, and get it wherever you can.”

Sherree Wicktor, owner of S & W Bait and Tackle on Highway 371 north of Brainerd, said if anyone asked her a week ago whether she would have bait in time for the fishing opening, she would reply it was doubtful. Now, though, she said she’s taking a wait-and-see approach as bait supplies are slowly coming in.


“Our shortage is everything. It isn’t just the stuff for the walleyes. Starts with crappie minnows and works its way up,” Wicktor said. “So people can’t be too fussy when they come in. They’re just going to have to be a little happier this year than normal.”

Anglers may also need to contend with the weather, as rain is forecast into the weekend, according to the National Weather Service in Duluth.

On Friday, a high temperature of 75 degrees is expected, with rain showers likely, mainly after 2 p.m. Rain showers are expected to continue Friday night into Saturday morning, with a low temperature of 53 degrees expected. On Saturday, the high temperature is expected to be in the low 60s with rain showers during the day along with thunderstorms after 2 p.m. The forecast also calls for 15 mph winds Friday and Saturday, with gusts 25-30 mph possible.

While there is a chance of rain Sunday, the weather service’s forecast calls for mostly sunny skies and a high temperature of 68 degrees, though 15 mph winds are expected to continue, with gusts up to 20 mph.

But even rain hasn’t kept anglers away for crappie fishing, which is open year-round. Hope said last weekend their parking lot was full at times at their new location near the water slide on Crow Wing County Highway 77 west of Highway 371 in Nisswa.

Rain or shine, Hope expects more of the same for the fishing opener.

“We think it’s going to be a really busy fishing opener this year,” Hope said. "Seems that everybody wants to get back on the water again, and I can understand that.”


Reminders for anglers

  • Minnesota’s general inland fishing season starts at 12:01 a.m. Saturday, May 13, for walleye, northern pike, stream trout (in lakes) and bass, although bass fishing is catch-and-release only until May 27. Panfish fishing, including perch, sunfish and crappies, is allowed all year. Musky season starts June 3. Fishing on Lake Superior for salmon and some trout runs all year. North Shore stream fishing for rainbow trout is allowed all year. Trout stream fishing opened April 16.
  • As usual, all mothers in Minnesota can fish for free over Mother’s Day weekend, May 13-14. New this year, moms can participate in the Mother’s Day weekend fishing challenge sponsored by the DNR. Moms must first join the Minnesota Moms Fishing Challenge Facebook group and then submit one photo of each fish they catch. All participants who submit a fish will be entered in a random drawing for prizes provided by the Student Anglers Organization, including Scheels' gift cards.
  • To fish in Minnesota, all anglers 16 years or older are required to buy a Minnesota fishing license. Check out various license options — individual, senior, husband-wife, hunting/fishing combination — and buy your license at dnr.state.mn.us/licenses/online-sales.html , by calling 888-665-4236 or at many sporting goods stores statewide. The basic resident adult fishing license for a year is $25 and $51 for nonresidents.
  • To avoid a delay in receiving a three-year boat sticker, boaters are encouraged to renew registrations online or at a local deputy registrar's office rather than by mail. If they renew online, they can print out the confirmation page to use as their temporary permit. Boaters also may write down their temporary authorization number from the confirmation page. The registration card and expiration decals will then be mailed to the boat owner. Renew at dnr.state.mn.us/licenses/online-sales.html .
  • A trout stamp is required to fish (for any species) in designated trout water or to harvest trout from any water.
  • Minnesota fishing regulations, including those new for 2023, and more information can be found in the Minnesota Fishing Regulations booklet available wherever licenses are sold at mndnr.gov/fishing .
  • The DNR translated the state’s 2023 fishing regulations into Hmong, Karen, Somali and Spanish: the four most commonly spoken languages, apart from English, in Minnesota.
  • New limits for gar are in effect this year. Anglers, spearers and bowfishers have a new possession limit in 2023 of up to 10 gar — the toothy, prehistoric fish native to Minnesota waters. The gar regulation change is part of a larger effort to sustainably manage gar and other native fish including buffalo, sucker, freshwater drum, bowfin, goldeye and bullhead, because these fish are critical contributors to aquatic ecosystems.

MATT ERICKSON, Editor, may be reached at matt.erickson@brainerddispatch.com or 218-855-5857.

Matt Erickson joined the Brainerd Dispatch in 2000 as a reporter, covering crime and courts and the city of Brainerd. In 2012 he was promoted to night editor and in 2014 was promoted to editor of the newspaper.
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