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2008 Minnesota fishing licenses expire on April 30

The 2008 Minnesota fishing license expires on April 30. Anglers ages 16 and older need to purchase 2009 licenses after May 1.

Minnesota offers lifetime sporting licenses for most types of hunting and fishing. The price of the lifetime license is based on the age group of the individual angler.

One of the better deals in the lifetime fishing license program is for a 15-year-old angler to buy a lifetime license for $300, before the price increases to $383 at age 16. (Unfortunately there is no longer a discounted fishing license for senior citizen residents of Minnesota).

Anglers can get more information about the lifetime license program for hunting and fishing at the DNR website or at any store that sells licenses.

There was a significant amount of melting on the area lakes this past week. Most of the ice has turned a dark shade of grey and is starting to pull away from shore.

Some small lakes to the west and south of Bemidji already have open water. Most lakes north and east of Bemidji still have ice. Lakes in the Bemidji area should lose their ice sometime this week.

Large lakes like Mille Lacs, Winnibigoshish, Red, Leech and Lake of the Woods take longer to melt because of the amount of ice on the lakes. Big ice cubes take longer to melt than small ice cubes, with the same principle applying to lakes.

The usual ice-out scenario for lakes is that once the ice breaks loose from shore, a storm will blow the ice pack tight to shore. After the front passes, the wind shifts and increases which blows the ice toward the opposite shore with enough force to break up the ice pack.

There are only two weeks left before the walleye opener in Minnesota, so anglers don't have a lot of time to get everything ready.

Anglers with boats need to check if anything was damaged over the winter. Common problems include dead batteries and corrosion on anything electrical. Frozen water may have damaged the live well, bilge pumps or lower units on outboard motors.

There can be condensation problems with built-in gas tanks, which can usually be prevented with by adding fuel stabilizers in the fall. Most condensation issues can be fixed with a fuel additive and some fresh gas.

Many anglers use the same reels for both ice fishing and open water fishing, so reels need to be switched back to the open water rods.

Reels should be filled with fresh line to start the season and then changed periodically during the season. Light line needs to be changed more often than heavy line.

Most anglers use 4-pound test line on trout or light panfish rods. Six-pound test line usually works well for walleye jigging rods or heavy panfish rods. Live bait rods for walleyes usually work best with 8-pound test line and crankbait rods should be spooled with 10 or 12-pound test line for the best results.

Spring is a good time to clean and grease fishing reels, to keep them at peak performance. Many anglers clean out the grease in their reels in the fall for ice fishing and then add fresh grease in the spring for open water fishing.

Anglers are able to fish for panfish as soon as the ice is off the lakes. It is also a good idea to take the boat out for a test run before the opener to be sure everything is in working order.

If anglers find the mother-lode of crappies on their favorite crappie lake, they may want to consider entering the annual spring crappie tournament at Bluewater Outdoors. Bluewater will be hosting the event on May 2, assuming there is open water in the Bemidji area by then.

Two-person teams are allowed to fish crappies on any lake that is open to the public. Anglers can get entry forms and more information by stopping at Bluewater Outdoors during regular business hours or by calling 218-444-2248.

Paul A. Nelson runs the Bemidji Area Lakes Guide Service. He can be contacted by calling 218-759-2235.