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Governor’s Fishing Opener will be icy

Downtown Park Rapids was filled with people for the community picnic to kick off the 2013 Governor’s Fishing Opener weekend. Jean Ruzicka | Forum News Service1 / 2
Gov. Mark Dayton thanks the community of Park Rapids on Friday for hosting the 2013 Governor’s Fishing Opener. Jean Ruzicka | Forum News Service2 / 2

PARK RAPIDS — As of Friday, it appears the Park Rapids’ Governor’s Fishing Opener will be one for the record books.

Ice still remains on the four lakes comprising the Fish Hook chain.

"There’s ice," area Fisheries supervisor Doug Kingsley quipped after a survey. "Lots of it."

Ice is receding on the Fish Hook chain’s shorelines, "but not enough to fish" today, the opening day for inland walleye, northern pike and lake trout.

Gov. Mark Dayton arrived Friday afternoon and addressed the Park Rapids community.

He joked about his past luck with fishing.

"I only hope I don’t disgrace the state of Minnesota and not catch a fish," he said.

Congressman Rick Nolan was also in Park Rapids Friday and praised the community for kicking off the tourism season in style.

Lakes’ inlets and outlets have open water, "but they won’t accommodate" numbers of boats, he said.

While ice on lakes for the opener in recent years may be an anomaly, it’s not unprecedented. Kingsley said Bill Guegel, a former Fisheries supervisor, recalls ice fishing as a kid on Lower Bottle May 20.

"People will find open water," Kingsley said. "It may not be good walleye water, but at least we can wet a line.

"And we’ll make up for it," he predicted of the season ahead. This has been a good year for taking walleye eggs, he reported. "It’s later than usual, but the last several days, a big number of eggs have been taken."

Eggs taken to a hatchery have a higher hatch rate than those in the wild, he explained. The fish are raised to fingerlings to stock lakes without good natural reproduction rates.

Despite conditions – forecasters calling for a cool front moving in today – Explore Minnesota director John Edman reminded fishing hosts that the opener is "part of our tradition, our heritage. Nobody does it with this level of enthusiasm," he said of Minnesotans "celebrating the outdoors.

Lt. Gov. Yvonne Prettner Solon commended the hosts as "incredible troopers and ambassadors. I know hundreds, thousands of hours went into this," she told the 100-plus fishing hosts.

"I’m ready to set my hook," she said. "This is my third opener and I’ve not caught a walleye yet. I want to beat the governor.

"The game is on!"

Park Rapids area lakes will not be alone in this bit of frosty notoriety.

For the first time in 60-plus years, many of Minnesota’s notable fishing lakes will be inaccessible on the opener.

Leech, Lake of the Woods, Winnibigoshish, Vermilion, Red and likely Mille Lacs are among thousands of lakes in the northern third of the state where ice will make fishing either impossible or highly irregular for the state’s most popular outdoor recreation day.

Many anglers might just skip the opener. Earlier this week 160,000 licenses had been purchased. The average by that time for the previous 12 years is more than 291,000.

Article written by Jean Ruzicka and Anna Erickson of Forum News Service,

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