The Free Press, Mankato, MN

Outdoors

December 15, 2013

Cross: Happy (ice-fishing) days are here already

The cold weather that arrived early and hard these past few weeks has been no small source of complaining.

Not that grousing about it does much good, anyway.

But the same weather that has many folks wearing frowns has people like Paul Rosenberg, Ryan White, Cathy Winkler and Walt Hohn smiling.

After weathering a succession of years when the hard water season was late in coming, the area bait-and-tackle store owners already are doing a brisk business as ice anglers head to area lakes now coated with strong, clear ice.

At the Bobber Shop in Mankato, owner Rosenberg was doing a brisk business.

“This has been the best start of the ice-fishing season in the last seven or eight years,” he said between customers queuing up to buy bait and tackle.

At White’s Corner Bait in Madison Lake, it is a similar story.

“It’s been phenomenal, the busiest I’ve been by far,” he said. “Even the wholesale bait dealers have said it has been the best they’ve seen in 20 years.”

Cathy Winkler, owner of Winkler’s Live Bait Farm in Mankato, agreed that the early and solid arrival of winter conditions have been good for the bait business.

Winkler, who sells bait on both a wholesale and retail level, said the early start to the ice-fishing season this year will take a little of the financial sting away from the slow spring.

“It was so cold this spring that for awhile, we weren’t even able to get leeches or shiners,” she said.

Indeed, many lakes in Minnesota still were ice-covered for the opening weekend of the Minnesota Fishing Opener on May 11.

And adding insult to injury, it also snowed across many areas of the state on the opener, putting a chill on many Minnesotans’ desire to wet a line on what normally is the the biggest fishing weekend of the season.

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