The Free Press, Mankato, MN

Outdoors

April 14, 2012

Cross: Early walleye opener would be both good and bad

— Sometime next week, Minnesota anglers should know if they will be able to hit the water for walleyes a week earlier than normal.

The House already has passed a bill that would move the 2012 Minnesota fishing opener from May 12 to May 5 and action is expected on a Senate version in the next few days.

Assuming it passes in the Senate, all that would remain then for anglers to have an earlier crack at walleyes would be for the governor to sign the legislation.

The inspiration to bump the opener up a week, say the bill’s authors, was the warmer than normal spring that put the walleye spawn ahead of schedule.

Well, that and the fact that after a two-year reprieve, Mother’s Day once again will have to compete with the fishing opening weekend.

Presently, the fishing opener must be on the Saturday two weeks prior to the Memorial Day weekend, a change made several years ago from a long-standing tradition of having it begin on the Saturday falling closest to May 15.

The current opening day ensures that businesses dependent on the opening day fishing rush — resorts, bait stores, etc. — have an extra weekend every year to cash in before the Memorial Day weekend.

Customizing the fishing opener to meet weather conditions is not completely without precedent.

It is common practice during years when spring comes late to delay the fishing opener on certain waters to protect still-spawning walleyes.  

So with the walleye spawn apparently completed across Minnesota this year, moving the opener up a week seemed to some lawmakers to be a reasonable way of maximizing fishing opportunities for angling constituents.

The date would not be without problems, however.

For most resorts, the traditional opening weekend is the kick-off of their operating season. Deliveries of supplies, cabin cleaning, maintenance — they’re all timed to the traditional opener. Moving the opener up this year with such short notice likely would mean that many resorts simply would not be ready in time.

And while fisheries experts within the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources concur with the status of the walleye spawn, they warn that a hot bite on certain lakes where harvest quotas are in place — most notably Lake Mille Lacs — could lead to more restrictive slots later on.

Certainly the folks in Waconia, the host community this year for the traditional Governor’s Fishing Opener, would take a dim view of opening up a week earlier than scheduled.

Given the impossible logistics of rescheduling, the limelight cast on the Governor’s Opener certainly would dim if the official season already started a week earlier.  

Then there is Mother’s Day.

Some of our mothers and wives probably do resent having to share their special day with fish.

Certainly, we anglers need to display the appropriate level of affection and appreciation for our wives and mothers.

But otherwise, I suspect many fishing widows regard the opening weekend as my patient and understanding wife of nearly 40 years does — a bit of a reprieve, a free weekend pass to indulge in their passions, without the distraction of hubby or the kids.

And really, moving the fishing opener up a week earlier still

doesn’t ensure that Minnesota’s moms and wives will bask in the undivided attention of their angling spouses and kids.

Walleyes still may trump the celebration of motherhood.

After all, the fishing in May can be so-o-o good.

Sadly, for being so honest, I now may find my pillow out in the dog’s kennel tonight.

John Cross is a Free Press staff writer. Contact him at 344-6376 or by email at jcross@mankatofreepress.com.

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