Reports abound of happy anglers in west central Minn.
WILLMAR -- The consensus is west central Minnesota's 2012 fishing opener experience was an unqualified success. Even those few folks who didn't have much success in the boat had the luxury of sitting around in shirtsleeves and bemoaning their bad luck under calm, sunny skies.
"Overall, it's the best opener I've experienced and heard about in the last 10 years," said Brad Foshaug, of Brad's 71 Bait and Sports in Willmar. "There were a lot of people out, a lot of people caught fish and they were all out having a good time and enjoying themselves."
"It seemed like everybody that could come out came out," said Bud Groen, of Kandiyohi County Park 1, on Big Kandi Lake. "It was a beautiful couple of days."
This weekend's opener seemed to be just the ticket for area anglers after a couple of tough starts to the previous two seasons.
In 2010, anglers were able to get out in T-shirt weather but the take wasn't the best. Last season, fishermen who braved cold, damp weather had few fish to show for their efforts.
This season was the polar opposite of last year, said Jerome Jakobson, of the Little Crow Anglers, who estimated there were 30 percent more anglers out this opener compared to recent years.
"The fishing was good, and I think this was one of the busiest openers we've seen in a long time," Jakobson said. "I heard reports that there 80 rigs out on (Lake) Solomon on Saturday. They had good luck and a lot of people caught fish."
Solomon, as is often the case, "was on fire," Foshaug said. The lake typically cools off after the early hot start, but just about every lake in the area was yielding full stringers.
Greg Melges, of Mel's Sports Shop in Spicer, said the weekend was fulfilling for many fishermen.
"There were lots of panfish taken and Green Lake was hot for walleyes if you found them stacked up," Melges said. "When they did find them, they caught them. Not everybody catches fish, but the general consensus was that everybody was pretty happy."
Reports from Big Kandi were good numbers but smaller sizes, although a couple of anglers netted walleyes in the 24-inch to 26-inch range.
Games Lake was a little slow, said Rita Olson at Kandiyohi County Park 7, but that's not unusual for Games, which picks up on and after Memorial Day.
"People caught bass, which, of course, they had to throw back, and people were catching crappies and sunnies. And there were a couple of stories of walleyes that got away. But we had beautiful weather and a lot of people enjoyed the weekend," she said.
Business for licenses and bait was brisk on Saturday but slowed a bit on Sunday, which was Mother's Day and fairly typical of opening weekends, Foshaug said.
But the reports of good fishing kept coming: Eagle, Elizabeth, Big Kandi, Norway, Andrew all rated good to excellent, he said, especially in the early morning on both Saturday and Sunday.
On Sunday, Jakobson fished Lake Andrew, caught his limit and even released a 27½-inch walleye. Fishing can't get much better than that.
"The weather on Saturday and most of Sunday, fishing-wise, was almost too nice," Jakobson said. "It's nice to have a little wave action to break up the penetration of the sun. It was dead calm."
Conditions over the upcoming few days are expected to be just as good, and opener anglers now have quite a lovely picture in their minds to recall when, inevitably, the tougher conditions return.
"It was a good start and as we go and we do get some inclement weather," Jakobson said with a laugh, "we'll be whining."