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Anglers find their way for first day of season

Many of these minnows will be on a hook today, the opening day of the 2011 fishing season. Tribune photo by TJ Jerke

WILLMAR -- Trucks, boats, and fishing rods are a common sight throughout Minnesota as the opening day of the 2011 fishing season has many hitting the lakes.

Today marks the season that runs through Feb. 26, 2012, where anglers from across Minnesota and the country flock to their favorite fishing holes in hopes of collecting their daily limit.

Zach Harlan, 17, of Willmar, said he has been selling many night crawlers at J's Bait and Sport on 25th St. SE. and by the looks of this past week many are going to partake of the big weekend.

"It's a big holiday, it's a day to drop everything and go fishing for the weekend," Harlan said. "Even those that don't usually fish go out and try their luck."

Jim Thorpe of Willmar has been planning his opening day trip for about a month with a group of friends who have made it a tradition to fish Diamond Lake on opening day.

Thorpe said opening day is such a large day in Minnesota because of the long winters and the anxiety that gets built up during the cold months.

"It's not just opening day but the fact that the season has started," Thorpe said.

Bruce Dexter also of Willmar, along with Thorpe, said they hope to start the day off early and have some fun.

"It's not all about catching fish but getting on the water with friends and making sure everything works," Dexter said.

Thorpe said while he was waiting for the big weekend, he was taking in various fishing shows and talking about the season with friends.

Although vehicles and boats will cause some commotion, the weather will be the largest obstacle many will face throughout the weekend as the National Weather Service predicts a high temperature of 50 degrees with a 50 percent chance of rain.

Harlan said he didn't expect the weather to cause any problems.

"The weather will not make a difference," Harlan said. "Last year was just as bad and we still had a ton of people."

Brad Carlson, a natural resource specialist in fisheries for the Department of Natural Resources in Spicer, has been stocking the area lakes for the past week and said with the cold weather, the water temperatures are about 60 degrees right now so most anglers will want to stay in shallower water where the temperatures are warmer.

"When the weather is poor sometimes it has some effect on opening day," Carlson said. "With all the wet weather we may have a lot of farmers that can't get out in fields. If it's a bright and sunny warm weekend, it's always a lot better."

Despite the weather, Minnesota Gov. Mark Dayton will be joining the masses throughout Minnesota as he will be casting into Lake Pokegama near Grand Rapids with professional angler Scott Glorvigen as his guide for the 2011 Governor's Fishing Opener.

Lt. Gov. Yvonne Prettner Solon will be near Dayton but dropping her line with Grand Rapids area guide, Gordon Fothergill during the opening day tradition that has lasted 63 years.

As many take the weekend to fish and relax, many agree opening day should be considered a holiday throughout Minnesota.

"It depends on where you're at and where you are working," Carlson said. "It is like another holiday, there's a lot of excitement for first couple of weeks which is usually when your best fishing is."