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Don Davis, Forum News Service, Published March 29 2012

Anglers say warm weather harmful

ST. PAUL – Minnesotans expect temperatures in the 70s, maybe reaching the 80s in places, when April debuts on Sunday, but the continued warm weather worries anglers.

The record-breaking 2012 warmth is hurting their sport and businesses that support it after a series of warmer-than-normal winters. They fear it will kill game fish.

“We are very concerned about keeping our rural communities healthy,” said John Lenczewski, executive director of Minnesota Trout Unlimited.

About 2 million Minnesota anglers create $4.8 million in economic activity and 43,000 jobs annually.

Outdoors and conservation groups said Thursday that the warm weather hurts fish that need cold weather. They fear some fish may die off as water temperatures rise, providing an opening for invasive species such as Asian carp to move in.

“Trout, steelhead and salmon are cold water species,” Lenczewski said.

Early snowmelts with less snow force fish to live in shallower water, he added, which reduces fish numbers.

In most of Minnesota, especially the north, ice fishing is important to the economy, said Keith Blomstrom, president of the Minnesota Conservation Federation.

“There are icehouses for sale all over in north Minnesota,” Blomstrom said. “Snowmobiling is a thing of the past.”

Restaurants, bars and other businesses that depend on outdoors-related business “are hurting all over northern Minnesotan,” he said.

State officials tracking recreation businesses have no reports of any permanently closing because of the warming climate, but some ski resorts had shorter seasons.

The state Department of Natural Resources is studying how the warming trend affects fish.

Minnesota’s marquee fish, the walleye, may be affected by a warmer climate, but Minnesota “will likely always be very good for growing walleye,” said the DNR’s Andy Carlson.

As temperatures climb, he said, walleye may grow faster in warmer waters and there may be more in central Minnesota waters.

Don Davis reports for Forum Communications Co.

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