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Tom Mix, Published May 12 2012

Weather cooperates for Minnesota fishing opener

Richwood, Minn.

It would be hard to imagine better weather conditions for a Minnesota fishing opener than what Scott Brewer and Kyle Agre experienced on Saturday.

The pair casted lines all day under sunny skies on Strawberry Lake located north of Detroit Lakes and just west of the Tamarac National Wildlife Refuge.

Brewer, of Moorhead, and Agre, of Fargo, started their day at 7 a.m. They were fishing for walleyes and caught just one that measured 17 inches. Otherwise, it was mostly northern pike that were biting on Strawberry, a lake known for its water clarity.

The temperature hovered in the 60s most of the day, continuing the almost idyllic weather pattern the region has been experiencing this spring.

“Weather plays such a huge role in fishing this time of year,” said Brewer who is the president of F-M Walleyes Unlimited Inc. – a club that promotes conservation and walleye fishing in the Fargo-Moorhead area. “The weather has been great.

“Even though the fish haven’t been cooperating all that well, in the big scheme of things that’s not that big of a deal. It definitely ranks up there as one of the best openers in a very long time.”

The opener also coincided with Brewer tying out his new 2010 Lund Pro Guide boat equipped with a 150 Mercury engine and state-of-the-art GPS navigational and tracking systems. His boat has the capabilities of tracking its every movement and mapping certain spots where Brewer and Agre caught fish for future reference.

Brewer said there was high activity on Strawberry at sunrise and tapered off in late morning hours, with the peak times for catching walleyes being at sunrise and sunset.

Though the rods weren’t getting much activity, Agre, who is the vice president of F-M Walleyes Unlimited Inc., said the tradition of the opener, the weather and getting back on the lake made Saturday’s opener a good one.

It was also a good chance for Minnesota Department of Natural Resources conservation officer Phil Seefeldt to remind anglers and boaters about regulations for curbing the spread of aquatic invasive species.

The infestation of zebra mussels on Minnesota lakes continues to be a problem and one the DNR is trying to control.

Seefeldt spent the opener patrolling accesses on Big Cormorant Lake and surrounding bodies of water. He and other officers issued several citations and warnings for unplugged drain holes on boats as well as the illegal transportation of live fish with water remaining in on-board live wells and buckets of lake water still in boats from other bodies of water.

“I feel that a lot of the people have heard the education part of it already and I think they are expecting it when they come to the accesses,” Seefeldt said. “People have been really cordial. I think everybody has a concern about the spreading of aquatic invasive species.”

“It’s just a matter of people developing a routine.”

Every boat must be drained completely – including live wells, bait wells, portable bait containers and motors – before leaving an access point and the boat’s plug must remain open during transportation to the next body of water.

Boats exiting lakes known to be infested should be decontaminated by washing the surfaces with water 140 degrees or warmer. The warm water kills microscopic immature zebra mussels called veligers.

The DNR has set up 25 decontaminating washing stations across the state including at Pelican Lake, which is classified as infested body of water.

Anglers and boaters shouldn’t assume every lake not classified as infested is exempt from the new regulations either.

“It would be naïve to think that there couldn’t be any zebra mussels in a lake that hasn’t been designated as infested,” Seefeldt said.

Agre and other anglers are exercising caution when it comes to aquatic invasive species in hopes they can enjoy future fishing openers.

“The analogy I use is that we have grown up hunting and we are taught to treat every gun as if it is loaded, even if it isn’t,” Agre said. “We have to treat and act as if every lake and every boat is infested. When we are removing our boat from a body of water we need to drain it, clean it and let it dry or have it decontaminated.”

The new regulations make transporting live bait from lake to lake a concern that will require anglers to plan ahead. Anglers must have fresh well or spring water on hand. Bait transported in water from another lake is not allowed. Unwanted bait should be disposed in the trash, not the lake.

“For most people that is an inconvenience, but it is an inconvenience we are going to have to live with and learn to adjust to,” Agre said.

Brewer said the experienced, avid angler knows the regulations and is familiar with the proper procedures, but knowledge of aquatic invasive species must continue.

“The problem is not going away and what we need to do now is help people understand that this is the new normal,” Brewer said. “All these new rules are the new normal. You are not going to be able to hop from lake to lake and fish five different lakes in one day anymore.”

On Saturday, Brewer and Agre were content with Strawberry even if the walleyes were sparse.

“That is just the way fishing is,” Brewer said. “If you caught fish every time you went out it wouldn’t be called fishing it would be called catching.”

Readers can reach Forum reporter

Tom Mix at (701) 241-5562