by Darren Diekmann
Opening fishing for walleye, northern, bass and others opens Saturday, May 12, with anglers making plans to fish locally or go north to favorite destinations, while others will stay home because of obligations or to avoid the crowds altogether.
One of the latest ice-out dates predicted for a number Minnesota lakes this year had many wondering if there would be an opener until a recent stretch of warm weather freed local lakes of ice last week and left resort owners up in the far north to believe lakes will be clear at least a few days before opening.
Ice went out on Lake Minnetonka on May 5 to tie the record in 1857 for the latest ice-out date.
Ice went out on Watab Lake, just north of St. Joseph, at 1 p.m. May 1, according to Al Dahlgren, who lives on the lake and keeps a yearly record of the date to report to the DNR. It is the second latest ice-out date that has been recorded on the Lake.
Not an avid fisherman himself, Dahlgren said he might do some fishing with friends this weekend.
Cabot Headland, who also lives on Watab, and has for more than 40 years, said he is going to stick around and try his luck on his home lake this weekend. He hopes it is a good year for walleye and believes it is going to be good for sunfish, he said. He likes the lake. “It’s small enough that everyone is comfortable. It’s not too windy and you’re close enough to shore” (in case of a minor emergency). He said he expects to see a large group of locals to be out on Watab for the opener.
Lee Eisenscheck, St. Joseph, said he would like to be on Lake Osakis this weekend, “but I’m not sure the ice will be out or even if they will have docks out yet.”
He and his wife Elaine have kept a travel trailer on a resort on Osakis for 25 years and are friends with most of the other 13 seasonal campers. He began staying at that particular resort after the owner invited him to stay after being impressed with some of Eisenscheck’s wood carvings he displayed at a craft show.
Brad Philip, commander of Legion Post 328, said he would love to make the opener but he has to work spraying fields. And he won’t be done with it until mid-August. “I work 18 hours a day seven days a week. . . I might get the boat out on rainy days but that’s about it.” he said. But then, he added it isn’t as much fun to fish in the rain.
Dale Schneider, St. Joseph, said she won’t make the opener either, but only partly because of work. She is a waitress at Sal’s Bar and Grill on the weekends. She doesn’t like the crowds on the lake that first weekend, she said, or on weekends at all for that matter. She fishes during the week, mostly up in Hackensack, near Leech Lake.
Jerry Reischl, St. Joseph, used to fish the opener in the past, but now he too avoids the crowds.
“I don’t do that anymore,” he said. “Too many people trying out their new boats. They fish for a half an hour, then they try to see how fast the new motors will go. That’s not for me.” When he does fish, Reischl said he usually goes to the chain of lakes south of Richmond, a popular destination for several anglers in the St. Joseph area.