By John Lauritsen

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — Another winter storm would be the last thing the state’s fishing industry needs.

Many bait shops and resort owners say business was down this winter because it was simply too cold to be on the ice.

And propane prices made it expensive to heat fish houses.

“Last spring was the worst spring we’ve had,” said Josh Stevenson, the owner of Blue Ribbon Bait and Tackle in Oakdale. “I’ve owned this place for 10 years, and I think up north was even worse.”

For Stevenson, last spring wasn’t really a spring at all, more like an extended winter. He’s worried this spring could be even worse for business.

That’s because reeling in customers is much harder without any bait.

Bait sales were down 20 percent for Stevenson last spring because the winter was hard on bait suppliers.

Now, early in the season, fathead minnows are in short supply and the ice and cold are responsible once again.

“Most of the lakes still have ice,” he said. “If I have a shortage for a few guys going to the river, I can’t imagine what it’s going to be like when everybody wants bait in a few weeks.”

Legendary Minnesota fishing guide Dick “The Griz” Grzywinski is also finding it hard to get any bites.

Because of the weather, he’s had 10 cancellations over the past week and a half.

“That takes care of your business right there,” Grzywinski said. “They want to go out and enjoy themselves. Not sit with a rain suit.”

A run of 60 and 70 degree weather could change things quickly. But with the way things have gone, Stevenson said even average weather would help.

“I just wish the best for everybody,” he said. “I hope it turns around and we get some really warm weather.”

John Lauritsen