By Mike Max

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — Rory Nelson has his boat ready, but he’s closer to the freeway than he is where he guides on Lake Minnetonka.

The lake that is a tradition-rich fishery is occupied by boats and watercraft, turning it into a fisherman’s nightmare.

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“It would be a guide’s paradise if it wasn’t so busy on the lake. When you’re putting other people’s lives in your hands and you have to take care of them in a boat, and there are so many boaters that are unexperienced,” Nelson said.

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It’s not just about being on the water; it’s getting on the water. Boat sales are brisk with less to do. Fishing licenses are at a high, and the boat launches are filled with long lines that demand patience, which quickly congests a lake.

“You can’t fish the spots you want because too many boats are buzzing you. You can’t go around set points because people cut in between you and shore, and the wakeboard boats, just like today we had a gentleman who was anchoring up, I was 100 feet away, and a wakeboard boat came right through,” Nelson said.

(credit: CBS)

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There is another concern for the fishing consumer; close quarters and sharing a boat with a guide means COVID-19 risk.

“A lot of people are holding off from getting into people’s boats because you’re trapped in a place, so we’ve lost a lot of that part of it. People aren’t asking, they’re fishing from shore, they’re buying boats,” he said.

If you can get out, usually early, it has been a banner year for fishing.

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“Fishing has been fantastic. The bass are going good, the walleyes were great earlier. As we get into July, it slows down, but it’s still, I was out this morning, we got over 50 bass, I don’t know, five, six northerns,” he said.

But the only way to get after them with a guide is get after them before sunrise, or endure the watery traffic jam.

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“I don’t want to have someone get hurt in my boat, so it’s either early morning or I don’t go out,” Nelson said.

Mike Max