MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — We are just five days away from the Minnesota fishing opener, and while it’s a little later than normal, the good news is it doesn’t fall on Mother’s Day. That’s one of the reasons more people are heading out.

“I’m going to head up to Leech Lake, try to get up north a little bit,” said Ben Smith, of Isanti.

No matter where you go this fishing opener, there’s a good chance you’ll have company. A year ago fishing license sales spiked across the state, indeed the most in 21 years. And as of now they’re already up 2% compared to this time last year.

“Life is a little more normal at the lake than it has been at other places,” said angler Ann Determan.

The Department of Natural Resources said people holed up by the pandemic were lured outdoors and onto lakes. The big catch was license sales among 16- and 17-year-olds who took to fishing when they couldn’t play sports.

“Last year was incredibly up. This year is going strong. Lots of people fishing, lots of families,” said Greg Fisher.

Fisher is co-owner of Vados Bait and Tackle in Spring Lake Park. Days before the opener, he’s already busy. But there is one thing he could use more of. Spottail shiners are one of the more popular items for the fishing opener but they are expected to be in limited supply, at least to start. Warmer lake temperatures are needed to trap spottail shiners but there are fewer lakes to work with for bait.

“We’ve lost a lot of waters too that are zebra mussel waters. We can’t harvest them the length of time we normally would,” said Fisher. “Years ago we would get gallons and gallons of them we could sell customers.”

But it may not matter. More people fishing means it’s prime time to reel in more business.

“There’s a different vibe this time of year,” said Fisher. “If it’s packed from start to finish then that’s a good thing.”

Even with more people fishing, the DNR said as of now they aren’t planning to change any fishing quotas on lakes. They are reminding anglers that the water temperature will be dangerously cold and they are encouraging people of all ages to wear a life jacket.

John Lauritsen