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Published May 02, 2013, 10:14 AM

Minnesota anglers wonder if they'll see icy fishing opener

DULUTH, Minn. (AP) — With Wisconsin's fishing opener this weekend and Minnesota's a little more than a week away, many anglers and outfitters who are gazing out at ice covered lakes have divided opinions on whether they'll have enough open water for this year's annual rite of spring.

DULUTH, Minn. (AP) — With Wisconsin's fishing opener this weekend and Minnesota's a little more than a week away, many anglers and outfitters who are gazing out at ice covered lakes have divided opinions on whether they'll have enough open water for this year's annual rite of spring.

"I don't see it happening with this weather," said Darwin Markgraf of God's Country Outfitters, north of Grand Rapids. "I'm thinking it's going to happen on Memorial Day weekend."

Scott VanValkenburg, of Fisherman's Corner in Pike Lake, has more hope — but he's 80 miles farther south.

"I feel pretty confident by opener (the ice) will be gone," he said. "But it's going to be nip and tuck."

Minnesota's fishing opener is May 11. The Duluth News Tribune reported Thursday that even though ice is prevalent on bigger, deeper lakes, some areas near moving water have opened up.

Rick Leonhardt of High Banks Resort on Lake Winnibigoshish, said areas along the dam are open, as is Little Winnibigoshish Lake, just downstream.

"I think there will be enough room for people to fish," he said. "It's going to be crowded, but there will be areas."

In some places where the ice is likely to be out, the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources has posted fishing closures to protect spawning walleyes, which are spawning later than usual and could be vulnerable.

Markgraf said some anglers have told him that if lakes are still ice-covered, they might go ice-fishing just for the novelty of it.

"I'd caution people not to do that," said Tim Goeman, DNR regional fisheries supervisor at Grand Rapids. "That's risky any way you cut it. That ice is deteriorating."

The situation is more touch-and-go in Wisconsin, where the fishing opener is Saturday. Some lakes are opening, but many will likely still be frozen.

Creativity will be the name of the game at the Governor's Fishing Opener, to be held on Lake Namekagon, said James Bolen, executive director of the Cable Area Chamber of Commerce. Lake Namekagon was just beginning to open along its north shore on Wednesday.

"But we need it to open by some boat landings to get some boats out," he said.

Bolen, who joked that he had asked U.S. Coast Guard in Duluth to use its cutter to break up the ice, said some guides will paddle guests down the Namekagon River, which is open.

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