Early fishing opener slipping off the hook

Ingebrigtsen

Time is running out to kick the Minnesota fishing opener up a week.

Opinions about the issue are changing quickly, Sen. Bill Ingebrigtsen, R-Alexandria, said today after his environment and natural resources committee heard testimony that produced no strong support for the earlier openers.

“I was very open to this thing three weeks ago,” he said about when Sen. Tom Bakk, DFL-Cook, brought up the idea.

“The more people are weighing in on it, the more of a concern it became,” Ingebrigtsen said.

During a 10-day Easter-Passover break, including a trip through the Red River Valley, he heard lots of opposition. “I will be strongly against it on the Senate floor tomorrow, if it comes up.”

Senators plan to debate Ingebrigtsen’s game and fish bill Tuesday, and there could be an attempt to amend the bill to move the opener.

The House amended a bill earlier to push the opener up to May 5, so anglers can get out a week before Mother’s Day weekend. The idea arose because of record-warm March temperatures.

While Ingebrigtsen’s committee made no decision on the issue, it appeared the panel members opposed making the change after hearing from the Department of Natural Resources, resort organizations and anglers.

None of the testifiers took strong stands, but the lukewarm response was not what supporters needed.

Joel Carlson, lobbyist for small resorts, said his members are mixed on the proposal. While the resort owners have been “consistently opposed to advancing the date:” in the past, this spring’s warm weather has opened the door for some, he said.

“They are not mixed in my district,” Sen. John Carlson, R-Bemidji, said. “They don’t want it. I have not had one, not one phone call, not one email, from anyone who wants it.”

With just 20 days left before an early opener, getting things done in time would be difficult. Resorters “are struggling right now to meet the May 12 opener,” said Tony Kwilas, representing larger Minnesota resorts and other hospitality businesses.

“If you are talking about a resort or the guides or whoever it is, it is too late,” Sen. Tim Saxhaug, DFL-Grand Rapids, said.

Had legislators approved the plan three weeks ago, he added, “it would have been fine. As far as I’m concerned, it is a moot point.”

DNR officials said that earlier in the spring it appeared walleye spawning would be earlier than usual, a key factor as to when fishing would be allowed. With a return to more normal temperatures, however, spawning timing appears closer to normal, too.

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