What Minnesota anglers need to know about Saturday's new-look fishing opener

One of Minnesota’s great springtime traditions is going to look different this year, says the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources.

Saturday marks Minnesota’s fishing opener for walleye, bass, trout and northern pike, but the DNR is asking Minnesota anglers to adjust their habits slightly to help combat COVID-19 in small communities.

“We need for Minnesotans to fish close to home,” said DNR Commissioner Sarah Strommen. “This is not the time to travel long distances to fish since travel can spread the COVID-19 virus, particularly to rural communities that may have more virus-vulnerable populations.”

Strommen and the DNR outlined the following parameters for fishing-related travel this spring:

  • No overnight stays
  • Bring all needed supplies with you
  • Only go as far as you can travel and return on a single tank of gas

The DNR noted many anglers are used to visiting convenience stores, gas stations and grocery stores in fishing communities along with boat ramps. Those visits can increase the chance of COVID-19 transmission to small town residents who also use those same businesses.

When on the water, the DNR is asking residents to only boat with those in their immediate household and maintain a six-foot distance from other boats. Beaching or rafting with other boats is also not allowed this spring.

At boat launches and on docks, the DNR is asking that anglers give each other space and exercise patience as people load and unload boats.

Boaters and fishermen should also expect fewer amenities at fishing locations, as DNR staff have not been able to complete spring maintenance during the pandemic. For instance, courtesy docks will not be in place in some locations and other public and private access sites may not be open.

To avoid crowds at license agents, the DNR is asking everyone to buy fishing licenses online or on phones at mndnr.gov/buyalicense.

Increased DWI and traffic enforcement

The Minnesota State Patrol also announced plans for increased patrols around popular fishing spots this weekend for the fishing opener. 

The State Patrol said it will be increasing traffic enforcement along interstates and highways leading to the popular areas. Last year, six people were killed on Minnesota roads during fishing opener weekend and 21 more were seriously injured, a sharp increase from 2018. 

In addition, those crews will be paying close attention to possible DWI activity. During the 2019 fishing opener, law enforcement made 330 DWI arrests statewide. 

As always, the State Patrol encouraged motorists to be extra careful about securing their loads when hauling fishing gear and boats to fishing spots this season.