Sales of Minnesota fishing licenses are outstripping last year by a long shot and are running ahead of the past several years, according to the Department of Natural Resources. Minnesota’s inland fishing opener is Saturday. Sales through the weekend before opener were at 315,252, up from about 237,000 last year and about 152,000 in 2013.
Aaron Ramsey at Fisherman’s Corner in Duluth thinks he knows why: “Basically, because we’re going to have an opener,” Ramsey said.
He’s referring to the fact that the past two winters have lingered far too long into spring, and anglers were unsure whether ice would leave many northern lakes before opening day. This year, the snowmelt and ice out were ahead of schedule, and warm weather has gotten anglers to thinking about fishing — and buying their licenses.
You’d have to go back to 2005, 2006 and 2007 to find years when license sales were ahead of this year’s.
Tim Goeman, DNR regional fisheries supervisor at Grand Rapids, says several factors play into fishing license sales before opener.
“Certainly, it’s linked to the nice weather and the early spring,” Goeman said. “People are just planning to go fishing. A lot of anglers are pretty fair-weather anglers. They’ll go when it’s nice, but if it’s not nice or they’d have to contend with ice on the water or nasty weather, they don’t go fishing.”
But factors such as relatively low gasoline prices (at about $2.35 instead of near $4 per gallon) also can make a difference, Goeman said.
“It’s also been a while since we’ve had a license fee increase,” he said. “Initially, that keeps some people away.”
While early license sales are encouraging to the DNR, the whole story won’t be told until season’s end.
“Were there more people fishing, or is the total not much different?” Goeman said. “But typically, early sales are an indicator of total sales.”
Ramsey, at Fisherman’s Corner, said it’s ironic that license sales are up and anglers are eager to fish, when low water levels may make launching boats more difficult on some lakes, especially reservoir lakes in the Duluth area.
“Everything is so low,” Ramsey said Tuesday. “On Island and Boulder (lakes), I don’t think you can get a boat in right now, unless it rains a good 2 or 3 inches in the next couple of days.”