Each year about 500,000 anglers flock to the water on the opening day of the fishing season for walleye, northern pike, bass and trout in lakes. Despite all the opener fanfare, fishing already is open for a variety of species.
“Don’t wait to fish. You can already be out fishing for panfish, trout in streams, catfish and a variety of other species, and when the weather is as nice as it has been, it’s even more of an incentive to get outdoors,” said Al Stevens, fisheries survey and systems consultant for the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources. “You don’t even need a boat because you can catch panfish from shore.”
When anglers talk about the fishing opener, they usually mean the May opener for walleye, pike, bass, and trout in lakes. However, at this point in the year fishing is already open for species that are popular among anglers all year, like crappie, bluegill and trout in streams.
On inland waters this year, fishing opens for walleye, pike, bass and trout in lakes on Saturday, May 14. Bass fishing remains catch-and-release in most of the state for another two weeks. Fishing is open now for panfish, trout in streams, catfish and rough fish. Sturgeon fishing is catch-and-release from mid-June to mid-April. Muskellunge fishing opens each year in early June.
When fishing is closed for a species, it is illegal to target that species when fishing.
“If you’re fishing with a crankbait or spoon before the walleye opener, that’s not allowed because it’s obvious the target is a walleye, bass or pike,” Stevens said. “However, if you’re fishing with a bobber and live bait and accidentally catch a bass, you’re fine as long as you immediately release the fish.”
Overall, regulations are meant to protect fish populations when they need protecting while preserving fishing opportunities whenever possible.
For more information on fishing seasons and regulations, visit www.mndnr.gov/fishmn.