It was cold. It was windy. But it was the Minnesota fishing opener.
That meant there are those who braved the elements on Saturday to officially put winter behind them.
“Is it the end of the winter?” Osakis’ Ryan Larson said with a laugh. “It was snowing yesterday, but all in all, a good day.”
Larson and his wife, Joy, were on the water by about 5:30 Saturday morning on Lake Mary and were pulling off the lake at around noon. They put six walleyes in the livewell and released a few smaller ones in addition to the 10 or so northerns they caught and released.
“It was slow,” Ryan said. “We had to work for the six.”
It wasn’t ideal weather conditions, but there are very few things that could keep them off the water on opener.
“It’s exciting,” Joy said. “It’s fun to get the first walleye. We’ve been out here in pouring rain. Lightning is probably the only thing [that would have kept us home].”
That was a popular refrain from the anglers loading their boats at the south access on Mary. For those who took on the cold, it wasn’t all about filling the livewell. Minnesota’s fishing opener is about tradition for many.
Gary Gunderson and his two sons, Eric and Nick, have been doing this for years. They live in the Twin Cities area, but the family cabin has been on the south side of Lake Mary since the 1960s.
They caught a few fish, a 16- and 18-inch walleye for the table. That was a nice prize, and all they really needed for a successful opener.
“It’s being on the lake,” Eric said. “Catching a couple.”
The family has been fishing Lake Mary on opener for years, and Gary says it continues to produce a quality fishery for local anglers.
“I think it’s as good as it’s been,” he said. “It’s real good.”
Brian Young and Mitch Bolin of Woodbury didn’t get the walleyes they were looking for, but they got their kids out on the water. Caden Young, 10, and Carter Bolin, 11, withstood the wind for a couple hours. They caught a few northerns that they released before it was time to come in and warm up.
“It was a good day,” Brian said. “We were going out regardless. It’s Minnesota opener. It’s a tradition.”
Bolin is originally from the Brandon area so there is family to see and a comfortable place to stay when they come home. It was the first time Brian and Mitch had fished opener together, but this day has been engrained in their lives for a long time.
Bolin tends to fish more lakes near Brandon when he gets back to the area, while Young had some familiarity with Lake Mary after having some opener success there a year ago. Those were different conditions than Saturday – warmer, calmer, more overcast skies and cooler water temperatures after a later ice out.
“I think the winds were a big player going into today in our decision where we wanted to fish,” Young said. “Traditionally, we would have probably hit some other areas out more in the main lake. Staying more on the south side of the lake seemed to be the best for us today.”
The weather may have caused them to change their plans once they hit the water, but it wasn’t going to keep them off the lake. Their sons are a year apart and play on the same sports teams in Woodbury. It was only fitting to get them out fishing together this weekend.
“They were super pumped to get out here too,” Bolin said. “They didn’t care about the wind. They didn’t last that long, but I was surprised with how long they stood the wind. I think it’s about winter being done. No more ice on the water and being able to get out. We didn’t really catch what we wanted to, but it was still a great day to be on the water.”
The sun was out and the wind eventually calmed down into a nice Sunday for those who fished throughout the whole weekend. It’s not the first time weather has made for a challenging opener. It won’t be the last.
There are anglers who will continue to find a way around whatever Mother Nature throws at them.
“I think any time you can be on the lake with your boys and teaching them some things about how to set hooks and jig for walleyes and bait a hook and all that stuff … my son’s 11, his son is 10, just to get them out and experience this and not be at home on a computer or playing games is good,” Bolin said. “Catching a fish is just gravy. For me, just to get them out here and see how excited they were, drinking their hot chocolate and all that stuff. It was fun; a great morning.”