'Optimistic but cautious': Anglers, businesses ready for fishing opener in 'Walleye Capital of the World'

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Resorts in Lake of the Woods County, which has been called the “Walleye Capital of the World,” are preparing for anglers with the state’s fishing opener this weekend.

Walleye, along with other types of fish, are big business up in northern Minnesota. Anglers are coming to test their luck on the massive Lake of the Woods and the cold waters of the Rainy River.

"It's been nice all week long,” said Mike Kinsella, owner of Border View Lodge in Baudette. “Forecast for the opener looks really good, too.”

COVID-19 concerns mean fishing guides that often run charters won’t be out on the water, but Kinsella said that hasn’t stopped guests from making reservations for the weekend.

"It’s a different kind of full, normally we'd have people here doing charter trips,” Kinsella said. “So, we're full with people that are just bringing their own boats."

The Lake of the Woods Tourism Bureau posted earlier this week that it was “optimistic” about the fishing opener.

With fishing opener this weekend, DNR urges anglers to stay close to home

"It feels like a traditional Minnesota fishing opener with a couple of asterisks," said Joe Henry, executive director of Lake of the Woods Tourism Bureau. “Some people have retained their reservation, some have canceled, I think others don't know if they can come up to a resort and go fishing up at Lake of the Woods."

Minnesota’s Department of Natural Resources, a few days before the opener, spoke out about fishing suggestions, including travel and social distancing during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Resorts have been making COVID-19 safety improvements at properties from contactless check-in at cabins to social distancing at the fish cleaning houses, limiting them to just one fishing group at a time.

"Definitely different, boy, the amount of changes is pretty amazing,” said Kinsella. “People have such different opinions about how they feel, how comfortable they are but a lot of different processes.”

"The mood is cautious, it's somewhat optimistic but cautious," Henry added about the fishing season.