After long winter, northern Minnesota bait shops ready for opener

After long winter, northern Minnesota bait shops ready for opener Photo: KSTP

May 10, 2019 05:03 PM

Minnesota's fishing opener always makes for a busy weekend at Swanson's Bait and Tackle in Hackensack.

But after a frigid, snowy winter like this last one, Aaron Regier doesn't mind the crowds one bit.


"It's just nice to see people again," said Regier, who has been working at Swanson's since the early 2000s. "Especially after the winter we just went through. I think everybody is excited to have the chance to get out on the water again.

"People seem to be chomping at the bit."

RELATED: Anglers, bait shop owners prep for state's fishing opener

Regier called the crowds in his store Friday pretty typical for the day before the opener.

"We've been busy," he said. "It's hard to judge how it compares because it comes in waves. But we've had a lot of people coming in."

RELATED: Anglers will encounter work zones across Minnesota this weekend

Jason Erlandson, the manager of Sportland Bait and Tackle in Nisswa, reported much the same thing in the Brainerd area.

"It's been crazy," he said. "It started right away when we opened and it hasn't let up. We've been packed all day."

Erlandson too said it's hard to gauge crowds from one opener to the next.

"I'd say it's a little above-average," he said. "But really, this weekend always feels the same. When you're busy, you're busy."

RELATED: DNR Fisheries Chief says cold water will play a role in fishing opener

Robert Gessell, a fishing guide in the area since 2004, said he expects the colder water temperatures might have an impact on how things go for anglers this weekend.

But, he doesn't expect that to stop people from getting out on the water.

"You may have to work at it to catch some fish," said Gessell, also a teacher at Forestview Middle School in Baxter. "But really, the opening of fishing season is like Christmas Eve to us. There's an excitement that's there every year."

KSTP fishing opener guide

In Park Rapids, Greg May, the owner of Northern Bait Company, said the cold didn't seem to be keeping anglers away.

"It's been pretty busy," he said. "I know the water temperatures around here are running a little cooler than usual. And the water is pretty high.

"But people are still feeling the fishing should be pretty good. You may just have to adjust to a little bit of a different pattern."

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Frank Rajkowski

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