The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources doesn’t know why, but fishing license sales are up significantly compared to last year at this point.
As of last Friday the DNR had sold 255,516 fishing licenses in their various forms, from one-day passes to non-resident lifetime licenses and everything in between. That compares to 181,094 licenses sold at the same time in 2019.
That’s a 41% increase.
If there’s a specific reason for it — and the mind goes obviously to the coronavirus — the DNR can’t put a finger on it. Frankly, the agency doesn’t ask why people are buying licenses.
“It’s great, but it could be any number of reasons,” said spokesperson Kim Pleticha. “We just can’t speculate. We’re thrilled the numbers are up, but we can’t speculate why.”
The numbers are expected to climb when the DNR releases its latest figures this week and they’ll likely go up significantly next week because Saturday, May 9, is the popular walleye fishing opener in the state. It’s estimated about 500,000 anglers will be on the water that day, although nobody is sure how the pandemic will affect fishing activity and travel.
Last year, anglers bought more than 166,000 licenses from the Friday two weeks before opener to the Monday after the opener.
The DNR sold 1,100,256 fishing licenses in 2019, the lowest figure in at least eight years. The highest sales total in recent years was 1,173,518 in 2012.
Pleticha said the high number of early sales doesn’t necessarily mean licenses will be up for the entire year.
“License sales vary widely throughout a year. Maybe more people just bought their licenses early this year. We don’t know,” she said.
Resident individual angling license sales are up 52% over last year at this time, from 70,149 to 106,600.