The Montgomery family, which lives just outside Duluth, has an annual tradition for opening weekend of the Minnesota fishing season and they aren’t about to let a virus get in their way.
“We usually go up to Whiteface Lake and camp up there. But they’ve closed all the campgrounds,’’ Kieth Montgomery said, noting COVID-19 restrictions. “So we’re going to camp in our own yard.”
The Montgomerys are moving their actual fishing closer to home as well, to Rice Lake just outside Duluth. They already have their ice fishing shelters set up for camping in their yard at home and all their weekend food in coolers for cookouts.
“I’ve got my winter jacket out for it,’’ said Sharon Montgomery, Kieth’s wife, noting the forecast is for chilly overnight temperatures.
The Montgomerys were stocking up on bait Thursday morning, well ahead of the usual opening day rush. Many other folks have been, too. License and bait sales have been off the charts already.
“I think people don’t want to stand in a tight line with other people on opening morning,’’ said John Chalstrom, owner of Chalstrom’s Bait north of Duluth. “We started getting busy (Wednesday) and it’s just getting busier.”
Chalstrom has set up an outdoor sales table with pre-bagged minnows so customers don’t have to enter the store. A container of disinfectant wipes sat next to the cash register under a pop-up picnic shelter. Chalstrom called his new outdoor checkout “a corona update.”
Customers “don’t even need to leave their cars if they don’t want to,’’ Chalstrom said.
Ken Stromquist, of Duluth, face covered in a mask, was buying his shiner and fathead minnows early, too. He plans to fish from shore Saturday at his cabin on Rice Lake. It’s a tradition, he said, and the fishing is usually pretty darned good.
“I came today for bait to avoid the rush. And avoid all the people,’’ Stromquist said. “But I think it’s going to be a pretty good opener.”
Mark Ekeroth, of Stillwater, Minn., stopped to buy minnows Thursday on the way to his cabin on Island Lake north of Duluth. He, too, plans to fish from shore on opening day to avoid the armada of boats.
“I caught a 31-incher (walleye) off the dock there once, so it’s a pretty good place,’’ he said. “We can keep our distance from everyone when we’re there.”
Fish close to home
The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources has in recent days repeatedly reminded people not to travel far to fish, to fish close to home, not plan on staying overnight anywhere and not to make any stops along the way.
State officials are concerned that traveling anglers may unknowingly spread COVID-19 into rural areas with aging populations and limited health care facilities. Minnesota reported its deadliest COVID-19 day Wednesday with 30 people dying from the virus.
Saturday fishing forecast: Cool, breezy and sunny
Temperatures may drop into the 20s early Saturday morning, so bundle up when you head out on the lake. Highs should reach into the 50s by Saturday afternoon under sunny skies with winds out of the northwest at 10 mph and gusts to 20 mph. Sunday’s highs are expected to be in the upper 40s.
What’s the limit?
The season opens at 12:01 a.m. Saturday. Know the rules before you go. Go to dnr.state.mn.us/regulations/fishing/index.html to find regulations specific to your lake or river.
Buy your license online or by phone
Visit dnr.state.mn.us/licenses/fishing or call 888-665-4236.