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April snows bury records, blur chances for fishing opener

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Poet T.S. Eliot called April the cruelest month.

Looking at April 2008, you can add snowiest.

Storms late in the month made it the whitest April ever in places such as Park Rapids and Detroit Lakes, with the latter city more than doubling its previous snowfall record for the month.

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The first 70-degree day of the year usually arrives in April, but the highest the mercury reached in Fargo last month was 68 degrees on the 15th, said John Wheeler, WDAY-TV meteorologist.

The last time Fargo saw an April without a 70-degree day was 1996, he said.

The last time before that was in 1979.

Ice, fishing

Heavy snow cover is helping to keep many Minnesota lakes frozen, but whether ice will still be around for the May 10 fishing opener is anyone's guess, said Pete Boulay of the state climatology office.

He said the last time there was a May ice-out on Big Detroit Lake in Becker County was in 1996, when the ice left on the 5th.

The latest the ice disappeared on Big Detroit was on May 17 in 1950.

Ice remains on Big Cormorant Lake in Becker County, but rain or wind could change that quickly, said Ellis Peterson, who runs the North Shore resort on Big Cormorant and nearby Leaf Lake.

Peterson plans to open the resort's cabins Friday, but with frost still in the ground near buildings he may not turn on the water, a situation he called very unusual for this time of year.

Even if Big Cormorant thaws out in time for the fishing opener, Peterson said the water will be too cold for successful angling.

He said smaller lakes, which may be a little warmer, will provide better chances.

Walleye wild card

Walleye spawning is usually complete by now, but this year the process could still be going on when May 10 arrives, said Bob Merritt, Minnesota Department of Natural Resources hydrologist.

For anglers, that could be good or bad.

If walleyes are still spawning - and anglers can get on the water - it could be great fishing, Merritt said.

Immediately after spawning, female walleyes are exhausted and are not very active for about a week.

But male walleyes, which are smaller, are quick to bite after spawning.

Another factor is water temperature.

Fish are rarely active when water temperatures are low, Merritt said. As of Wednesday, the picture isn't looking good for anglers on May 10, he said.

"It's going to be a strange one," Merritt said of the fishing opener.

'Remarkable'

Fargo-Moorhead snowfall for the season stands at 59.8 inches, well above the average of 46.7 inches, Wheeler said.

April snowfall totals in parts of northwest Minnesota, like the 50 inches reported near Park Rapids, were remarkable, he said.

"Four feet of snow in a single month would set a record at most places in the region in any month... and this is April!" said Wheeler, adding the average April snowfall is around 2.3 inches.

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Dave Olson
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