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Rainy start turns to sunshine for opener in Park Rapids area

Rodney Doriot and Rebecca Kozack fished off the public pier near downtown Park Rapids Saturday. In the background anglers were wading in the Fish Hook River. (Sarah Smith / Enterprise)

After a lousy, but typical start to the Minnesota Fishing Opener, it ended with a burst of warmth and sun.

But come rain or shine, the walleyes were biting.

Many happy anglers left the Park Rapids area after filling their limits both Saturday and Sunday. But they much preferred the sun to the wind, rain and cold that started off the weekend.

The swollen Fish Hook River dam in Park Rapids was the place to be on Saturday - it was coughing up walleyes like crazy despite the rain, sleet, cold and wind.

But the anglers also started early, come hell and high water.

"There were about 30 of us here at midnight," said Jason Neumayer. "I caught a walleye and a northern."

By Saturday morning the riverbanks were lined with anglers, hoping to repeat Matthew Rog's luck.

Rog, from New Brighton, held up a string of walleyes grinning.

"My dad told me this was a good spot where I could get my limit," he acknowledged.

Local merchants reported brisk sales of hooded sweatshirts, gloves and rain boots.

"It's been pretty slow," said Debbie Lempola, co-owner of Delaney's Sports Center in Park Rapids.

That picture changed by evening. Winds subsided and the sun peeked out from the clouds. Boats began finding their usual hot spots.

By dawn Sunday, the fishing world had righted itself on its axis.

Park Rapids resident Butch Cole's fishing party caught its limit both Saturday and Sunday on Long Lake in Hubbard County.

He e-mailed proof in the form of a 31-inch whopper walleye he caught and released.

"I'm gonna send a few copies to some buddies that live out of town and got skunked for the opener," her gloated.

Rodney Doriot and Rebecca Kozack were busy casting off the public pier on the Fish Hook River dam's spillway.

They were having a good time despite the weather, tucked under parkas and rain ponchos more fit for duck hunting season.

"It was outstanding for northerns," said Enterprise fishing columnist Mike Gravdahl. "Walleyes were a little slower. "

Liquor stores reported a brisk but spotty business Saturday. "It came in spurts," one clerk said.

Sheriff Cory Aukes said there were a large number of drunken driving arrests throughout the weekend, but no trouble otherwise. Monday morning the Hubbard County Attorney's office was scrambling to prepare all the DWI complaints.

The Park Rapids Triathlon went off without a hitch Saturday morning, "although they got a little drenched," Aukes said.

And a geocaching event in Heartland Park Saturday morning managed to attract a crowd even though they had a sodden treasure hunt.

So one way or another, visitors left Park Rapids with a prize.

Sarah Smith

Sarah Smith is the outdoors editor. She covers courts, business and breaking news in addition to outdoors events.

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