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A beautiful weekend to fish

Anglers fished from shore and boats early Saturday morning. (Sarah Smith / Enterprise)1 / 2
Matthew Cloutier, 11, of Park Rapids, studies the glassy lake hoping his line catches a walleye. (Sarah Smith / Enterprise)2 / 2

The fishing gods smiled on Minnesota's walleye opener.

Anglers and watercraft inspectors were out on the glassy lakes by dawn Saturday throughout Hubbard County under bright sunshine.

In Park Rapids, long lines formed at convenience stores, bait shops and tackle vendors. A summer of promising commerce had begun.

"I'd guess our fishing license sales were up about 20 percent," said Debbie Lempola, co-owner of Delaney's Sports Center.

Locals made the difference.

"We thought it was really nice and we saw a lot of locals participating in fishing for this opener," she added. "I think it was because of this beautiful weather. It was just incredible. And it looks like we have good weather in the future."

A mixed fishing report came in, as it usually does on opening weekend. But spot-tail shiner minnows were big sellers, and the bait of choice.

"We heard reports of walleyes in nine to 23 feet," Lempola said. "Saturday was slow but we had some good reports Sunday."

"People have had some luck on the Bottle lakes," said Mike Spry of the Emmaville Store. "I haven't heard too much else."

"I caught two large mouth bass," said Matthew Cloutier of Park Rapids, knowing he had to throw them back. The bass season hasn't begun yet.

But Matthew kept casting into Lake Emma for walleye. By late morning he'd shedded his shirt and hoodie and was heading for a painful sunburn.

But hope for that big walleye trumped all.

Watercraft inspector Roger Kast was one of a dozen to take a position at key public access points throughout Hubbard County.

He said anglers had been very cooperative and polite about having their bats inspected.

"Business is picking up," he said at 8:30 a.m. Saturday under a flawless sky.

He'd begun inspecting at 6 a.m.

"Everybody's real cooperative," Kast said. "He's from out of state and didn't know anything about the new laws" designed to curb the spread of Aquatic Invasive Species.

John Lunde of Fargo accepted some educational tips, a laminated card identifying harmful weeds and was told his live wells and boat would have to be drained entering and leaving each Minnesota lake this summer.

No problem.

His boat was brand new, spotless.

"We've had some training," Kost said of anglers unfamiliar with the laws.

"You learn as you go along. The boats have been real clean."

News Saturday night that Park Rapids had landed the 66th annual Governor's Fishing Opener in 2013 electrified the angling community.

Sheri Notch of New Frontier Resort on Long Lake, said two years of lobbying efforts had paid off. She's thrilled about Park Rapids hosting the opener.

So was Lempola.

"It'll be very good for Park Rapids," she said.

Almost immediately Facebook pages lit up with offers of help in hosting the event, not only from angling groups, but hunters as well.

Back on Lake Emma, Matthew kept casting his line out as he squinted in the sun, oblivious to his reddening cheeks and shoulders.

Sunday, high winds and Mothers Day celebrations chased many boats off the lakes.

"We had a great crowd," for brunch, Spry reported.

The weather for the week is supposed to be outstanding, maybe a good omen signaling a prosperous summer.

Sarah Smith

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

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