The lingering cold weather is delaying ice-out on Minnesota lakes and rivers, which could make it difficult for DNR crews to have the 1,500 public water accesses it manages ready in time for the May 12 fishing opener.
"I want Minnesotans to know that we are doing everything we can to get ready for the fishing opener," said DNR Commissioner Tom Landwehr, "but mostly what we need are warmer temperatures and sunshine."
There are approximately 3,000 public water access sites statewide, and the DNR's Parks and Trails Division manages about half of them.
"Winter weather is always a challenge to Minnesota's public water access sites," said Nancy Stewart, water recreation program consultant. "Because of the late ice-out this year, DNR crews will have a shorter window than usual to get boat ramps and docks ready for the May 12 fishing opener, but we will have as many of them ready as possible."
Every year, repairs are needed at hundreds of sites, because freezing temperatures and ice cause concrete to crack and buckle on the ramps. In some years, crews can get a head start on that work, even before ice-out, but this year the snow has prevented them from assessing damage, and the ramps can't be re-leveled until the ground thaws.
In the meantime, crews are busy rehabbing docks by, for example, changing bumpers and wheels as needed so that they'll be ready to pop in when the time comes.
"Even if every last dock isn't in by the opener, there will be places to fish and boat," said Stewart.