At midnight early on Saturday May 15, Minnesota fishing season opens for walleye, northern pike, bass and lake trout.
We wish all anglers, whether local or visiting from across the state, the best of luck as the open water season kicks off.
But when it comes to safety on the lakes in our region, we urge fishermen to trust their preparation, not just be lucky.
First of all, remember to have enough life jackets for everyone in the boat – and to wear them too.
According to the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources, the two main factors contributing to boating-related fatalities are not wearing a life jacket and operator inattention. And the most common causes of boating accidents are falling overboard and capsizing.
Also, the water temperature will be lower than many people might think.
“The date on the calendar is not helpful in determining the water temperature,” Col. Rodmen Smith, director of the DNR’s Enforcement Division, said in a press release. “This year’s opening is later in May than usual, but in many places the water temperature remains dangerously cold. Anglers should be aware of this fact and plan accordingly. “
About 30% of annual boat deaths occur during the cold water season, when the water is below about 70 degrees, and often involve the victim not wearing a life jacket. The ability to swim means soon after an unexpected fall into cold water, as even strong swimmers can succumb to the debilitating effects of cold water within minutes.
Additionally, a good life jacket could also serve as an extra layer of protection from the elements above the water surface. While high temperatures on Saturday and Sunday are expected to be around 65 degrees with winds of 5-10 mph, the Duluth National Weather Service has also forecast a risk of rain showers each day.
Other tips offered by the DNR include:
Don’t go alone and always tell someone on shore where you are going and when you plan to return.
Keep the floor of the boat free of clutter to avoid tripping and falling into the water.
Make sure the boat is equipped with safety equipment such as life jackets, communication and noise devices, and a first aid kit.
Finally, avoid drinking alcohol when venturing out on the lakes. And not just when the fishery is open, but at any time of the year. Alcohol is involved in about 30% of fatal boating accidents in Minnesota. As the DNR notes on its website: Impaired boating is impaired driving – refers to sober driving on the water and on the road.
With all of this in mind, we hope everyone is safe and successful, either in their fishing or just having fun with family and friends. Keep everyone safe and have a great opener.