Minnesota's fishing opener is just around the corner, causing worry for fishing guides and others faced with ice-locked lakes.
This year's opener is May 11. While weather and lake observers say the ice could still melt, time is running out. And anglers in Wisconsin have even less time: The fishing opener there is a week earlier.
"Sure I'm worried," said Tom Neustrom, a longtime guide in northern Minnesota. "The problem is you can't rebook. You don't have the days. I'm booked solid for later in May and June through July. It's the same for the resorts, and those are the ones I'm worried about."
The St. Paul Pioneer Press (http://bit.ly/17BCwSX ) reported that a late ice-out isn't usually great for early-season walleye fishing, but no ice-out is worse: There are low odds that ice would be safe enough for ice fishing.
"I think it might be too little, too late," said Scott Toshner, a fisheries biologist with the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources for Bayfield and Washburn counties. "I would say there's more of a chance there will be ice than no ice."
Gov. Scott Walker's fishing opener is in northwestern Wisconsin, on Lake Namakagon near Cable. Organizers of that well-publicized event haven't started making other plans, but they are preparing to.
"I'm just an optimist," said Deb Sterchy, executive manager of Wisconsin Indian Head Country. Lake Namakagon was also mostly frozen when the governor's fishing opener was held there in 1996. Then, festivities involving Gov. Tommy Thompson stayed in Cable, but legitimate fishing was moved to the Eau Claire Chain of Lakes.
"I would guess they'll have to go farther south this year," Toshner said.
Some resort owners are taking the weather in stride.
"We still have 2 feet of ice out there, so there's nothing we can do but wait and see," said Kelsey Gensmer, an operator of Angler's Haven Resort on Lac Courte Oreilles in Hayward, Wis. "It's certainly not convenient, though."
While Minnesota has an extra week on Wisconsin, the northern half of the state generally has more ice and snow.
As of late last week, more than 30 inches of ice remained on many lakes, including Lake Winnibigoshish, Lake Mille Lacs and Fish Hook Lake near Park Rapids, where the Gov. Mark Dayton will hold his annual opener.
"Right now we're pretty optimistic," said Alyssa Ebel, a spokeswoman for Explore Minnesota, which coordinates the governor's opener. "There is not a set contingency plan right now, but people are talking about it."