The warm temperatures of November and early December were a welcome reprieve for some Minnesotans, but for others it was akin to a curse because it meant a slow start to the ice fishing season.
With the recent cold snap, local anglers started flocking to area lakes to make up for the lost time on the ice.
Tuesday afternoon, Becker resident Bill Klatt brought his son and a friend to Camp Lake and drilled a few holes in search of fish. Their vexilars showed some signs of life in the depths of the water, but of course their success on the day remains a closely guarded secret.
Other area lakes showed a flurry of activity as well, with busy accesses at both Briggs Lake and Elk Lake.
Mitch Wipper, owner of Briggs Lake General Store, reports that bait sales have been excellent as of late.
“It’s been very good since Christmas,” says Wipper, whose store stocks all the fun stuff people might need for a day on the lake. “The lakes are close to home for many people and they can get out and keep the kids active.”
Wipper says sales started out slower as the lakes struggled to form ice, but most reports now have shown 8-9 inches of ice on Briggs Lake and 11-12 inches on Elk Lake. As always, people should check the conditions for themselves before venturing out on the lake.
Most of the activity on area lakes at the beginning of the week consisted of portable ice shelters and some ATV traffic, while a few cars and smaller pickups were starting to test the conditions.
2020 Fishing Report
The year of the pandemic has been a mixed bag for the fishing industry, as the MN DNR reported a surge in license sales because fishing was proving to be a perfect socially distanced activity.
However, for others, such as those in the tackle industry, it presented barriers as well.
Anne Orth, of The Gapen Company in Becker, says that getting into stores to sell the tackle was difficult when the state was on lockdown.
“It took a little while to get going,” says Orth, who is one of the most experienced, informed female outdoor sportspersons in America.
But as time went on, more and more people took an interest in fishing, even those who had never tried it.
She recalls people getting started with a few things they found in their garage and trying simple approaches such as fishing from shore.
Orth, who goes by the moniker “Bobber Anne”, also mentioned the warm weather to start the ice season was a hindrance to sales, but now that people are able to get on the ice things are looking much better.
The Gapen Company offers all kinds of fishing lures, baits and gifts via their website, but their main goal is to funnel their business to the local distributors.
“We try to support the small, local area stores,” says Orth, who noted that both Big Lake Hardware Hank and Becker True Value each carry a good number of the Gapen products.. “We try to keep them well supplied.”
With lakes, bait and tackle all handy for Sherburne County residents, 2021 is a sure bet to be a banner year for the fishing industry.