No matter what the weather brings, expect open, ice-free waters statewide for the 2017 Minnesota Fishing Opener.
Across Minnesota, 2017's ice-out dates were 1-4 weeks earlier than the median dates calculated since 1950. Parts of southern Minnesota actually had record-challenging early ice-outs, but a cold snap during the 2nd and 3rd weeks of March put ice back on the lakes, resulting in later final dates. Compared to 2016, this year's lake ice behavior was more consistent across the state, with the vast majority of lakes becoming ice-free by the 14th of April. 2016 saw a larger range in ice-out dates, with a large proportion of southern Minnesota lakes ice-free by March 18th, while lakes in northern Minnesota held onto their ice until late April and even early May.
Ice-choked lakes have dogged fishing openers of the past, including as recently as 2013. The 1950 opener was one of the worst known, with iced-over lakes extending to Mille Lacs, Osakis, and the Brainerd Lakes area. That year produced many of the late ice-out records for lakes with long records. Other years with ice on northern lakes include: 1966, 1979, 1996, 2008, and 2009.
Minnesota's Fishing Opener weather can be variable in every sense of the word. We have seen hot, cold, wet, dry, stormy and even snowy. With such a large state and so many lakes, we have had years that were seemingly perfect in one area, only to be blustery and miserable in another.
The most common Fishing Opener conditions include partly cloudy to cloudy skies, perhaps mist or sprinkles early, morning temperatures around 40 in the north to near 50 in the south, with afternoon temperatures climbing into the 60s to near 70, and a light breeze that increase slightly through the day. Temperatures on and near Lake Superior are often held to the 50s. Three out of four years are free of measurable precipitation. Northern Minnesota has had snowflakes during the Opener at least five times in 68 years.
Opening day temperatures have started as low as 24 degrees at International Falls (1996,2004), and sub-freezing conditions have even affected Minneapolis (31 degrees in 1979). On the warm side, St. Cloud saw 92 degrees in 1987, Minneapolis reported 91 in 1987, and International Falls reached 88 in 1977.
Precipitation is not uncommon, but certainly is not the rule either. Three-quarters of past opening days have been free of measurable precipitation, and two-thirds of the fishing openers have been free of any precipitation, measurable or not. On those days with measurable rain, the amounts averaged close to a half-inch in the south and a quarter inch in the north. Rainfall has exceeded one inch once in St. Cloud, and twice in the Twin Cities, with a maximum of 1.64" in 1965. Snow, usually just a trace, was officially recorded in 1963, 1993, 2000, 2009 and 2013 at International Falls, and in 1968 at St. Cloud.
Statewide, less than one year in five offers totally clear skies. The average amount of cloudiness lies near that fuzzy boundary between 'partly cloudy' and 'cloudy', but over half of the dates were classified as cloudy.
Average daily wind speeds generally range between 8 and 15 miles per hour. This range can is described as 'wind felt on face ...' to '... wind extends light flag'. The predominant wind direction is split fairly evenly between blowing from the northwest, south, and east.
Fog is reported on the fishing opener about one year in ten in the south, about one year in six in the north. By early to mid May, Minnesota is entering its thunderstorm season. The possibility of thunderstorms is greatest in the south (about one in seven), less in the north (about one in eleven). The weather should be monitored carefully if the skies appear threatening.
For May 13, 2017, sunrise will occur between 5:25 AM in the far northeast, and 6:03 AM in the far southwest. Sunset will range from 8:22 PM in the far southeast, to 9:01 PM in the far northwest. Sunrise/sunset information can be obtained for any community using a Web site offered by the US Naval Observatory.
More information about fishing in Minnesota can be found at the Department of Natural Resources.
A history of past fishing openers back to 1948 can be found at the Minnesota Historical Society .