I love my mother, but I don't need a "holiday" to tell her that. I also love walleye fishing, but I don't need a special day to reaffirm that, either (I don't typically make the walleye opener).
What I don't love is the fact that lawmakers are tinkering with one of these unofficial holidays to accommodate the other. And for no good reason.
Late last month, State Sen. Satveer Chaudhary, DFL-Fridley, pitched changes in game and fish regulations for the coming legislative session, including moving the walleye fishing opener up a week. Gov. Tim Pawlenty jumped on board days later during his weekly radio show.
The state House and Senate still would have to OK the proposal, and Pawlenty would have to sign it for it to become law. But if it gets to his desk, Pawlenty said he would be "inclined to sign" the legislation. Lawmakers go to work Feb. 12, and if it passes, it could go into effect as early as next year, when the opener would be moved from May 9 to May 2.
Fishing for walleye from the warmth of an ice house on Lake of the Woods - as seen here recently - is one thing, but fishing for the state's prized fish on the northern lake in the early days of May might be downright chilly.
Pawlenty and Chaudhary said the change wouldn't interfere with the walleye spawn - Chaudhary insists that, because of climate changes, the spawn occurs a week or two earlier now - and that moving up the opener would bring Minnesota in line with other states' openers - including Wisconsin - and give resorters and tourism a week head-start on their seasons.
And give Mother's Day its "own" weekend.
For years, this unofficial holiday has come on the same weekend as the state's walleye opener. But I never thought this was such a huge conflict. The opener is that Saturday and Mother's Day on Sunday - a nice, all-around, family weekend. Maybe mom wants to fish on Mother's Day eve. And who knows, over the years, maybe the walleye opener even brought a few out-of-town family members home for the weekend - and Mother's Day.
I realize that the opener can be a weekend event for some, with Mother's Day getting second billing. I just hope our lawmakers realize that fish and fishermen (and women) could be greatly impacted by such a change. And not for the better.
In searching the Internet, I found several references to the fact that walleyes still spawn in early May in Minnesota, usually just after ice-out - as has long been the belief - but found nothing to support Chaudhary's assertion that, "Because of climate change, the spawn is happening one to two weeks earlier."
So then, shouldn't climate change - global warming - also impact ice-out? Not on some northern Minnesota lakes. According to the State Climatology Office, last year, ice didn't leave some lakes until May 4. Also according to the State Climatology Office, ice-out didn't come until after April 29 on a handful of northern Minnesota lakes, including May 3 on Lake of the Woods - a walleye-fishing mecca.
So with the spawn following on the heels of ice-out, wouldn't an opener on, say, May 2 impact the spawn? (and anglers, who might have to deal with ice on some northern lakes?) It might not impact Pelican Lake, home of this year's Governor's Walleye Opener - ice-out usually comes a week or so earlier out this way. But the northern lakes could be left in the cold.
Ah yes, the cold. Even in mid-May, it can be brutally cold on northern Minnesota lakes. So what difference will a week make? Every day can make a difference on, say, Lake of the Woods. Yes, you could get miserable weather either way, but I like my chances on May 9 as opposed to May 2. And don't forget that there was ice on LOW on May 2 of last year. Could be again this year. And the next. How much fun would that be?
Regardless, hard-core fishermen will brave the elements. But would cold, nasty weather - probably more likely the first days of May then closer to mid-May - be the coup the Minnesota Office of Tourism is banking on with the opener? And would a northern destination be denied the chance to host the Governor's Walleye Opener - and a possible tourism boost - because of the fact that it might be 30 degrees with ice still on the lake come the opener?
According to the Minnesota Governor's Fishing Opener Web site, the opener "Celebrates the kickoff of the summer tourism season." The chances of that being a successful celebration earlier in May rather than later are slimmer, I think.
First lady Mary Pawlenty echoed my sentiments while co-hosting the radio show with her husband late last month.
"It is so cold," she said of an earlier-May opener. "My thought is, Oh, no. A week sooner,' because that weekend is possibly the single coldest weekend forever."
She also wondered if the ice would be out that early on northern Minnesota lakes. The governor assured her it would be. Obviously, he knows something about unpredictable Minnesota winters and springs that most of the rest of us do not.
BRIAN S. PETERSON may be reached at email@example.com or 855-5864.
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