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VIDEO: Late spring packs a punch

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It may seem like a distant memory at this point, but it was only a year ago that most of Minnesota was soaking in the sun during a beautiful month of April.

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Golf courses were enjoying their earliest seasons on record. Farmers were in the fields and local anglers were catching crappies and preparing for what was expected to be a great bite on the opener.

Not so much this year. Instead, people in Douglas County still have snow on their lawns and ice on their lakes. It's a headache for almost everyone but a much greater inconvenience for others.

Here is a closer look at how this late spring has affected some local professions and pastimes.

FARMING

Farmers are much more equipped nowadays to handle almost anything Mother Nature can throw at them than they were 20 years ago.

"We have such wonderful genetics today," local farmer and Douglas County Corn and Soybean Growers Association member Jeffrey Larson said. "A year ago, I wouldn't have thought we would get a crop in August [because of the drought]. From the genetics, we were able to get a very good crop. We have to thank our scientists and researchers for giving us better genetics and better products to use."

Larson said that alleviates some of the stress that used to come along with the profession. He and his wife, Karen, are fourth-generation family farmers near Evansville who currently run about 1,000 acres.

Larson said seeing all the snow has taken more of an emotional toll than anything. Farmers are itching to get back in the fields, but with an optimal planting range that runs from April 25-May 10 in the area, things really aren't that far behind for local growers.

"I don't believe that we're in a position to give up a lot of yield if we can get in the field in the next two weeks," Larson said. "The biggest thing that's going to be important to this planting is be patient. You get one shot to make a crop every year...you want to be in the field and do what we do best, but we need to be patient and when the soil conditions are ready, then we can plant."

Farmers are ready to go all in once the conditions call for it. The forecast of 60-degree temperatures starting today and running into next week means hope is on the horizon.

"We're going to be putting in long hours, probably around the clock," Larson said. "We'll have some large equipment going up and down the roads and hopefully the public can be aware of that and we can have a safe season in that regard."

FISHING

Local anglers are in a wait-and-see mode as to whether or not they will be able to back their boats into the water for the May 11 fishing opener.

Glenwood Area Fisheries Manager Dean Beck said the latest ice-off on record for Lake Osakis is May 14 of 1950. The newspaper, which has been tracking ice-out dates back further than that, has the latest Lake Osakis ice out as May 15, 1878.

Many area lakes still had around two feet of ice on them as of last week. So is there reason to worry for local anglers who circle opener on their calendars?

"I think we're definitely pushing that envelope," Beck said of matching the latest ice-outs on record. "I think from an opening standpoint, if the ice is off, walleye have not started their spawning to this point, so I look for a bit of a slow opener."

Jed Fiskness, manager of the General Store in Osakis, said many he has talked to are not too worried yet after looking at the upcoming forecast. Most believe the ice will be off by opener. From there, anglers will have to let water temperatures be their guide.

"We're going to be looking at a lot more cold-water temperature fishing tactics," Fiskness said. "Fish are going to be sluggish and not as active. I think look for fish to be in the shallower water where it's definitely going to be warmer temperatures in the dark bottoms."

RESORTS

Some out-of-town anglers rely on area resorts every opener, and they too are getting a late start to the spring.

Erin Frederiksen of Westridge Shores Resort said nobody has cancelled their reservations for opener to this point. But the late ice-out will definitely put them in scramble mode in order to make it feel like a normal opener for their guests.

"It's going to affect us like crazy to get our docks in," Frederiksen said. "It's going to be hard to do that so we can keep up our awesome customer service. It's going to be hiring extra help to get things done faster. That's where we're going to see our impact."

John and Marge Spinner face a different situation. The couple is entering their 34th year as the owners of Broken Arrow Resort on Lake Victoria, and they don't push too hard to rent out their cabins by opener at this point in their careers.

John said the group they did have in a cabin for that weekend will likely cancel after talking to them about the late ice-out. The Spinners will need that extra time to prepare the cabins and campsites, a process that can take two to three weeks to get ready.

"Last year at this time, I think we had our docks in and cabins pretty much ready to go," John said. "Here now, we haven't done anything yet. We haven't gotten into our cabins to get them ready and obviously haven't put docks out because the ice is still out."

GOLF CLUBS

Golf courses in the Alexandria area that added almost a month to their season last year are experiencing the opposite end of the spectrum this spring.

"We opened on March 22 last year and we're targeting that first week of May this year," Alexandria Golf Club head pro Ron Rebrovich said. "We're going to go from the earliest to the latest ever openings in back-to-back years. There's no normal anymore."

Rebrovich said they target the week of the Masters, around April 10, as when they normally would have the course ready.

"It's concerning but it's Mother Nature and it's out of our control," he said. "We'll tighten up the purse strings and the belt as tight as we can. In this area, we don't get really busy until the summer anyway, when the kids are out of school, so days lost in April are not comparable to days lost in July."

Alexandria's Grant Hanson, the first-year head pro at Geneva Golf Club, echoed those sentiments. Geneva has plenty of its condos rented out for the first weekend in May. So far, none of those reservations have been cancelled.

"We got spoiled last year," Hanson said. "But it's probably on around April 15 for our average start date, so we're a couple weeks behind. For us, it's rounds we'll never recapture, but we don't see a ton of outside play in April. ...We have stuff scheduled for that first week in May and we're crossing our fingers."

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Eric Morken
Eric Morken is the sports and outdoor editor at the Echo Press and Osakis Review newspapers in Douglas County, MN. Follow him on Twitter at echo_sports.
(320) 763-1229
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