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EDITORIAL: Welcome back, anglers!

"A ripple spreads when a bobber plops in calm water. Waves of economic impact roll over Minnesota when all its anglers do the same."

That description from the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources sums up the important role anglers play in the state's economy.

This Saturday — fishing opener — the ripples will once again be felt across Minnesota and right here in Douglas County as anglers go in search of walleyes and northerns.

Let's give those anglers — the locals as well as those who travel hundreds of miles to get here — a warm welcome back to the lakes.

Fishing is big business.

According to the hunting and fishing website, wideopenspaces.com, anglers spent more than $1.8 billion in Minnesota on fishing related recreation. The big bucks goes to boats, gas and lodging, but the little items add up too — bait ($50 million), lures, line and other tackle ($34 million) and ice ($8 million).

All of this benefits the economy by creating jobs and helps our local businesses — gas stations, restaurants, motels, resorts and retail shops.

About 2 million Minnesotans fish and about 700,000 hunt , generating about $3.6 billion in annual economic activity and supporting 55,000 jobs, according to the Department of Natural Resources.

It's easy to overlook how fortunate we are to have such a high quality fishery right here in our neck of the woods and throughout the state. Minnesota boasts 5,493 fishable lakes and more than 3.8 million acres of fishing waters, according to wideopenspaces.com. Each year, anglers catch more than 9.7 million pounds of panfish, 4.6 million pounds of walleye and 4.6 million pounds of northern pike. Combined those three fish species alone account for 18.9 million pounds of fish in one year.

If you're wetting a line this weekend, please do all that you can to protect our waters. Obey the state's aquatic invasive species law: 1. Clean all visible aquatic plants and zebra mussels from your boat and trailer before leaving any access. 2. Drain your boat and livewell by removing drain plugs and keep the plugs out while transporting your boat. 3. Dispose of unwanted bait, including minnows, leeches and worms in the trash.

Also, be safe out there. Follow the DNR's advice: 1. Wear your life jacket and make sure your children and everyone else on board are wearing theirs. 2. Stay sober — booze and boating don't mix. 3. Tell a friend where you're going and when you'll be back. 4. Be aware of the weather — don't let a storm sneak up on you. 5. Go slow in rough water to avoid capsizing. 6. Be boat smart — take a boating safety course. 7. Stay alert while scanning for dangers; stay seated and low in the boat to prevent falls overboard.

Let's have a fun, safe and successful opener — and keep those ripples of economic impact rolling.

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