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Morken: Fishing by the numbers

Ryan and Joy Larson hold up some walleyes they caught for the livewell during the 2016 fishing opener in Minnesota on Lake Mary. The 2018 fishing opener is this Saturday as anglers get back on the water after pike and walleyes. (File photo)

Two weeks ago, there was concern among some anglers excited about the May 12 fishing opener that ice on area lakes might put a damper on their quest to boat some walleyes.

Since then, the weather has taken a turn for the better. Ice is off and anglers will be able to launch their boats this Saturday as they take advantage of the walleye and pike opener.

I don't know that fishing opener holds the appeal that it used to decades ago for all anglers. It's a long season with plenty of opportunities to get on the lake. I have heard from a few recently that they like to sit out the opener and let some of the boat traffic clear before hitting the lakes, but this is still a special day on the calendar for many.

The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources sent out some fishing facts ahead of the opener that helps to put into perspective how important angling is in Minnesota.

There are about 1.4 million licensed anglers in the state. Of those, almost 500,000 are expected to fish the opener. There is plenty of opportunity with 11,842 lakes.

Here are a few other numbers to chew on heading into the opener. Fishing in Minnesota contributes $2.4 billion to the state's economy in direct retail sales, according to a 2011 U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service survey. Anglers spend an average of $1,500 a year on fishing-related activities and the sport supports nearly 35,500 Minnesota jobs.

In terms of participation, Minnesota ranks second to Alaska in terms of resident fishing participation at 32 percent. Males account for 65 percent of fishing license holders, with females accounting for 35 percent. Walleyes are the most sought-after fish in Minnesota, but 162 different species can be found in lakes throughout the state.

Economically and socially, fishing remains a huge part of the fabric of Minnesota.

Those who can't find walleyes or notherns this weekend might be able to catch a good crappie bite in the bays. Whatever species is your target, good luck and happy fishing this opening weekend.

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.

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