Fishing Opener Update: Public Water Access Conditions Vary Due to Late Ice Out

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Minnesota boaters will find a variety of conditions at public water accesses for the May 10 fishing opener, according to the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR).

The DNR Division of Trails and Waterways is making a special effort to ensure all DNR boat launches are ready by the opener, said Nancy Steward, the Public Water Access Program coordinator. She noted, however, that repairs to access sites depend on the weather and ice-out, which has been running two weeks behind normal.

“Most public accesses in the southern half of Minnesota will be in good condition and open for use,” Steward said. “Some lakes in the northern half of the state may still have ice, which poses a challenge in making repairs. It’s wise for boaters to check ahead for the latest report on the access they plan to use.”

Winter weather is always a challenge to Minnesota’s public water access, Steward noted. As ice expands during the winter months, it can push and buckle the concrete plank structures like an accordion. This phenomenon, called “ice jacking,” is caused by the pushing action of a lake’s ice sheet against the shore, which often leaves the boat ramp unusable. Crews repair damaged boat ramps by removing damaged planks and replacing them with new ones.

“Work crews are making good progress preparing public water accesses for the upcoming fishing season,” Stewart said. “However, many lakes still have ice that may hinder efforts to make repairs.”
Stewart offers these suggestions for the opener:

plan to be patient and prepared at public water accesses and use extra care while launching and loading boats

inspect the ramp condition before using it; some of the worst ramp damage can be below the water line

in case your favorite lake access is unusable, be prepared to try another public access

operate boats carefully because there could be free-floating ice sheets on some lakes.

In addition to repairing ramps, as time allows, DNR crews install docks at many accesses to assist boaters in launching and boarding watercraft.

For public water access maps, boating information and lake ice-out status, go to the DNR Web site at

Boaters who encounter problems should contact the local DNR office or call the DNR Information Center at (651) 296-6157 or 1-888-MINNDNR (646-6367)