2018 Minnesota fishing opener: trivia, history -- and a test of your angling knowledge

Fishing opener
Anglers cast their lines in the early morning during the 2009 Governor's Fishing Opener on White Bear Lake.
Ben Garvin | St. Paul Pioneer Press via AP 2009

The ice is out on most lakes across the state, and anglers have prepared their gear and made their plans for Saturday's Minnesota fishing opener.

It's the annual start of the season for catching walleye, northern pike and several other species across the state. Among the anglers who will be out on a lake for the opener is Minnesota Gov. Mark Dayton, who will be taking part in the 71st annual Governor's Fishing Opener on Green Lake near Willmar.

Ahead of the opener, here's a collection of fishing trivia, history and facts about fishing in Minnesota. But before you read on, why not test your prior knowledge with this quiz:

Before you keep reading ...

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Fishing in Minnesota, by the numbers

1.4 million

Approximate number of licensed anglers in Minnesota


Approximate number of people expected to fish on Saturday's opener


Number of lakes in Minnesota; about 4,500 of those are considered fishing lakes

Bobbers sit in a bin.
Bobbers sit in a bin waiting to be caught by an angler at Lundeen's Tackle Castle in Onamia, Minn., on May 24, 2017.
Paul Middlestaedt for MPR News 2017


Miles of fishable rivers and streams; about 3,800 miles of those are trout streams


Species of fish found in Minnesota waters

What are the most sought-after fish in Minnesota?

A 2011 U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service survey showed that walleyes top the list, followed by northern pike and muskies, then panfish, bass, crappies and trout.

Source: Minnesota DNR

Which communities have hosted the Minnesota Governor's Fishing Opener?

Governor Dayton (R) shows off a 17.5-inch smallmouth bass.
Minnesota Gov. Mark Dayton (right) shows off a 17.5-inch smallmouth bass he caught with fishing guide Todd Bissett during the state's fishing opener on May 13, 2017.
Courtesy of Governor Dayton's Twitter account

The Minnesota Historical Society has compiled a list of past Minnesota Governor's Fishing Openers dating back to 1948. Here are the stops made by Dayton and his two most-recent predecessors (find the full list here):

Mark Dayton

2018: Willmar, Green Lake

2017: St. Cloud, Mississippi River

2016: McGregor, Big Sandy Lake

2015: Tower, Lake Vermilion

2014: Nisswa, Gull Lake

2013: Park Rapids, Fish Hook Lake

2012: Waconia, Lake Waconia

2011: Grand Rapids, Pokegama Lake

Gov. Pawlenty at the fishing opener
Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty holding one of the walleye he caught during the 2010 Minnesota fishing opener.
Photo courtesy of the Office of the Governor

Tim Pawlenty

2010: Kabetogama / Voyaguers National Park, Lake Kabetogama

2009: White Bear Lake, White Bear Lake

2008: Breezy Point, Pelican Lake

2007: Walker, Leech Lake

2006: International Falls, Rainy Lake

2005: Tower, Lake Vermilion

2004: Baudette, Lake of the Woods

2003: Detroit Lakes, Big Detroit Lake

Colorful fishing tackle
A variety of colorful fishing tackle waits to tempt unwitting fish.
Paul Middlestaedt for MPR News 2017

Jesse Ventura

2002: International Falls, Rainy Lake

2001: Breezy Point, Pelican Lake

2000: Crane Lake, Crane Lake

1999: Grand Rapids, Pokegama Lake

The first 10 governor's fishing openers were held on Mille Lacs Lake; the event has returned there three other times, most recently in 1991.

The last time a governor was unable to attend an official opener? Wendell Anderson in 1975

Fishing opener
A giant musky statue outside a gas station greets visitors in Isle, Minn., just a few days before the fishing opener.
Derek Montgomery for MPR News 2012

Minnesota fishing opener weather statistics

Warmest fishing opener on record

92 degrees at St. Cloud (1987)

Coldest fishing opener on record

24 degrees at International Falls (1996 and 2004)

Other weather stats

  1. Three-quarters of Minnesota fishing openers have not seen any measurable precipitation

  2. More than half of fishing openers on record have been cloudy

  3. At least a trace of snow was recorded on the opener at International Falls five times in the past seven decades

  4. The average fishing opener in Minnesota sees highs in the 60s to near 70 degrees — which is what forecasts are calling for this year.

    Source: Minnesota DNR State Climatology Office

    Fishing opener
    Anglers gather at the Gull Lake Narrows in Lake Shore, Minn., on May 11, 2013, to fish for walleyes and Northern pike on the Minnesota fishing opener.
    Steve Kohls | Brainerd Dispatch via AP 2013

    • New to fishing? Some common terms to know• Getting started: A beginner's guide to fishing• Watch: How to clean a fish• Rules and more: Minnesota fishing regulations• From the DNR: Regional fishing outlooks• Looking for a place to fish? DNR's LakeFinder• How big? State record fish