OAKDALE, Minn. -- It typically feels like a state holiday. But last week's fishing opener came and went with substantially less fanfare -- and business -- than usual. And that means the state fishing industry is hoping that this weekend's warmer temperatures allow for another, "unofficial" opener.
"You just can't get caught up in something you can't control. I can have the best business model in the world for Blue Ribbon, but I can't control Mother Nature," said Josh Stevenson, owner of Blue Ribbon Bait and Tackle in Oakdale.
Stevenson said that the chillier-than-usual spring has cost his business... dearly.
"I'd say we're down at least half. And I betcha it's the same across the state, in the whole industry. We don't have any bailouts or anything like that, so you just got to take it and roll with it," he said.
According to the Minnesota DNR, 257,665 state fishing licenses were purchased by this Monday. Last year on that day, the number was 41,273 -- a difference of more than 150 thousand.
And on top of that, bait shop owners struggled to secure sought-after bait as lakes in northern Minnesota remained frozen. This week's warmer temperatures finally lifted the "freeze" on leeches.
For Stevenson, he hopes warmer days mean better times for an industry that's paid dearly for an eternal winter.
"The fishing industry probably feels it more than every other industry, I would guess, because there's so much money involved in fishing, 'cause we are the state of fishing," he said, adding, "You try and stay positive and think, three weeks from now, all these people that are waiting, they will all come back."
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