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Sales of Minnesota fishing licenses down nearly 30 percent

Sales of Minnesota fishing licenses were down nearly 30 percent from last year on the eve of last Saturday's Minnesota fishing opener. License sales were the lowest they have been in the past 12 years, according to Department of Natural Resources...

Fishing opener 2011
Fishing boats on the St. Louis River. Sam Cook / scook@duluthnews.com

Sales of Minnesota fishing licenses were down nearly 30 percent from last year on the eve of last Saturday's Minnesota fishing opener. License sales were the lowest they have been in the past 12 years, according to Department of Natural Resources figures.

Sources in the fishing industry cited poor weather on the opener, gas prices and the general state of the economy as possible reasons for lagging license sales.

"That's alarming," said Bill Heig, who owns Bowen Lodge on Lake Winnibigoshish near Deer River. "All of us were commenting. We were looking out over the lake, and there were hardly any boats out there."

License sales for 2011 through the Friday before opener were at 257,123, down from 366,595 last year at the same time and down from the past 12-year average of about 364,000 on the same date.

License sales took a similar dip in 2008, on the early end of the economic downturn, when gas prices also were high. But sales rebounded in 2009 and 2010 to the past 10-year average.

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DNR fisheries chief Dirk Peterson said he isn't concerned about the slow sales.

"They are in the range of what we've experienced, but they are at the lower end," Peterson said. "It's probably the cool weather, the very cold spring. Once the weather warms up, people will feel more like getting out and fishing."

Traffic was slow at Vermilion Fuel and Food near Lake Vermilion in Tower, said owner Dave Sorensen.

"We were down 15 to 20 percent in customers and sales," he said. "I think maybe it's the price of gas. In 2008 when gas prices were high, we saw a similar opener."

Some shops did well despite an apparent downturn in angler numbers.

"I think this is the busiest opener I can remember," said Russ Francisco of Marine General Sports in Duluth. "The phone is still ringing off the hook."

At Fisherman's Corner in Pike Lake, Scott VanValkenburg said business was "decent," but he noted that angling pressure was down.

"All the guys on Fish Lake and over on the St. Louis River, they said, 'Where is everybody?' " VanValkenburg said.

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He thought the forecast for a wet, cool, windy opener was a factor.

"If the weather guy says it's going to be bad, a lot of guys don't go," VanValkenburg said. "They did schedule bad weather. Saturday was no bed of roses."

Related Topics: FISHINGRECREATION
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