Mother's Day in Minnesota: bass fishing vs. brunch

Minnesota's moral dilemma: Opening day of fishing season falls on Mother's Day weekend. Will government save family unity and change the calendar?

Amelia Newcomb/Staff
The author, who grew up walleye fishing on Mille Lacs lake in Minnesota, takes a break every now and then to fly fish in Montana.

When I was growing up in northern Minnesota, only two holidays existed on the calendar: opening day of deer hunting season and opening day of fishing. Christmas was the time you received equipment to participate in the other two.

So it is perhaps not surprising that Minnesota is in a bit of a snit over a calendar clash involving one of those sacrosanct days. It turns out that the opening day of fishing season this year falls on Mother’s Day. What’s a good angler to do – bring home tulips or a stringer of walleye?

It’s a moral dilemma big enough to challenge any Lutheran minister. It’s also one that has been taken up by another authority, the state legislature.
The Minnesota House recently voted to move opening day of fishing up one week, from May 12 to May 5, partly in the hope of preserving family unity. The Senate is expected to take up the issue soon.

In truth, the House’s move wasn’t intended solely to decouple opening day of fishing from Mother’s Day. That was one of the benefits. The other reason was that the state has had such a warm winter that walleye spawning, after which fishing starts, ended early this year, so state lawmakers thought they would give anglers an extra week on the water.

Sounds like a logical solution. Another of week fishing. No moral conflict over bass-versus-brunch with mom. Certainly fishermen would embrace it.
Not exactly.

In Minnesota, messing with opening day is like messing with the Mayo Clinic or Swedish meatballs. It’s not something you do blithely. While many anglers do welcome the extra time in the boat, other fishing interests are less enthusiastic.

Some fishing guides are upset because many of their clients have booked trips for opening day and if the date is now changed, they won’t be able to alter their plans in time to be on the water for the all-important first weekend.

Many resort owners in the northern part of the state complain for similar reasons: They say they won’t be able to get their lodges, boats, docks, and other fishing paraphernalia ready for an early start. Some anglers plan their spring vacation around opening week. What do they do now – switch plans or go the uneventful second week? This is to say nothing of the small towns that plan opening day celebrations, including one hosted by ... the governor.

As Ron Schara, a longtime outdoors writer and host of the TV show “Minnesota Bound,” put it in a recent op-ed in the Minneapolis StarTribune: “It is akin to moving Christmas a week earlier.”

All this might sound like a tempest in a tackle box, until you consider this: 2 million people fish in Minnesota, which includes about 1 in 5 adults.
Still, leaving the schedule the way it is, with Mother’s Day and opening day falling on the same date, would no doubt cause a few tense discussions in Minnesota homes. Or maybe it wouldn’t. Gail Rosenblum, a StarTribune columnist, has one suggestion for men feeling conflicted: “Go fish.” Just drop the kids off at the nanny before you go. And express guilt as you pack your rod.

In a recent column, she says there is virtually nothing more euphoric in life than “a few hours alone in my house.” She says once your husband returns, you can tell him how much he was missed – which he will unwittingly buy “hook, line and sinker.”

This is not to say the issue falls entirely along classic  gender lines. Thirty one percent of those who hold fishing licenses in Minnesota are women – and the numbers are growing. In those cases, the issue is easy to resolve: Men, just take the women with you when you go out on the lake. The only concessions you’ll have to make is that you won’t be alone with the guys and you’ll have to talk about what it feels like every time you pull in a northern pike.

In other cases, here are a few suggestions for maintaining family unity:

• Men, slip out of the house early, pretending you’re getting her a gift, which in effect you will be. Head to the lake, catch your fish, and make her dinner. Suggested menu: prosciutto-wrapped walleye, sautéed in butter, garlic, and lemon. If you don’t catch anything, you’re on your own.

• Women, don’t worry about being snubbed if he goes out fishing. Remember that next month is Father’s Day.

• State lawmakers, don’t mess with the dates. Instead, change the motto on the license plate from “land of 10,000 lakes” to “land of 10,000 mothers.” The fish won’t notice. The women will.

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