As soon as the ice goes out on Lake Minnetonka, anglers target crappies.

When the sun shines, the crappie action heats up.

The only thing different about this year is everything.

A week ago Saturday, the thermometer pushed 70 degrees. A day later, said thermometer was covered with 5 inches of snow.

There’s also Gov. Tim Walz’s stay-at-home order and its exception for physical-distancing friendly outdoor activities, read walking, running, hunting and fishing.

Fishing you say?

Lake Minnetonka can be a crappie hotspot. That’s no secret.

The first-place crappie at last year’s Minnesota Bound Crappie Contest pushed 2 pounds.

Fish tagged for second- and third-place weighed in at over 1 1/2 pounds.

Note: The 52nd running of this year’s contest, scheduled for Saturday, May 2, has been canceled.

Bobbers out

By some reports, the crappie fishing before the snow and cooler temperatures was pretty OK.

“Since the weather turned,” said Deephaven's Tom Sullivan, “I've heard people say the fish have moved deeper.”

Monday found Sullivan fishing off a dock near Carson’s Bay. He was having little luck.

Lt. Shane Magnuson of the Hennepin County Sheriff’s Office Water Patrol hasn’t been checking stringers, but he has been checking boaters.

“People have been eager to get out on the lake,” he said. “I’m no different. We’ve been inside and getting outdoors is good for your mental state.”

Rules

The Hennepin County Sheriff’s sign outside Gray’s Bay flashes, “Social distance even on water.”

Magnuson says this means six feet between boats, no rafting and no tying boats together.

“You can anchor more than six feet apart and still carry on a conversation,” he said.

Other social distance guidelines include:

  • Only boat with those in your immediate household
  • Do not invite guests onto your boat. This includes family members not in your immediate household as well as your favorite fishing buddies
  • Go right from your house to the boat and back, avoiding all unnecessary contact with anyone during your trip
  • No beaching or tying up to other boats. Keep your boat and the people in your boat at least six feet away from other boats and people
  • Do not use a beach, boat ramp or marina that is closed

General safety tips:

  • It’s especially important to wear a life jacket when boating. Currently, water temperatures on all bodies of water are cold. If you were to fall into the water, hypothermia happens quickly in these conditions
  • When boating or spending time near water, let someone know where you are going and when you will return
  • Carry all required boating safety equipment, including life jackets, flares, navigation lights, a horn or whistle, a first-aid kit, and everything else on your safety checklist
  • Parents and caregivers should supervise children when they are near the water
  • Enjoy our shared resources responsibly

Good start

Magnuson said boating activity has increased significantly over the last couple weeks.

“We’ve had a couple behavior issues,” he said, “but overall, we’re seeing people making good decisions.”

When asked about social-distance enforcement, he said the sheriff’s office wouldn’t do so without probable cause.

“We want boaters to be safe,” he said.

The alternative?

“Boating isn't allowed in Michigan and Connecticut,” he said, “and we don't want that to happen here.”

Sports editor

Dan Huss covers Eden Prairie sports and especially loves reporting on sports features and outdoors-related adventures. He lives in Shorewood with his wife, Marnie, daughters Aili and Britt, and Wilma, a pheasant-finding Deutsch Drahthaar.

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