132 YEARS OF SERVICE to Southern Minnesota
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This is probably the earliest date I can remember that the ice has been gone from both Fountain and Albert Lea Lake. What effect, if any, this will have on the upcoming fishing season remains to be seen. Once the “hard ice” season draws to a close I am always anxious to see what the open water season has in store. Whenever the ice disappears from area lakes unusually early or late, I tend to be a little apprehensive.

Looking back to some of the Governor’s Fishing Openers I have attended, there have been times when the ice has been out fairly early — like the one in Red Wing when I fished the opener on the Mississippi River in a T-shirt — but there were more times than not where the ice had gone out only a few days prior in some instances, like the one about three years ago when there was still ice on part of the lake I fished. I guess what I am really trying to say is that each year can be a little different. This is what makes living in Minnesota so interesting; you never know what lies ahead, so it’s not all that easy to predict the weather or the fishing.

When my three oldest grandsons were younger I would take them shore fishing shortly after the opener. Usually the three oldest, Trevor, Taylor and their cousin Dylan, would stay overnight and we’d rise early the next morning and, after Grandma fixed us a nice breakfast, head to the channel by Frank Hall Park. Most of my time would be spent untangling fishing lines or retrieving tackle out of overhanging tree branches. We would never usually catch much more than a few small bullheads and some perch, but they never seemed to mind. Trevor had and still does have the patience and the knack for fishing, but Taylor and Dylan not quite so much as in their younger years. As the years have gone by Dylan, like Trevor, has developed into a very good fisherman and Taylor, although he still likes to fish, isn’t quite as obsessed as the other two. Having the grandkids enjoy the sport that I love makes me feel like I have passed on a very important part of our family’s heritage to yet another generation.

If you are like me, you are looking forward to and already are getting outdoors and experiencing nature and the many things that our great Minnesota outdoors has to offer. Minnesota has 75 nice state parks and recreation areas for us to enjoy and since our family built our cabin in northern Minnesota. I have to admit I have not visited as many of our state parks as I would like. I do plan on purchasing a sticker this year and will make it a point to check out a few state’s parks starting with the one we have right here in our own back yard.

Minnesota State parks to make customer service improvements

The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources announced that some key customer service improvements are coming to Minnesota state parks and recreation areas this summer.

According to DNR Parks and Trails Division Director Erika Rivers, the following changes, which begin taking effect in early May, are important steps to modernize services and meet the needs of today’s visitors to the state’s 75 parks and recreation areas.

Summer 2016 changes include:

Campsites that are 100 percent reservable at all Minnesota state parks and recreation areas

Previously, up to one-third of state park campsites were not available for advanced reservation and could only be rented by walk-in guests at the parks on a first-come, first served basis. In a 2014-2015 pilot project, about a quarter of state parks made all of their campsites reservable. Based on positive customer response, the Parks and Trails Division decided to expand this service statewide in 2016. Campsites can be reserved online at or via phone: 866-857-2757.

Same-day reservations

For spontaneous travelers and families with busy schedules, same-day reservations will soon be available at many of Minnesota state parks’ most popular destinations (some locations will require infrastructure upgrades before implementation). Previously, the cut-off for making reservations was midnight the night before arrival day. For walk-ins, if there’s a campsite available, they’ll be able to book it either online or at a self-serve kiosk right in the park after arrival, with no reservation fee.

Easier, more convenient registration and orientation

Minnesota state parks and recreation areas are also investing in improved orientation and registration systems, which will allow visitors to register themselves and get other information without standing in line waiting for a staff person. Signs, maps and publications are being redesigned to be easier to use and to appeal to a new generation of visitors.

In moving to 100 percent reservable campsites, Rivers noted that parents previously may have been reluctant to pack up their cars and haul their kids some distance to a park that may not have a campsite available by the time they get there. “Moving to 100 percent ‘guaranteed camping’ and accepting same-day reservations is a step toward becoming even more family friendly,” she said.

Ice shelter permits for 2015 remain effective through Saturday, April 30.

Until next time, the weather is warming and the ice has disappeared from area lakes so it’s a great time to get out and enjoy walking, biking or maybe even wet a line and catch some early season panfish or perch.

Please remember to keep our troops in your thoughts and prayers while we are enjoying the freedoms that our men and women serving their country are preserving for us. They are the reason we are able to enjoy all the freedoms we have today.

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