Lakes, Local Businesses Busy for Wisconsin Fishing Opener

While social distancing and practicing guidelines, anglers stocked up on bait and tackle and took to the water.

SOLON SPRINGS, Wis.- The near perfect weather Saturday lured Wisconsin anglers out for the day many have been waiting all year for: the 2020 Fishing Opener.

“It’s been a long winter and get some walleyes, maybe some crappies, bass, whatever it’s, whatever’s biting,” said Kyle Tikkanen, fishing with his son, Kegan on Upper Saint Croix Lake.

“Just getting out, enjoying the fresh air, catching fish is a bonus,” he said.

The busyness at the water’s edge almost makes one forget about life during these tough times.

While many bait and tackle shops find themselves struggling or closed this opener due to the Coronavirus, for outdoor supply stores like Solon Springs Mercantile, this was just a busy, sunny Saturday in May.

“This opener has been more busy than previous openers because people are excited to get outside and be on the lake, and see people maybe they haven’t seen before even if from a distance,” said the store’s co-owner, Meg Thoreson.

The store’s fish department was buzzing as people stocked up. “Obviously live bait has been really busy–crappie, minnows, fatheads,” she said.

With the Wisconsin DNR mostly offering licenses online, Solon Springs Mercantile became a one-stop shop.

“A lot of people wait til opening day to buy their license,” said Thoreson. “So there was brisk business this morning, people waiting in the parking lot to get licenses to make sure they were legal when they went out.”

White boats broke up the blue of Upper Saint Croix Lake, some from the wee hours of the morning.

“Since 5:00 this morning,” said Kevin Homich. “Beat everybody else out here. Beat the rush, get a nice parking spot. Beautiful day til it got windy.”

The wind didn’t stop Homich from ending his long day with some prizes.

“Nice 19 inch walleye,” he said, “couple pike, couple northern.”

As soon as one boat emerged from the water, another took its place. “Having this close access to a lake is really nice,” said Jennifer Ziemann.

“It’s nice to get out, it’s nice on a sunny day to get out and see what we can catch,” she said, as her husband got the boat in the water. “See who catches the first one.”

But of course, fishing doesn’t always turn out as you expect.

“I took out pork for dinner just in case,” she said.

The Wisconsin Fishing Opener is also an opener for new memories. “Pretty soon I’ll be able to bring my Grandson Stonie with me,” Homich said. “He’s only one but he’s going to enjoy it.”

Father-son duo Kyle and Kegan work together to lower the boat into the water and hold it in place.

“Me and my dad did it, and I enjoy it and I want to pass that on to him so he enjoys it. And one day he can enjoy it with his children as well,” said Tikkanen.

And for some, it’s an escape into nature.

“It’s my therapy,” Homich said.

“Get away from people and away from, away from life, basically,” he said. “Don’t get no better than this.”

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