WDAY: The News Leader

Published May 02, 2013, 10:05 PM

Leeches and bait affected by late lake ice

Fargo, ND (WDAY TV) - The joke in lakes country today: Get your portable and some "tip-ups" ready for the fishing opener.

By: Kevin Wallevand, WDAY Staff Reports, WDAY

Fargo, ND (WDAY TV) - The joke in lakes country today: Get your portable and some "tip-ups" ready for the fishing opener.

As we showed you earlier this week, there is still 34 inches of ice on some area lakes, and that is having a huge impact on those in the Bait business.

Adam Schwartz of Becker Bait near Vining, Minnesota is usually trapping and bringing in leeches by the buckets this time of year. But this is no ordinary year.

Adam Schwartz, Becker Bait-Vining: “Full bore, we were actually trapping the 20th of March last year. We were getting leeches, so it will be tough for the opener.”

Most of the ponds and small lakes used by Becker Bait are still frozen over and so getting to the leeches is an issue, even in the shallows where it is starting to melt.

Schwartz: “The leeches go into the mud for hibernation during the winter so if the bottom is froze they cannot come out of the mud and so once the bottoms thaw they will come out of the mud and you can trap them.”

And it is not just leaches, this late spring that does not seem to evolve, is impacting the shiner minnows.

Schwartz: “We are 30 to 40 days behind compared to last year.”

The Koep name is synonymous with bait and fishing. But right now, about the only minnows plentiful are the crappies minnows. The much loved Shiner minnows are AWOL, and we are a week away from the opener.

Phil Koep, Urbank Bait: “Usually about two to three weeks after ice out, so we might see shiners at the end of May.”

For 67 years, the Koeps have been supplying bait to stores all around the region. This year, Urbank Bait has seen a long winter…

Koep: “I believe most of the lakes will be froze up for the opener.”

Turn into a Spring that bail trappers and dealers would rather just forget.

Koep: “I have been doing this 38 years and it is the first time I have seen this problem.”

The good news is, once we see a warm up, the leaches and shiners will get active. Helping drive the $3 billion impact anglers and sportsmen have on the state.

C-stores and small bait shops scattered across lakes country are left to deal with what nature hands them.

With few leeches and no shiners yet available, it could be a unique fishing opener. Especially if the lakes still have ice.

Bait Shops predict that once it does warm up, the summer supply of bait will once again flow. For now, it might mean fishing for crappies and sunfish while waiting for the ice to clear.

Glen McDowell, Big Foot-Vining: “The guys are trying to trap leaches, but they are just not getting them and that is a big seller for us. I am expecting river shiners to come in fatheads and crappies, so I think there will be some bait out there but the question is where will you use it?

Even the amount of night crawlers coming in is lower compared to this time last year, but bait dealers say the supply is still healthy.