ALBERT LEA, MN — Minnesota is said to be the land of 10,000 lakes so it is no surprise that fishing is a big hobby. While it may be a hobby, it is also big business, contributing a lot of money to the state’s economy.
Steve Orourke is one of many Minnesota anglers who are taking advantage of the recent weather.
“I’ve been out everyday since last weekend, so it’s been kind of nice,” Orourke said.
Fishing opener is still a couple of weeks away, but Orourke is finding out which spots are hot to catch the big one.
“Normally when it’s open season, walleye and northern. Right now I’m just kind of fishing, catch and release,” Orourke said.
In a few weeks, he will not be alone. Recent data from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service show that Minnesota brought in $2.4 billion in 2011 from direct spending by anglers.
Albert Lea has quite a few lakes and they are one of the cities expecting to see a large number of people anchoring nearby.
“Albert Lea Lake is ranked as one of the top ten walleye fishing lakes in the state. People know that and they come down specifically to fish that lake,” said Randy Kehr, Executive Director of the Albert Lea/Freeborn County Chamber of Commerce.
The secrets of Albert Lea Lake stretch beyond the Minnesota borders.
“We’re blessed with a lot of lakes up here and we’re a great fishing destination. Albert Lea Lake, many Iowans drive across that all of the time, is the first major lake inside the state,” Kehr said.
Those anglers are said to support about 35,000 Minnesota jobs. Some of those jobs are at area bait shops where they are stocking up for the upcoming rush of anglers.
“I carry a little bit of everything around here. I’ve got crappie minnows, fatheads, butter worms, sucker minnows, shiners, night crawlers,” said Danny Lugo of Bubba’s Bait Shop.
Lugo said his only concern is not having enough bait for those fishing walleye.
“Leeches this season may be hard to get in because up north there’s a lot of ice still,” Lugo said.
Until then those like Orourke will continue to search for their favorite spot like his nook near the bridge.
“There’s a lot of water movement. Usually it depends on the day, some days it’s better fishing, some days not,” Orourke said.
The data also shows that angler spending dropped by more than $300 million since the last survey in 2006. Kehr says to keep in mind those numbers were from before the recession, and says these numbers are still great.