If you’re planning to go fishing in Minnesota this weekend, make sure you buy a new fishing license first.
The old licenses expire today.
If my experience is any indication, there’s going to be some confusion about this.
Like pretty much everyone else, I’d been under the assumption that the 2013 licenses were good until April 30 — which for reasons I don’t understand had been the case for the past few years — even though walleye and pike season on Minnesota inland waters closes in late February.
But then a notice came out last week that licenses expire today, Feb. 28. For reasons I again don’t understand, Minnesota changed the expiration date — again — reverting to Feb. 28, which is when fishing licenses historically expired. If you’re fishing Lake of the Woods or other Minnesota-Canada border waters where walleye season is open through April 14, that’s a significant change.
And so, last Saturday, I decided to buy my new license while it was fresh in my mind. I stopped by a local sporting goods store and told the person at the customer service counter that I needed a new Minnesota fishing license — only to have him tell me I didn’t need the new one yet.
He almost convinced me, but I opted to err on the side of caution and told him I’d like to buy the new license anyway.
Now I’m glad I did.
The encounter made me wonder, though: If the person who was running the DNR’s Electronic License System machine wasn’t aware of the date change, I wonder how many anglers are going to be caught off guard this weekend.
I had an email chat with a Minnesota resort owner who summed it up best:
“For years, licenses expired on the 28th of February and then on March 1st, everyone would have to get a new license,” he wrote. “Then someone thought, ‘why don’t we simply allow licenses to expire when season closes, and then when the season opens, everyone can purchase a new license.’ Must have made too much sense; we are back to the old way.’”
So there you have it. Don’t ask why. Just go out and buy a new fishing license.
Regardless of what anyone tells you, you’re going to need it this weekend.