“Fairly Reliable” Woody sends live crappie report from Rainy Lake

I just had a message from Barry “Woody” Woods, who was inducted over the weekend into the Freshwater Fishing Hall of Fame during a ceremony at the Northwest Sportshow in Minneapolis.

Somewhere on Rainy Lake, “Fairly Reliable” Woody is catching crappies stretching the width of his snowmobile seat on this sunny April afternoon.

Woody, best known as the proprietor of Woody’s Rainy Lake Resort and Woody’s Fairly Reliable Guide Service in Ranier, Minn., is somewhere on Rainy Lake this afternoon enjoying the sun and balmy 15-degree temperatures.

Thanks to the magic of technology, Woody was able to send me a report, including a photo of a big Rainy Lake crappie that nearly spanned the width of the seat on his snowmobile.

“Beautiful day!” Woody writes. “Hammering crappies as I write! I will post photos later!”

Spring is going to be late in the North Country this year — obviously — and the Rainy River, which many years is open to boat fishing by now, isn’t even open to Birchdale, Minn., yet. Last I heard, open water still was about 65 miles from Wheeler’s Point, where the Rainy empties into Lake of the Woods.

I’ll be surprised if the river is open to Baudette, Minn., by April 14, which is the last day of walleye fishing on Minnesota-Ontario border waters.

On the plus side, there’s still plenty of ice fishing ahead for those anglers who aren’t tired of staring at a hole in the ice.

“This ice won’t be gone until May,” Woody said. “The best ice fishing is ahead.”

With a bit of luck, maybe there’s even a crappie or two up there with my name on it.

Make sure you have a new fishing license if you’re fishing in Minnesota this weekend

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.

DNR: New Minnesota fishing licenses required March 1

The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources in its weekly enforcement report today sent out a couple of reminders that are worth noting.

First and foremost is that 2014 fishing licenses are required beginning Saturday, so if you’re planning to hit your favorite Minnesota fishing hole this weekend, be sure you have a new license first. Fishing season for walleyes and northern pike closed Sunday on Minnesota inland waters, but season on popular Minnesota-Canada border waters such as Lake of the Woods remains open through April 14.

The DNR also reminded fish house owners to remove all garbage from the ice in the area surrounding their shelter. That should go without saying, but huge amounts of garbage traditionally are left to wash up on shore every spring from careless fish house owners who leave trash on the ice.

In another example of stating the obvious, snowmobilers should get their snowmobiles registered before taking them out on the trails, the DNR reminded. Once you’re stopped by a conservation officer, it’s too late.