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Perham area resort owners weigh in on early opener

Anglers may have the opportunity to hit the lakes a week earlier this year thanks to a proposal working its way through St. Paul, and local resort owners are scrambling at the thought of a lost week of preparation.

Currently scheduled for May 12, Minnesota's fishing opener may be moved up to May 5 if a bill is approved by the senate and Gov. Mark Dayton.

Resort owners questioned in several phone calls last week have mixed feelings about the possibility, with some liking the idea and others concerned about the tight timeline.

"As far as the fishing goes, it should be a week earlier," said Janet Christensen, owner of Char Mac Resort in Perham.

But Dianne Witkowski of Elm Haven Resort in Ottertail said she felt crunched for time, as she and her staff have plenty of things to do right up until the opening as it is: "It's too late in the season to open us up early," she said.

Other resort owners said the early spring weather has given them a jump start on cabin preparations and dock installations, and the extra week of business would mean extra revenue.

Josh Harlow, from Big Pine Lodge in Perham, said an early resort opening would be, "very nice because we are a month ahead of schedule in getting stuff done."

Christensen said even though the cabins at Char Mac aren't up and running yet, the most crucial part is already done - the docks are in the lake. In a normal year, resorts can't get docks in this early because of the ice.

Another issue among resort owners is the reservations that were already made for fishing opener.

Brenda Harman, owner of Rush Lake Resort in Ottertail, said her resort was pre-booked a year ago for opening weekend. She isn't sure whether or not anglers will move their reservations up a week or stick with their original plans. So far, she has only received one call about coming the earlier weekend, she said.

Though the feelings and reactions are generally mixed, most resort owners seemed to agree on one thing: as Harman put it, "It would be nice to have a little bit more notice."