Updated: 05/13/2014 12:24 PM
Created: 05/09/2014 5:44 PM KAALtv.com
By: John Doetkott
(ABC 6 NEWS) -- Saturday is the big fishing opener in Minnesota, and with thousands of anglers expected to cast a line, DNR officials are warning everyone to be careful of more than just wayward hooks.
The biggest fishing day of the year will likely come as a welcome reprieve for avid anglers who had only their icehouses to get them through the long winter.
But that long winter was also hard on the fish themselves.
Low water levels and thick ice in southern Minnesota caused large fish kills on many area lakes, but DNR officials still said the outlook is good for this season.
"We have a number of lakes where we've had really high assessment results for walleye abundance, so that's great,” said Don Pereira, section chief for DNR fisheries. “The key aspect of southern Minnesota is we can grow a good sized pike down there pretty quick."
But no matter where you are or what you're fishing for, officials said there's one thing you can't let get away.
"We've got a wonderful fishery in the state of Minnesota, but we also have some issues with invasive species," said Jerry Katzenmeyer, park manager at Myre Big Island State Park near Albert Lea.
Katzenmeyer said everything from zebra mussels, to Eurasian milfoil, to spiny water fleas have all caused problems on even some of the state's premier fishing lakes.
"They get moved by mistake. People, in most cases, are not going to do this deliberately, but they're going to do it carelessly,” Katzenmeyer said. “Just like that you've got a couple of lakes infested."
DNR officials want to remind everyone going out on the water, not just anglers, that the law requires all boats to be cleaned before and after they enter the water, that all bait and bilge water is dumped, and that trailers are cleaned.
Officials said it's important to keep lakes clean not just for enjoyment now, but for generations to come.
"It's not just something people have to think about doing,” Katzenmeyer said. “It's something by law they have to do."