Anglers in the area usually flock to Rainy River around this time to scratch that itch to get in some open water fishing. Not this year. The Koochiching County Board in northern Minnesota voted Tuesday to close its four county-owned boat ramps on the Rainy River until further notice in an effort to discourage anglers from flocking to the border river during the COVID-19 pandemic. Thousands of anglers flock to the border river every spring to catch walleyes that swim upstream from Lake of the Woods to spawn.
The four ramps closed by the action are the Vidas, Frontier and Nelson Park accesses and the Upper Sault landing at Franz Jevne State Park, which sits on county-owned land. Lake of the Woods County doesn’t own any of the affected ramps, but board members supported the decision to close the landings. The board will revisit the policy at its next meeting April 14. City officials in Baudette also voted to close the two landings it owns in city limits at Timberline Park and Peace Park.
During Tuesday’s meeting, Lake of the Woods County commissioner Jon Waibel said limiting the crowds that typically converge on the Rainy River for the spring season isn’t an anti-fishing action. Instead, Waibel said, it’s to encourage people to stay home at a time they’re being asked to stay home and reduce the risk of spreading COVID-19 as the number of cases continues to grow.
“People are scared and people are mad,” Waibel said. “People have to understand, it’s not that we don’t want them here. We just don’t want an influx here now.”
Taking action to limit boat access and discourage anglers from coming north now is meant to alleviate even more drastic measures down the road, Waibel said. Walleye fishing on the Rainy River is catch-and-release only from March 1 through April 14 when the season closes.