Mother Nature has decided to toss a few nice days our way and with any luck at all, a turnaround in fishing action should result.
Surface temperatures dipped to their lowest point of the season on Winnibigoshish yesterday. Dropping to 52 degrees at mid-lake in the morning, they began recovering slowly under the sunny sky, reaching 54 degrees by late afternoon. That water is still cold, but at least showing signs of optimism.
I can’t emphasize strongly enough the scattering effect these cold temperatures have produced. Fish location is un-predictable, but generally, mid-depth flats in 13 to 16 feet of water are producing the most reliable action.
I know that it’s frustrating, I’m not a big fan of roaming the flats myself, but this is where the lion’s share of the fish are hiding. We have found some fish every day, and when we do, they will bite. But they travel in small groups, most often singles and doubles so don’t get too locked in to any one spot.
We are still fishing with jig and minnow combinations, mainly because of the simplicity. When I have 4 or 5 lines in the water, it’s not practical to set up trolling rigs. But if I was fishing alone, or with a single partner, I would definitely be experimenting with “Lil ‘ Guys”. It’s a hybrid bait that allows the use of live bait, can be trolled slower than a spinner or crankbait, but produces flash and vibration to help trigger strikes.
Using a ¾ ounce bottom bouncer, you can maintain contact with the bottom while trolling at speeds of .7 to 1.5 MPH. That helps cover territory faster and makes searching for scattered fish more appealing. If you locate small schools of fish holding on structure, it’s easy enough to switch back into jig and minnow mode.
I’ll get back to reporting about the Winnie Walleye bite tomorrow, but we had a brief power outage this morning and that’s left me pressed for time.
For today, I’m going to be switching gears; this marks the kickoff of “Fun With Dick and Paul, MMXVII. I took my boat to the pressure washer last night and now I’m ready to travel. So for the next 5 days, I’m going to do my best to cover fresh territory, hopefully not fishing the same spot twice. It’s gonna be fun to do some experimenting and whatever we learn, you will definitely be the first to KNOW!
Brainchild of longtime Northwoods fishing guide Jeff Sundin, the jig features an innovative design that generates strike-triggering swimming and darting motions on the cast, drift or troll.
“It works with whole nightcrawlers, as well as leeches and minnows,” said Sundin, who, with his clients, perfected the jighead during an exhaustive trial-and-error development process that spanned three decades.
Sundin says the Live Bait Jig excels when fished on light tackle, in an erratic twitching ..." Learn More >> Lindy Live Bait
"Memorial weekend proved to be a great fishing weekend. Fishing remained consistently good. Big numbers of walleyes and saugers being caught. Small fish, keeper walleyes and saugers and some trophies still showing across the lake. Key depths around 18-24' of water. Jig and a minnow is the best presentation with pink and gold jigs strong but pulling spinners is gaining steam quickly. Reefs in 23-32', also holding fish. Jumbo perch and pike mixed in all over.
Walleyes are in the Rainy River with a good morning bite if you can find an active school. Many walleyes have headed back to the lake but some remain in the river and will stay all year. Same as the lake, a jig and a minnow has been best tactic for boating walleyes. Sturgeon fishing opens again July 1st.
Up at the NW Angle, anglers continue to crush fish. Many have limits in just a few hours. Fish are all over islands such as Oak Island, Little Oak, Hay Island, Garden, and structure off of other small islands. Jig and a minnow up at the angle is the tried and true method of choice but pulling spinners is turning on big time. Colors should include chartreuse, pink, glow colors and of course gold. Key depths ranged from 15-25' of water." – Lake of the Woods Tourism, (800) 382-FISH
Last week’s forecast of a warm, sun-filled Memorial weekend wasn’t exactly fulfilled. After a rather nice day on Friday, another cold front blew into the area, producing what I remember as the quintessential Memorial Day holiday. Dark skies, along with blustery conditions continue to keep surface water cold. Ranging between 54 and 58 degrees, temps are about 5 degrees cooler than they were at this time last year.
I admit it; Mother Nature’s propensity for delivering changeable weather has left me scratching my head. These stubbornly cold water temperatures and strange timing for spawning runs seems to be fueling the problem.
From my own experience, I know that fishing during late spring should be easier, even if the water temperatures are cooler than usual. Somehow though, fish have resisted schooling up and remain difficult to pattern. They’re not hard to catch, when we find ‘em, they do bite; the trick is to search for randomly scattered fish and pick them off one by one.
The other big trick is figuring out how to stay happy during the search, avoiding the obvious temptation to become frustrated.
The closest thing to a pattern that I can rely on has been to focus on deep shoreline related structures. Points, steep breaklines and sunken islands with access to deep water are all holding a few fish. Most fish have not moved far enough away from the shoreline to produce large populations on mid-lake structures, but if you wanted to focus on the “early arrivals”, you can find some fish in the middle too.
Fishing the breaklines in 17 to 22 feet of water, we’ve been able to pick away at them using ¼ ounce jigs tipped with minnows. On Friday, I thought that using Lindy Rigs with Leeches and crawlers might provide more consistent action, but that didn’t prove to be true. Still, the fishes preferences will change soon and I have leeches and crawlers in the cooler right now. Whenever I see fish on the Humminbird, I’ll keep testing them.
My plan for today is to cover a lot of territory, be as efficient as possible and keep the faith. One of these days, we’re gonna see a turnaround and it might just be today.
When I was a teenager, I never knew that there was a way to earn a good summer income by working as a dock hand at a fishing resort. That’s too bad because if I had known then, what I know now, I would have jumped at the chance to do it.
Working outside, meeting new friends every week and enjoying occasional opportunities to go fishing too; that would have been a dream job for me.
That’s why I want to share this note that I got from my friend Joe Thompson at Four Seasons Resort on Lake Winnie.
“Four Seasons has an opening for a reliable dock hand. Position is open immediately and lasts through October 2017. The position is ideal for anyone who needs a short term, temporary job that pays well and provides plenty of time outside. If you're a responsible, able bodied person from any walk of life, we’d love to hear from you."
I can tell you from experience, Four Seasons has a fabulous operation and there’s a good opportunity to turn this into a great part time job. Whether you’d like the job yourself, or know somebody who is a good fit, please pass the information along. Learn More >> Four Seasons Dock Hand Opening
"Jeff, I too have noticed the lack of boats. I remember openers where there were hundreds of boats fishing in front of Bowens. This year maybe a dozen. I can only say why I don't fish as much as before. First and foremost, It's expensive. Forty dollars for a quart of shiners, another twenty five for a pound of leeches, add in your crawlers, and you can tie up close to $50 to $75 bucks before you leave the bait shop. It cost me $20 to land my boat, and another $50 to fill up the truck and boat. Gets pretty spending! Oh ya, I haven't bought snacks or supper yet for my family. How many days a week can a working guy do this? In my case not many.
The other big thing is all the hoops to jump through for the DNR. Invasives and their impact have made it a legal nightmare that most anglers tire of. Right or wrong, we are all tired of all the regulation.
Third, I'm not so sure the slot limits are what we all thought they'd be. On the opener we caught over 40 walleyes, but could only keep 4. Thats one out of ten. Great fishing by all means, but it would be nice in most peoples opinion to keep a few more.
It all adds up to fewer people any way you cut it." Comments? Email
May 29, 2017 Greg Roesler wrote; "Self employed make up a large portion of the hard core fishing crowd, from my experience. Expendable income went to the additional cost of health care for their families. An additional 15 to 20K in premiums cuts out a lot of fishing trips."
May 29, 2017 Dan Wilm wrote; "My thoughts: I live in the Brainerd Lakes area, and from now until Labor Day the lakes are full of pontoons, wakeboard boats, jet skis etc. It doesn't leave a lot of time to be spent fishing. I do agree that live bait can be expensive, that said I rarely buy a quart of shiners or gallon of leeches. I will say though that when I look at the fishing boats and all the technology on them, its hard for me to imagine anyone complaining about bait or license costs. We are going to have to live and deal with invasives and according to the DNR, it won't be at least until 2019 before any limits are changed. I think most anglers agree that technology and mobility when the bite is hot, leads to several problems. It's disappointing to me, as we should be further ahead on this issue."
May 29, 2017 Roger Boettcher wrote; "You guys need to get someone to build you a real web page."
May 30, 2017 Steve Carlson wrote; "Higher license fees and less fish! I'm all for releasing the bigger fish but this is ridiculous. The DNR has a system that clearly doesn't work! I fish in most of the states that surround us and have very good luck and can keep fish to feed my family. Not here in Minnesota."
May 30, 2017 Sean Hayden wrote; "To your point about angler participation in Minnesota, check out this survey. I was suprised to see that Minnesota is ranked #8 out of 10 as a fishing destination." Read >> American Sportfishing Association Angler Participation
"We continue to have fantastic fishing on the big lake! Our guides have been having great luck fishing close in near Pine Island and also up near the reefs from Bridges Island to Hay Island. We are catching lots of keepers and many big ones have been released. Strong action continues throughout the day. Shore Lunches are popular as always, there is nothing quite like a relaxing break and having your guide cook up a delicious lunch.
Anchoring and jigging is still the best angling method. Our Guides are still working the 25-27 foot depths with great success. Hammered gold, hammered silver, and glow and gold, or basically anything with a hook and a minnow will do the job.
The weather forecast shows possible showers today through Tuesday afternoon and then it should clear up for another beautiful weekend with highs in the upper 60’s and into the 70’s.
The new menu is getting great reviews and the bartenders are cooking up a bunch of fun new drinks for summer.
Check out our Facebook page and enter our The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly Walleye Fishing Story Contest, you might just win a prize!
We hope you’re all having a great Memorial Day weekend and our heartfelt thanks go out to all who have served. In the past 100 years, starting with World War 1, over half a million Americans gave their lives so we can enjoy the freedom we have today." - 1-800-776-3474 Border View Lodge .
Last Friday I had the sense that traffic entering the Itasca area was lighter than usual for a typical Memorial Day weekend. I figured that maybe I missed it, maybe most of them showed up on Thursday. That was then, before I got a glimpse of the boat traffic on some of the area’s most popular Walleye lakes and for me, it’s confirmed; traffic is very light this weekend.
I’m not saying that there isn’t anybody out there, anglers are present and in fair numbers. But comparing boat traffic today vs what it was just a couple of years ago is downright spooky!
It’s hard for me to call this a firsthand accounting, because purposely, I’ve avoided fishing on the area’s largest Walleye factories. There are several factors, but it’s mainly because I haven’t wanted to deal with complications due to invasive species. At least not until I get my home hot water wash down system figured out. Still, it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to drive past a boat ramp and see that there isn’t anybody parked there.
Yesterday, a friend told me that he’d just returned from Leech Lake. He reported a reasonably good Walleye catch, told me the water temperature and a few details about depth and presentation. Then I asked the obvious question; how big was the crowd? “There’s nobody out there”, he said.
The image of the boat ramp at Federal Dam was taken in May of 2015, May 15 to be precise. That was the Friday after opener and fully two weeks before Memorial Day. It was packed, there were rigs parked everywhere and dozens of fishermen at every spot. Yesterday, like my buddy said; "There's nobody out there."
These, along with accountings from other friends who have been on the big lakes make me wonder; are we making fishing so complicated that nobody wants to go? Maybe it’s become too expensive, or that there’s a perception that the fishing isn’t as good as it used to be. Maybe it’s because anglers are weary from people sticking their noses into our business every day?
Federal rules, state rules, county rules, lake association rules, municipal rules and then what; fish like mad all day long for a couple of fish that you can buy at Costco for twenty bucks?
Don’t get me wrong, I am all for personal responsibility and I believe in making a sincere effort to do what’s right for the sport. But I can’t help but feel that if I’m frustrated, so are a lot of others and maybe, this is why we’ve got so much free space at the parking ramps.
I know, you’re thinking that’s fine with me, I hate crowds anyway and besides, I don’t want all of those interlopers on my lake anyway. Not so fast, remember the old expression; “be careful what you ask for, you just might get it.”
As much as I love my peace and quiet and as much as I enjoy having a good fishing spot to myself, I DO KNOW, that without you and without “the crowds”, our days will be numbered. I don’t want to sit around waiting for the first time I pull into the driveway of my favorite bait shop and find it closed, or when my favorite fishing rod isn’t available anymore because nobody buys them. For me, I want to try and find a way to help; all of us!
If I was working for an agency, any agency that oversees fishing, then I’d be concerned; one can only govern the governable. If there’s nobody out there, then we won’t be in need of much regulation and if we don’t need regulation, we won’t need … you get the idea.
I’m not sure what I can do about it, at least not by myself, but I do have a suggestion. While we’re in the midst of celebrating Memorial Day, let’s try keeping in mind why we celebrate the holiday in the first place; to honor men and women who fought so that we could be free, free to be anglers.
I’ll do my best because I want to make the sport better. For me, yes, but not only that, for you too because we’re dependent on each other, we really are. Join me, join the club, let's call it "The Reasonable Thinker’s Club" and lets work together on making the sport better, more fun and by all means, simpler.
In the meantime, Happy Memorial Day!
"Fishing has picked up the last several days. The water temperatures in the shallow lakes in the area have been warming up while the deeper lakes have been slow to reach the temperatures we expect this time of year. Crappies have been moving into the shallows, stay for a while and then move back out. Temperatures in the mid-fifties have delayed the Crappie spawning run so far. Walleye are still deep; most anglers are hooking up in the twenty to twenty five foot range using Lindy Rigs and either a minnow or a leech.. The good news is that the weather has changed for the better with temperatures in the high sixties to low seventies during this holiday weekend. This should raise water temperatures substantially. Many anglers in the area have been targeting bass during the catch and release season but due to the cold temperatures, success has been spotty. The regular season for Bass opens this Saturday the 27th and a lot of anglers will be fishing for Smally’s, one of the area’s most popular fish. Several of the deep clear lakes have very good populations of Smallmouth Bass with 20 inch fish being fairly common. This holiday weekend’s weather is typical for this time of year. Rain and sunshine will alternate throughout the day, which can make for some fine fishing."
Frontier Sports features a complete and fully stocked Sporting Goods department and Bait Shop, Gas, Grocery, Deli and Gift Shop. Frontier Sports is an authorized LIVE TARGET and SAVAGE GEAR dealer. Frontier Sports 218-832-3901
"What is it about the pursuit of fish that has such a deep effect on our lives?
Very few avenues in life provide the opportunity for fellowship, enlightenment and enchantment they way that fishing does.
Those of us that have spent a life of pursuit in the outdoors know an enrichment that few may ever experience. Sunrises and sunsets and everything in between to which few will ever bear witness in the ... " Read >> How Fishing Cures The Soul
Surface temperatures, rebounding slightly from their dramatic dip last week, are still below historic averages for Memorial Day Weekend. At 55 degrees, the surface water under my boat was cooler yesterday than it was 2 weeks ago on the fishing opener.
The question is, what does this mean for anglers visiting the Itasca Area this Memorial Day Weekend? Will the Walleyes be shallow, deep or somewhere in the middle?
Like everybody, I’ve been watching surface temperatures and using them to make my best guess about where to fish. Using only water temperature as a guideline, I have made an assumption that “most” fish should currently inhabit shallow water, feeding on minnows and small baitfish. The problem is that over the past few days, fishing in deeper water has generally worked out better for me, sticking with shallow water patterns has not been best.
Late May has always been a pivotal time, a period when insects begin to hatch, minnows wrap up their spawning runs into shallow water and Walleyes begin mass migrations into mid-lake territory. When I recall notes from past Memorial Days, I think of the numerous times that fish inhabited shallow water at the beginning of the weekend, but had disappeared from shallow water haunts before the holiday was over.
What if the calendar has more influence over the fish than the surface temperature does? What if we’re all snooping around in the shallows, hoping for the resurgence of a “hot” spring bite, but the largest schools of fish have already moved on? Reports from earlier this week suggest that maybe they have and it’s a possibility that we have to plan for.
Let’s just say that shiner minnows, small Perch and other baitfish have temporarily evacuated the shallows. Then Walleyes have no reason to be there, even if the surface temperature seems right. Eventually, fresh weed growth will set up a new shallow water food chain and shallow water patterns will emerge again and they will be back. But not until after they’ve gone walkabout to gorge on insect larvae and small baitfish in deeper water.
For now, fish that continue to feed on minnows are more likely to be roaming deeper sand flats, especially where anglers find emerging stands of vegetation. Key water depths will range between 12 and 16 feet, depending on the water clarity where you fish.
Fish that eat bugs will be following transitions between mud, marl and sand. Water depths vary wildly because marl, the preferred substrate for insect breeding can occur at almost any depth. Typically though, key depths in my neck of the woods will range between 16 and 28 feet.
For me, prepping for the weekend includes gearing up for both shallow and deep water presentations. I’ll still be packing jigs and minnows, but I’m dusting off the Lindy Rig rods and laying in a supply of leeches and night crawlers too.
Crappies and predicting their location is a mystery right now. The Lilacs are blooming today and according to the calendar, they should be smack dab in the middle of building spawning beds right now. Crappies do not always spawn though, and with temperatures remaining cool, they may ignore the Lilac bushes and skip the ritual entirely this season.
The only way we’ll know for sure is to watch the weather and visually inspect the shallow water for evidence. Of course, every lake has its own special habitat and there’s no way that I can predict what will happen at your favorite spot. But from what we’re seeing so far, the best shallow water Crappie action may already be behind us. I hope that I’m wrong, but it would not surprise me if they are few and far between this weekend.
Most folks already have their plans set for the weekend, many are arriving today and some already got here yesterday. Wherever you are, stay safe this weekend and if you happen to spot us on the water, be sure to give us a wave.
OH and by the way, Good Luck !!
We’ve covered a lot of ground this week, Leech Lake on Monday, Winnie on Tuesday and Upper Red on Wednesday. All three of these reliable Walleye factory lakes have had one thing in common; scattered fish.
By now, this is probably old news to you, but to reiterate, cold air temperatures sent surface temperatures spiraling down, weakening every link in the food chain. With baitfish scattered horizontally across the flats and vertically up and down the water column, it’s hard for fish to zero in on feeding areas.
Walleye, Crappie and Perch have been just as confused as we are, they can find some food and when they do, they’re in the mood to eat it too; the problem is that they just can’t find “Easy Pickin’s”.
Hmm, that sounds familiar; up here at the other end of the food chain we have the same problem. We can find some fish, and when we do, we can catch them, the problem is that we just can’t find “easy pickin’s”.
In my mind, it’s easy to explain, it’s all about real estate; the less space baitfish occupy, the easier it is for predators to zero in on areas where feeding is easy. Over time, small schools of fish begin gathering around concentrations of bait, taking advantage of the opportunity. One school of fish at a time, the area begins filling with aggressive, feeding fish and soon, we have a “Hot Bite” on our hands.
Whenever weather forces baitfish away from shallow water, fish are forced to react. If they want to feed, they’ll have to roam flats in search food. The more space they have to cover, the less concentrated they become and soon, the “Hot Bite” disintegrates. Before long, we too are forced to roam the flats to find fish; we have to work harder and smarter, for less.
This is where attitude comes into play and it’s what separates fisher-people from catcher-people. Fisher-people keep moving, keep studying and keep on fishing; they know that sooner or later, they will catch some fish.
Catcher-people tend to lose interest, if searching for a “Hot Bite”, takes too long, and frustration sets in, and before you know it, their attention span goes away and odds of success drop like a rock.
For me, the searching is almost as much fun as the catching. The most rewarding catches almost always come at the tail end of a good old fashioned head scratching session. I realize that doesn’t suit everybody, but if you want to win the game more often, adjusting to this way of thinking will definitely help.
One trick that’s helped me this week has been to focus on fine tuning a fishing area rather than driving the boat from one side of the lake to the other. On all three lakes, we’ve found relatively small areas that contained enough structure to produce a fish or two at a time. If we popped 2 Walleyes and then the action fizzled, instead of moving a mile, I’ve moved 100 feet and most of the time, there’s been a little something at each stop.
On Leech Lake, the trick was to move from one patch of weeds to another. Most small weed patches occurred in depths of 7 to 10 feet, but the key fishing depth was about 9 feet. Fan casting 1/8 ounce jigs tipped with Shiners; we picked up 11 Walleyes, 9 of them keepers, a half dozen Perch and a bunch of smaller pike.
On Winnie, the trick was to hold along the steep edge of a shoreline related bar. The fish were easily visible in depths of 18 to 22 feet and we used ¼ ounce Lindy Live Bait jigs tipped with mixed minnows to massage our way to a good catch of eater Pike along with 6 to 8 slot size Walleyes.
On Upper Red Lake, the trick was to cover every nook and cranny in and around a field of scattered rocks. Most of the time, we had little flurries of action, 3 or 4 strikes would tide us over between sessions of searching for the next small group of fish.
We used 1/8 ounce Live Bait Jigs tipped with a variety of minnows. On Wednesday, there was a solid case building for Fatheads vs Shiners. The fish were striking all minnows equally, but there were more fish actually hooked by anybody who was using smaller size minnows, Fatheads or small Rainbows out-produced the larger Shiners.
My observation over the years is that fish in Upper Red Lake care very little about what kind of minnow we use anyway; they’ve always eaten whatever we put on the table. In fact, I’m disappointed in myself for wasting my hard earned cash on Shiners yesterday. If I’d shown up with nothing but Fatheads, our luck may actually have been better.
While it was certainly not up to typical early season standards, Red Lake did provide the best catch of the week. We boated about 25 fish, 16 of them were solid keepers and for me, the trip was worth the extra driving time.
The good news is that weather patterns will be taking us back into warmer territory. The surface temperatures rose nearly 4 degrees from beginning to end yesterday and that’s the direction we want to see them go right now. As we see temperatures cross the 60 degree line, fishing reports will become happier for the “catcher-people”.
OH by the way, all of the travelling we’ve done this week has meant that I’m spending a lot of time scrubbing the boat. I don’t like it any better than you do, but if you move between lakes, do us all a favor and do a good, thorough clean up, okay? Jeff Sundin 218-245-9858 or EMAIL
"Heavy rains pounded the whole state –obviously. This has brought higher water and in many cases current conditions in lakes that are part of river systems/flowages that get the fish going! We have been keying on current areas where rivers/creeks enter the lake, leave the lake, or narrows between two larger parts of lakes that have actual moving current as well. Walleyes can be found feeding in these areas throughout the day. Depths of 3-5 ft are common. Fish these areas and the visual current breaks as if you were fishing in a river. Other lakes have witnessed the shiner spawn already done so the walleyes are moving towards their early summer locations and deeper water. Continue using the jig/minnow combo for another couple of weeks. Sneak a leech or crawler in the mix once in a while just to be safe. Concentrate on the 12-18 ft range in most cases. Good luck out there. Big Fish, Big Fun." Capt Josh, Minnesota Fishing Guide Service 218-732-9919, 320-291-0708
"This past week of fishing was a lesson in fortitude! A big word for an old guide. The water temperature on the lake dropped nearly ten degrees. The walleyes became very finicky. If you could brave the wind and cold, you could catch some fish. The depths ranged from six feet to 20 feet of water. Jigs and shiners were still the bait of choice.
When the east winds subsided and swung around to the west, the fish scattered throughout the whole lake! They became very difficult to find and even harder to catch! Most of the fish were found on the shoreline breaklines in 15-20' of water. We haven't seen the sun for some time and the shiner minnows have definitely moved out of the shallows during the day. Look for low light conditions, early morning and evening, to catch fish shallow.
The northerns have been very cooperative while looking for walleyes. Jigs and shiner minnows are the ticket for these fish.
Perch fishing has been spotty, as well. Look for new emerging weeds to find perch. Jigs and fatheads or half a shiner minnow will do the trick for perch. Keep moving until you find the nicer fish. You may have to make long drifts to catch nicer perch. The only fish that seem to be schooled together are the smaller perch.
We are looking forward to warmer weather for Memorial Weekend. We still have a few openings for the last minute fishermen. As the water warms back up the fish should get more active." Joe Thompson, Four Seasons Resort 218-665-2231
There's no sense in getting down about the weather, it's just one of those facts of life that we have to deal with. In fact, I think it's an interesting departure from many opening week scenarios and this year, its better.
I recall dozens of "typical" fishing openers that feature grey skies, cold temperatures and maybe even some snow flurries. Usually, that weather lasts until about Tuesday of the first week and then the sun comes out, the weather becomes beautiful and we have fabulous fishing that lasts all the way to Memorial Day weekend. That’s when the gloomy skies, cold weather and cold front fishing patterns come back.
This spring, the cycle is apparently reversed; nice weather arrived for the fishing opener and it appears to be on tap for Memorial Day. These big weekends are really important for local businesses and the better the weather; the more likely they are to have a good season. I for one don’t mind suffering in the rain today, especially if it means that the Memorial Day weekend will be beautiful and my friends will do well at the registers this weekend.
As cold as it was on the lake yesterday, the fishing action hung in there fairly well. I did notice that Walleyes had become much more scattered than they were before the cold front, but generally speaking, if we could find them, we could catch them.
Surface temperatures now ranging between 53 and 55 degrees are extending the jig and minnow bite. Using 1/8 ounce Lindy Jigs tipped with a hodge-podge of different minnows, we were able to catch Perch, Pike and Walleyes all on the same shallow 4 to 6 foot breakline.
I tried fishing deeper too, moving first to the 8 to 12 foot break and later to the deeper, 12 to 20 foot break. The deeper break yielded a few small pike, but both Perch and Walleye were non-existent out there. At 12 feet of water, we were able to pick up some Walleyes, but they were randomly scattered. I never found anything that looked like a school of fish, only singles and doubles.
With the cool down has come a balancing of water temperatures. There’s not much difference now between dark water, shallow lakes vs. clear water, deep lakes. So with another gloomy day on tap, I think we’ll be testing the water on a couple of the clear lakes that I haven’t visited yet.
I’m guessing that timing will begin playing a role in my fishing decisions. As we move toward June, later spawning fish in clear waters are liable to be feeding again. Insect hatches will begin to influence behavior and even if there’s a shallow water minnow bite, p[populations will begin to build on some of the mid-depth flats.
Before I head out, let me share a note from a friend in central Minnesota.
GWS wrote; “Hi Jeff,
We went to “Lake Wishiknewit” last night and tried out the 1/8 ounce Lindy Live Bait jigs. It is, safe to say the walleyes there love them! We CPR’d a 26 incher last night and filled out with 16 to 18 inch fish.
Surrounding boats were fishing faster using lindy rigging and aggressive jigging, but they struggled. We just pitched and twitched above the hard bottom, basically held the jig off bottom until picked up. The jig design helps keep line twist to a minimum.
Now that we have a few fish to eat, it will be C & R only for a while. Please don't share the bite as it could be easily exploited around here. Thanks. GWS
"We have had fantastic fishing on the big lake this past week! Our guides have been fishing Big Traverse Bay from Pine Island to Bridges Island and having great success with plenty of keepers and many large Walleye. Action has been steady throughout the day. We put 3 of the docks in at Garden Island earlier last week and started doing shore lunches there this past weekend.
Anchor and jigging continues to be the go to method, our Guides have been working the 25-27 foot depths and using the gold and glow colored jigs with a minnow." - 1-800-776-3474 Border View Lodge .
"Another great week to start off the open water fishing season! Fishing has been consistent even with the ever changing weather last week. Some boats still catching over 100 fish in a day, weeding through small fish to find good keeper walleyes and saugers. Key depths around 17-24' of water. Good fishing all across south shore. Fish are responsive to most kinds of bait right now but jig and a minnow is the best presentation with pink and gold jigs standing out. Some anglers pulling spinners. Others hit reefs in 25-30', also good. Jumbo perch and pike mixed in all over the lake.
Walleyes are still in the Rainy River but fishing has slowed besides a good morning bite. Most walleyes have headed back to the lake but some remain in the river. Same as the lake, a jig and a minnow have been best tactic for boating walleyes. Sturgeon fishing is closed until July 1st.
Up at the NW Angle, anglers are hammering fish. Many have limits before lunch during. Fish are all over islands such as Oak Island and Little Oak. Jig and a minnow up at the angle is the go to method. Gaining steam is trolling with cranks in the shallows or pulling spinners to keep baits moving. Colors should include chartreuse, pink, glow colors and some gold. Key depths ranged from 16-26' of water. Crappies can be found in Canada in 20' of water with sandy bays. Pike being found in current areas. Many smallmouth bass found with walleyes." – Lake of the Woods Tourism, (800) 382-FISH
"After the unusually warm weather of last weekend’s opener, the cold front after cold front situation we’re currently experiencing has changed fishing patterns dramatically. Walleye anglers in this area are finding their quarry in water much deeper than usual for this time of year. The large deep water lakes, of which there are quite a few in this area, have Walleye in anywhere from 12 to20+ feet of water, instead of the 4 to 8 feet that would generally be the case now. Be that as it may, good catches have been reported by anglers pulling lindy rigs with shiners or leeches. Deep running crankbaits pulled slowly have been producing as well. Like the deep clear lakes in the area,the darker shallow lakes have seen the Walleye move out deeper too, somewhere in the 6 to14 foot range. The shallows aren’t devoid of fish however. You can always count on Pike to keep you entertained.
As far as Crappies go; water temperatures dropped from 59 degrees in the shallow bays to 55 degrees and lower. As a consequence, there are very few fish in the bay. I found them on a drop off on a sunken island in 18 feet of water all bunched up on the slowly emerging weed beds. You’ll catch a few but for the most part…. They’re not interested.
A warm up is reported to begin next Wednesday and that will probably stabilize things a bit. It looks like this will last right on through Memorial Day weekend, with rain on the holiday of course."
Frontier Sports features a complete and fully stocked Sporting Goods department and Bait Shop, Gas, Grocery, Deli and Gift Shop. Frontier Sports is an authorized LIVE TARGET and SAVAGE GEAR dealer. Frontier Sports 218-832-3901
With one week of Walleye fishing under our belts, it’s safe to say that Walleye fishing patterns haven’t varied much from average opening weeks. For the most part, Walleyes have remained shallow, relating to structures that connect directly to the shallowest main shoreline breaks.
Surface temperatures have trended downward ever since the fishing opener, now ranging between 53 and 58 degrees. In my opinion, declining water temperatures have signaled Walleyes to move slightly deeper and feed with less enthusiasm. Instead of locating fish schooled up on shallow flats, we’re finding at the base of steep shoreline breaks in the 12 to 18 foot range. Their mood varies, some of them strike, some of them don’t and when they do, the strikes have been light, requiring a subtle touch.
Still, its early season and we’ve managed to come home with respectable catches. I’d say that the action generally remains good and as you’d expect, we are enjoying mixed bags of Walleye, Pike and Perch.
I’ve had a chance to cover some ground this week and fishing patterns have followed typical early season trends. Warmer, shallower lakes have provided the best action; cooler, deep water lakes are not quite ready for prime time, however even they are providing some minimal flurries of activity.
There’s only been one glaring surprise this week and that occurred on our trip to Upper Red Lake last Tuesday. I knew something was up when we arrived at the landing and there was no crowd. It was 10 AM and there was parking available within 50 yards of the landing. Once we were on the lake, my fears were confirmed; fishing action was sluggish to say the least.
The Red Lake trip was not a disaster, there were still plenty of fish to catch and they were cooperative enough. But we could feel that the giant lake wasn’t performing up to its typical opening week standards.
In fairness, conditions were cold, grey and drizzly up there; that’s not usually ideal for Red Lake action. So it follows that it isn’t realistic to pin the future of the entire season on this single experience. That said; it wouldn’t surprise me if the bite on Upper Red is off this year, especially when compared to recent seasons that have been awesome. Hopefully, I’m wrong and it was just a fluke, but I think that any good Walleye lake pays a price for producing awesome fishing. We’ve seen downturns everywhere before, including Red Lake and there’s no doubt that even the largest lakes can suffer from too much “thinning”.
Closer to Grand Rapids, results from the first week point toward Leech Lake as the most reliable of the big water bites. Lake Winnibigoshish is producing fish, but the action is spotty and if you go there, you’ll need to prepare for a full scale search. Bowen Lodge has a particularly good report from Winnie, so instead of re-writing the whole thing, I’ll give you this link >> Lake Winnie Fishing Report.
Smaller lakes with good Walleye populations are producing fish too, but as I mentioned, darker water has been way more productive than clear water. That, along with several other factors, has encouraged the largest crowds to fish on Bowstring Lake. The amazingly resilient lake has survived the impact of huge crowds before, and hopefully it’s gonna survive the season this year too. If you’re headed that way, be ready for long waiting lines at the landings.
Crappies were beginning to move toward spawning territory before the recent cold snap. In fact, shallow water action had already been ramping up on a few lakes. The chilly water sent fish back out to the breaklines, but the timing for a full scale spawning run is getting close. Soon after the weather straightens out, I’d expect to be hearing about Crappies in shallow water again.
After looking at the weather forecast, I’d say that we’re in for an uptick in activity toward the weekend. Warm temperatures return to the area mid-week and conditions are likely to draw bumper crowds for the Memorial Day weekend.
By the way, I could use some help with a couple of things. First, I’m researching the best way to get hot water, 140 degrees or higher into my driveway. I’ve thought of an “on demand” water heater, but don’t know for sure if I can get one that will heat water to the required temperature. If you’re in the know about hot water, I’d love some advice.
Another thing I’m researching is a solid, reliable commercial type food sealer. I need a sealer that I can take on the road with me to prepare my customers fish. That means it needs to be fast operating, reliable and “bullet proof”. I was on the verge of buying one from that gigantic sporting goods retailer who sends out all of those catalogs, but after reading poor reviews, I got cold feet.
If you can help with either of these pursuits, I’d really appreciate it. Please follow this link to >> Contact Jeff Sundin
If you’re on your way to the lake for Memorial Day, I’ll be covering a lot of ground again this week, so watch for updates as the week unfolds.
"Anyone who fished the Opener last week will tell you the weather could not have been more pleasant, especially if you compare it to the years we have had snow on opener day.
On Ball Club Lake we obviously didn’t have snow either, but there was another 4-letter word that clouded the day; Midge! (ok, it’s a 5-letter word, but close enough).
Yes, the Midge hatch was ahead of schedule and it was bigger and better than any I have seen.
I use ‘better’ in the most facetious way. The Midge were everywhere! Even out on the lake in open water. There was little or no wind.
Needless to say, a giant Midge hatch is a bonanza for any critter who eats bugs.
Oh yes, we still caught fish. After all, how many Midge can you eat before you want to see what else is on the table?
The surface water temperature on Ball Club Lake remains in the 50’s and most all fish are not deeper than 10 feet, making it tough to see them with your locaters. Early in the day Walleye were taken in 4-5 feet of water. This shallow bite pattern will persist until the water warms up a little more. The forage minnows are in shallow. I will up-date on conditions and fishing patterns as they change on Ball Club Lake.
Gus Sheker. PS- A midge hatch is a condition that signals excellent, non-polluted water quality." - Gus Sheker, Gus' Place Resort 1-888-246-8520
Surface temperatures slipped backward on Wednesday. On one small lake, temperatures that threatened to cross the 60 degree mark on Monday fell below 58 degrees yesterday. Larger lakes in the Grand Rapids area struggled to hold the line at 55 degrees, some friends reported 53-54 degree readings.
Combined with brisk winds, the cool temperatures and grey skies helped contribute to a very productive day on the water. Walleyes moved very shallow, and they were active; some of our fish came from water depths of 3 to 4 feet. The deepest Walleye we caught came from about 15 feet of water and that was later in the day, after we’d switched to targeting Pike.
For Walleyes, we used 1/8 ounce Live Bait Jigs tipped with either shiners or rainbows. The minnow species didn’t seem to matter and neither did the jig color.
Every spring there are stories about people who “accidentally” catch big Northern Pike while they’re fishing for something else. Just the other day, somebody told me about the time that they were fishing for Crappies when a 10 pound pike slurped up a 1/16 ounce Little Nipper & Crappie minnow combo.
The thing is, it’s no accident, big Pike inhabit shallow water during spring because that’s where the food is, they love the smorgasbord of Walleyes, Panfish and other fish that move shallow during spring, and they’ll even their baby cousins!
You could go out of your way to target Pike, forgetting about the rest of the fish that inhabit the same territory, or you could what I love, jig up the early season variety pack. Jig and minnow combinations will catch almost every fish that swims and all you need to do is drop them into the right spot at the right time.
On Wednesday, we were fairly well wrapped up with our Walleye fishing trip. Our game plan was to target some Perch, but then my light bulb turned on. These guys love Pike and although we’ve caught a hundred of them, we haven’t bagged a single one. So I suggested trying a jig and minnow pattern that might still produce good action, but add the promise of catching a few larger fish.
For me to claim that I can target big Pike during spring and only catch big Pike would be wildly exaggerated. What I can say is that if you target the right structures and fish the right presentation, you can definitely swing the percentages in your favor. You’re still going to catch a ton of small scissor bills, but the odds of catching both better quality “eaters” and larger CPR fish will definitely improve.
Large Pike are ambush feeders and nearly 100% of the largest fish will inhabit the best territory on any given spot. If there’s one good patch of Cabbage weed, one small pile of boulders or one inside corner along a steep breakline, guess who will be there; Mr. Big.
Look at your map and pick apart the structure, look for steep breaklines, deep water points and Cabbage flats that lay adjacent to deep water. Position your boat away from the features, but within casting distance of spots you want to fish. This allows you to present your lure to a fish before they see you, and while that may not matter to small jacks, it does to big ones.
Pike don’t see as well as Walleyes do, so make sure you’re using flashy minnows and flashy jigs. On Wednesday, we used bright yellow Lindy Jigs tipped with Spottails. Golden Shiners work too and so do most other minnows, but if you can get them, go with the shiny ones.
Be aggressive with your jigging cadence, but not with the retrieve speed. The objective is to get their attention, but not force them to swim away from their ambush spot. I cast my jig toward the structure, let it drop a few feet toward the bottom and then give it a violent “SNAP”. I fish the lure all the way back to the boat using the Drop-Snap-Drop retrieve and assuming the lure isn’t already gobbled up, it should be directly below the boat, near the bottom before I make my next cast.
LISTEN, this is serious! When it comes to jigging for Pike, the most aggressive “jigger” in the boat will catch the most fish, the prettiest fish and the biggest fish. I know, you’re tempted to doubt me, but I can prove it, just hop on the bus and schedule a trip, I will show you.
In case picking the right spot is confusing to you, I’m giving away a secret today. The map on the right (Enlarge) is the actual spot where the Pike on the left was caught yesterday. Hopefully, the images give you a clue about how to find the right location on your lake.
OH and by the way, do yourself a favor; eat the smaller fish and let Mr. Big swim. That is unless you don’t want to catch him again next spring.
It’s been a confusing spring, on many lakes; the warm temperatures and unusually stable weather have encouraged a very early Crappie bite. Coupled with so many emails and texts reporting good Walleye action over the weekend, it was easy to get the idea that they'd be biting in every lake.
So I did what I do every spring, I tried to get the "Early Bird" jump on one of my favorite Walleye lakes; this time, we got there a little bit too early.
We arrived to a surface temperature of 53 degrees, calm seas and a semi-bright sky. There was a lot of surface activity, small insects were everywhere, there were Suckers jumping and the lake had the feel of being on the verge of a good bite.
Pike were easy to come by; it never took more than a few minutes to find one of those. Perch were beginning to bite, but they were striking only sporadically and Walleyes? Well after a 4 hour search, we had only drummed up a couple.
Testing lakes too early is no big deal, it happens to me every spring; I like to try for the first crack a fresh bite whenever I can and that doesn’t always work out. Luckily, Craig Anderson, my friend, doesn’t mind the experimental part of a fishing trip, he likes to fish almost as much as he likes to catch, and that’s a blessing.
Still, we both like to catch some fish, so we decided to split the scene and test another early season favorite.
The landscape at Lake Two was more vibrant, 60 degree surface temperatures greeted us at the ramp and mid-lake temperatures ranged from 56 to 58 degrees. The plan was to take advantage of the lakes darker water, it should help mask the bright sky and allow us to sneak up shallow water fish more easily.
My luck was better this time; the first stop an inside corner along a shallow breakline produced a half dozen or more Walleyes. There were lots of Pike there too, more than we really needed and they were aggressive, many of them snipping my line on the hook set. My supply of jigs was in serious jeopardy and the fast action gave us confidence to explore, so I decided to move.
Long story short, some spots were better than others, but we caught something at most stops. The best average depth was shallow, 6 feet was our best average, but we caught fish anywhere from 5 to 7 feet.
The jig weight seemed to be important on this lake. The 1/8 ounce size was getting us a lot of action. But the Pike were getting ridiculous and reasoning that a more subtle approach might help reduce Pike attacks, I switched to a 1/16 ounce black jig. When fished with a softer jigging action; this trick usually works great, but not today. The less aggressive presentation was snubbed by everything, I never got a strike.
This is a key clue for you, the fish were in an aggressive mood, the more snapping and hopping they saw, they more they wanted to strike. But when I slowed down, they wouldn’t even sniff at my offering. It’s amazing how many different moods these fish have, so when you’re fishing with jigs, it never pays to only use one type of action. Improve your odds by trying everything from a slow drag to a wild rip-jigging motion. If there are fish in the area, you will soon discover which presentation works best for any given day.
Color preference did not play a major role on this trip. We caught fish using black, blue, green and orange. For me, a favored dark water color is pink and the fish were more than happy to strike “the Sundin Jig” in this color as well.
The upshot of the report is that deeper, clearer water hasn’t quite caught up to the shallower, darker water lakes yet. For the rest of this week, I’ll keep checking new territory, but I’ll focus on all of the darker water and shallower lakes. Next week, I’ll start looking at the clear ones again.
"One word description for Opening Day 2017 was Fabulous! Fabulous weather and fabulous fishing!
The walleyes were very cooperative in many areas on the West side of the lake. Jigs and shiner minnows were the bait of choice for most fishermen. We started out in the morning with a nice chop on the water with a nice ENE breeze. The fish were in about 10' of water.
As the day progressed, the wind subsided and we had to fish a little deeper. By the end of the day, with calm winds, we were in 12'. Also when the winds calmed down it seemed like getting away from the packs of boats seemed to be a better deal. All of our guests came in with fish and the walleye fillets are frying as we speak. The water temperature was mostly in the mid fifty degrees, with the surface temperature rising as the day went on. It was the first opener in many years where we saw sunburned faces. But most of them had smiles on them due to the fabulous fishing. My crew commented that it was the best opener for them in 20 years.
Northerns were being caught along with the walleyes. There was several keeper size Northerns brought in along with the walleyes. They were caught on jigs and shiners.
Perch could be caught if you targeted them. Fish a little deeper than you fish for walleyes. Jigs and fathead minnows were the best bait for the jumbo perch. Look to find them in 13-15' of water.
The old saying "When the winds from the East, the fish bite the least" certainly didn't apply to Opening Day, 2017, and we have many guest who are glad it didn't!
Make plans to come up for Memorial Weekend. We still have openings for the Holiday Weekend. Check our availability, and give us a call.
If we can catch walleyes like today with an East wind, think what it will be like when it blows from the West!" Joe Thompson, Four Seasons Resort 218-665-2231
The weather was picture perfect, the scenery was too, the crowds were manageable and the fishing was good enough to keep folks interested.
It’s ironic how rarely I follow my own advice, but despite knowing that we could have caught more fish elsewhere, I and my crew decided that staying closer to home was better than catching big numbers of fish. So our final decision was to open the season on Leech Lake, even knowing the calm seas and sunshine would discourage a hot bite.
I’m glad that I wasn’t depending solely on Walleyes to provide all of the entertainment, but for us, it really worked out well. There was a mixed bag of Perch, Pike, Rock Bass and just enough Walleyes to keep rod tips bending.
The interesting part about talking to other anglers on the lake was that nobody was getting skunked, everyone had a few fish and combined with the great weather, most folks were smiling.
Newly emerging weeds, barely 6 inches tall was the structure that held fish. Water depth on the weedy flat ranged between 10 and 14 feet, and we saw fish caught at random intervals everywhere. For us, 13 feet was best, probably because we tapped into a hatch of some small bugs that were attracting baitfish.
The mid-lake surface temperature was 55 degrees and did not raise much throughout the day. Close to shore, 57 to 58 degrees was the range, we did not see any reading above 60 degrees.
There were a lot of Crappie fishermen on Leech yesterday too and reports are that many of them were catching fish. I don’t believe that the fish are spawning, not just yet. The weather has been so stable that they are providing uncharacteristically good pre-spawn activity.
Around the region, most reports were similar to mine, fish provided entertainment, but didn’t jump into most boats. Winnibigoshish was home to a great day for one angler who tapped into a good school of fish in an offbeat location. His report of catching and releasing large numbers of Walleye was the best local report I’ve heard. Most of the other anglers out there caught some fish; few of them reported catching a limit.
Some of the better dark water lakes in the region were productive yesterday too. My friend Robby Ott landed on his feet and even after a rocky start, turned in a solid performance. Ott's day began with a pre-fishing trip that went south when his motor failed. A drive to Ray's Marine in Grand Rapids yielded help, they got him back up and running. After re-organizing his scheduled start time, he met his crew, got on the water and found good action. The photo tells the story, the crew, visiting from India, were all smiles and on their way to a tasty fish fry.
So with one day of fishing under our belts, I am calling it a good opening weekend, and I’m optimistic about the day ahead. A darkening sky and choppy surface could be encouraging a better action bite today providing more good reason to smile.
On Thursday, I wrapped my report with this; “Okay, so let’s see if you’re thinking; after reading the news you just read, did your light bulb go off about where to fish this Saturday?
The news was about Spottail Shiners and how the warm weather and stable conditions are moving them toward a full scale spawning run.
Then I promised to share my thoughts about how the Shiner runs will influence where the fish might be and what they’ll be doing on Saturday morning, so here goes.
Lakes with strongest populations of Spottails frequently have a few key features in common. But the two that I look for are lakes with relatively shallow water and large expanses of sandy flats. When you think about it, it’s easy to start listing lakes with features like these.
Spottails are very common in many of north central Minnesota’s large Walleye factories like Leech Lake, Winnibigoshish, Mille Lacs and Upper Red Lake. There are dozens of small lakes that resemble the structure and depths of their larger cousins and most of these lakes have good populations of Shiners too. In my home area, good examples would be Bowstring, Splithand, Round and Bass Lakes.
Most of these lakes have something else in common too; their shallow water warms quickly and this year, early warming trends encouraged other fish, Walleye included to spawn early. For most lakes in our area, Walleye spawning runs are over, some have been wrapped up for weeks already.
With the spawning season long behind them, a high percentage of Walleyes are probably recovered from the post spawn blahs by now. That means lots of fish won’t have much else on their agenda this weekend besides feeding.
So since I know that the shiners are running and that Walleyes are probably feeding, that means all I have to do is pick a lake that has lots of Walleyes and lots of shiners, right?
Not so fast, we have some other considerations to ponder; the weather forecast, water clarity and this year, we have to think about the effects of a full moon too.
If tomorrow’s weather forecast for the Grand Rapids area comes true, we’ll be fishing under a bright sun and there won’t be much wind. That means that I’ll probably shy away from lakes with water that too clear. Unfortunately, that includes two of my favorite opening day destinations, Leech Lake and Winnibigoshish. I know that the weather could take a turn for the better, but all I have to go by is the forecast and it’s telling me to look for a lake with darker water.
The full moon, frequently a catalyst for change, probably accounts for the intensity of the shiners spawning activity. But it’s another strike against fishing on a clear water lake for the opener. Although the full moon actually already passed, occurring last Wednesday May 10th, it’s still really bright and on lakes with clear water, I believe that a full moon encourages Walleyes to feed overnight.
There’s nothing wrong with Walleyes feeding at night, but if you’re not out there to capitalize on it, you could be sitting on the lake a long time waiting for them to get hungry again during the day.
I’m not locked into fishing any particular lake this weekend, so for me, it makes the most sense to head for a dark water lake instead.
The shiner run on Upper Red Lake has been hot and heavy this week, in fact it’s been so fast that it may be close to over already. That means that there will be lots of fish on the shallow sand breaks and that they should be active. Lakes with dark water like Upper Red usually don’t have a fantastic “night bite” and with a full moon, that’s important too.
If you’re not into crowds, don’t worry, there are other small lakes that resemble the chemistry of Upper Red and these would likely be good choices too. In fact, when our meeting of the o-fish-al executive committee on fishing convenes, we may well decide to give one of these smaller lakes a whirl, just for fun.
If you are locked into fishing on a lake that features clear water, I believe you can expect the best action early in the morning and again during late afternoon.
Consider this, the shiners move onto shallow sand flats during the daytime when water temperatures rise. On clear water lakes, it’s tough for Walleyes to battle the bright sunlight in the shallows, so they seldom follow the minnows very far.
When the minnows are not in the shallows, they move toward flats and hold tight over the tops of any vegetation they can find. But they have to move sooner or later and when they do, they become vulnerable. For Walleyes, targeting baitfish on the breaklines near these weedy flats is easier than either rooting them out of the weeds or following them into the bright sun on shallow flats. Walleyes capitalize on the times when minnows follow their instincts and move between the shallow sand and the deeper weeds.
For anglers, targeting the travel routes to and from these weedy flats will be the best bet for finding consistent daytime action.
Another idea for this weekend may be to spend time pursuing Crappies. I know it seems a little early, but fish like the ones in this photo provided by Lyle Unger have been active this week. I’m looking at the photo and seeing the male Crappies already sporting their dark black spawning colors. So keep that in your back pocket, especially if the sunshine and calm seas are haunting you.
So there you have it, my best educated guess about where I think the fish will be this weekend. Of course, if the weather changes, everything I just said can be thrown out the window. But what the heck, a man has to step out on a limb every so often. Until we get on the water this Saturday and see what’s happening, we are all tourists.
Whatever you decide to do this weekend I hope you have a blast! Keep safety in mind, be cooperative with the “weed police” and be patient with your fellow anglers. It is going to be a fabulous event no matter what!
OH and by the way, I and my family will be tourists at the Grand Rapids Fishing Opener Picnic this evening. If you’re in the neighborhood, swing in there and we can talk some more about what lies ahead for the weekend.
"As the 2017-2018 Fishing Opener draws ever closer, anxious anglers throughout the area are getting their equipment ready for the big day. Already hordes of boats and campers are heading for their fishing opener destination, stopping by to pick up bait perhaps a new rod and reel or other tackle.
Water temperatures in the big deep lakes in the area range from 59 in the shallows to the low fifties out on the main lake. Crappies are in the shallows in the small, shallow lakes but not much activity so far in the large lakes. This weekend promises to be much better weather-wise than many of the previous openers we’ve had. Walleye and Pike spawned almost a month ago and should be on the prowl by now.
The store is packed with new items and the selection of lures and tackle is the best we’ve ever had. Both LIVE TARGET and SAVAGE GEAR have added a lot of new offerings and they are in stock now. The minnow selection includes Crappie, Fatheads, Heavy Pike, Light Northern, Heavy Northern and yes Spot tails! Leeches, Crawlers and Waxies are in stock as well.
The Opener is upon us and we have all been waiting quite a while for this weekend to arrive. Have a great weekend and don’t forget to drop by the store when you’re in the area. Have Fun and Good Luck Everyone!"
Frontier Sports features a complete and fully stocked Sporting Goods department and Bait Shop, Gas, Grocery, Deli and Gift Shop. Frontier Sports is an authorized LIVE TARGET and SAVAGE GEAR dealer. Frontier Sports 218-832-3901
This seems like a good time to remind you that I’ll be sending a brief notice to everyone on the Insider’s Email List about remaining dates available for the 2017 season.
You may already be familiar with my policy of not sending out un-solicited emails. That means if you want to hear from me about cancellations, special projects and the like, you can only do so by opting in to the insider’s list.
It’s the easiest sign up form you’ll ever see, just click the image link, and submit your email and you’re done. That’s right, you don’t have to spend the day filling out forms, and you don’t even have to submit your name.
Maybe you want to be on the list, but you’ve forgotten whether or not you’re already signed up? No worries, just click the link, add your email and submit. OH and by the way, I don’t send out many emails, but there is a UN-subscribe link in every message, just in case you decide to opt back out.
Shiners and the worry about where to find them for the fishing opener always rests high atop the lists of most Walleye anglers. This year is different, you’ll appreciate knowing that finding Spot Tails will not be a concern this weekend.
When I asked many of the Itasca Area’s key bait suppliers about bait inventories, all of them told me that they have adequate stock to carry them through the busy fishing opener weekend. In fact most of the bait shops I contacted said they are prepared to sell Spot Tails by the quart this weekend. That’s good news and a major departure from what had become “the norm”.
What happens after the weekend will be determined by weather, but forecasts appear to be on track for a very good harvest this spring. The stable, warm weather pattern that we’ve enjoyed this week also benefits bait trappers by encouraging minnows to begin their spawning runs early and in large numbers.
In recent years, cold spring weather combined with restrictive bait trapping regulations had severely restricted bait dealers ability to build solid inventories.
Because some of the better Shiner runs occur on lakes with invasive species, Zebra Mussels in particular, timing is everything for bait harvesters. Previously on these “Zebra Mussel” lakes, dealers had been required to have their traps, along with all other equipment out of the water on a set date that was based on the average date that water temperatures reached 53 degrees.
Zebra Mussels are a danger for 12 months of the year, but they start their breeding cycle when the water temperature reaches about 54 degrees Fahrenheit. Soon after that, millions of “Zeebs” in their immature form called veligers become active. Veligers are tiny; they cannot be seen by the naked eye and can be transported in anything that’s absorbent.
The problem was timing, in order to prevent spreading veligers, the DNR regulation clamped down so tight that they forced the removal of trapping equipment before the Shiner runs began in earnest.
What’s better this year is a modified version of this regulation. Today, bait harvesters are allowed to trap minnows a little longer, until actual surface water temperatures reach 55 degrees and remain there for 3 consecutive days.
This gives bait dealers a few extra days to capitalize on the minnow’s arrival in shallow water spawning areas, where they can be harvested quickly and stock piled for future use.
So for the 2017 fishing opener, an early start caused warmer weather, along with the slightly extended bait trapping season spells good news for Walleye anglers.
Okay, so let’s see if you’re thinking; after reading the news you just read, did your light bulb go off about where to fish this Saturday? If it did, drop me a note on the Fishing Reports Minnesota Facebook page. If your light bulb did not go off, then tune in tomorrow morning for my best, educated guesses about where and how to fish on Saturday morning.
"The Panfish are on fire just about everywhere throughout the state. Big Bluegills and Crappies are feeding heavily and getting ready to start spawning soon.
Water temps seem to be hovering around 56-59 in most shallow areas and in the low to mid 50’s on the main lakes. Smaller lakes in the southern part of the state are in the 60 degree range.
Using small plastics in the shallows is a sure bet along with waxies and crappie minnows suspended under a small float near shallow warm cover of some kind. Sneak into the shallows with the trolling motor or idle in slowly, make too much noise and you might as well go home.
Try to use a light bobber with a slow “lob” to reduce bobber splash, which can also spook shallow fish. If your dabbling, aka sight fishing with a long rod, try to keep the boat and yourself down shadow. Meaning, don’t have the sun at your back so a shadow is cast onto the fish, that will spook them as well. Big Bish, Big Fun ..." Capt Josh, Minnesota Fishing Guide Service 218-732-9919, 320-291-0708
"Early ice off the lake has the surface temperature on Ball Club Lake in the mid-50s’.
This early warm up usually means that the Crappie bite will be picking up for the Opener and hitting high gear by Memorial weekend. Last winter and over the past two summers Ball Club Lake has been kicking out the best Crappie we have seen in years, both in numbers and size.
The Walleye will also be active in the 10-12 foot depths along the shoreline and humps. A slow presentation is your best bet this early. Slip bobbers with minnows or a minnow vertically jigged is very effective this time of year.
If you do not like bobber fishing or the slow jig, the Northern will chase and help spice up your day. Get out a spoon or Rap during mid-day for Northern in 8-10 feet." - Gus Sheker, Gus' Place Resort 1-888-246-8520
When Gov. Mark Dayton heads out in the early hours of May 13 in hopes of hooking into a big fish, he’ll be doing something only a few governors have done before: Marking the opening day of Minnesota’s angling season by fishing on the Upper Mississippi River.
While the Minnesota Governor’s Fishing Opener has taken place on the Mississippi three times before, it’s been on the lower, broader, deeper parts of the river between Red Wing and Winona, stretches that resemble lakes because of the dams and locks that impound the river to facilitate barge traffic. Dayton will see a much different Mississippi in the greater St. Cloud area, a shallower, more lazy river that calls for different angling techniques than those used on lakes and big rivers.
“Rivers are dynamic and always changing, with different flows and stages,” said Eric Altena, the Minnesota ... Read >> Mississippi River Fishing Opener
"The MN fishing opener is this Saturday, May 13th. Anglers looking to strike LOW gold this this weekend should use a 1/4- 3/4 ounce jig (depending upon current, no current, depth) with a shiner or 2 loaded up. If you are missing bites, try hooking shiner through mouth and out the gill, push the minnow all the way up to the jig head and push hook through middle of minnow. Otherwise use a stinger hook. Another good idea would be to pull crankbaits in shallow water. Although the water is cold, this can be the ticket on some outings. Pike season is open and with warming water, activity is increasing. Sturgeon fishing is on fire as the water warmed back up. The sturgeon catch and release season is through May 15th. The season re-opens again July 1st.
Walleyes on the Rainy River are post spawn. Some have headed back to the lake while others remain in the river. Many reports of sturgeon anglers catching nice walleyes while fishing sturgeon. Anglers traditionally find good numbers of walleyes up and down the river as well as Four Mile Bay (which is at the mouth of the river) this time of year.
Up at the NW Angle, resorts (and we believe the walleyes) are ready for the opener. With all of the islands, neck down areas, points and reefs, the possibilities to fish are endless. Typically, look for neck down areas and points to start. Jig and a minnow up at the angle is the go to method. Colors should include chartreuse, pink, glow colors and some gold. The walleye population throughout the lake is in great shape and everything points to angler success for the opener." – Lake of the Woods Tourism, (800) 382-FISH
"Terry is the one we call when we run into any mechanical issue on our boats. He has decades of experience with boat batteries and explains it all in this piece.
Boat batteries are often overlooked by anglers, but that should never be the case; they’re the lifeblood of any fishing boat. If your budget is tight and you’re looking to cut costs, batteries are ..." Read >> Boat Batteries 101
An appointment for a test ride of my boat gave us an excuse to spend an afternoon on Sucker Bay at Leech Lake this Saturday. I was a little surprised by the number of rigs already parked at the landing when we arrived. I guess that I shouldn’t have been, it was a beautiful day and folks must have been chomping at the bit for a day on the water.
The infrastructure at the Sucker Bay ramp is not yet ready for the fishing opener next weekend. The boat dock has not been placed in the water and the portable biffy hasn’t been delivered yet either. I’m guessing that the DNR has it on the schedule for early this week, but don’t expect to find these conveniences today.
Although fishing was not the primary focus of the trip, we did stop in a couple of areas to observe conditions and watch the other anglers pursue Panfish.
Surface temperatures around the main lake ranged between 51 and 53 degrees. Out of the wind and back in a protected corner, 56 degree water was the warmest we observed.
There was a half dozen boats vying for position in the shallow water, the occupants of all boats appeared to be catching little, if anything. We gave the area a quick test, but didn’t work very hard at it. It’s really hard to learn very much in a few minutes, but if I was headed for the lake today, I wouldn’t be headed that direction again.
Lake Wishiknew was producing fish for the Austin and Annalee Jones' this weekend. Jones wrote; "Fishing was good last night with an abundance of keeper sized sunfish and a few big ones that went back.
Main lake water read 51° and this shallow back bay was up to 58°.
We used 1/16 ounce Lindy Live Bait Jigs tipped with a piece of nightcrawler worked the best under a thill soring bobber.
There was a bug hatch so we could hear and see fish surfacing and make that calming sound at the end of a beautiful day with next to no wind."
Tom Howel Wrote; "Your segment about "where are all the small walleye on Winnibigoshish" immediately caught my attention. After watching the Mille Lacs situation closely, and reading what former MN. Fisheries Biologist Dick Sternberg had predicted more than a decade ago about Mille Lacs, I was wondering if you see any correlation between what’s gone on there and Winnie?
A) Tom, Tom, when it comes to making predictions based on statistical evidence about fish biology, I am not in the same league as Dick. That said, I’ve had some tutoring by fisheries folks who are darn good, and from what I’ve learned, I don’t believe that Winnie is on a parallel course with Mille Lacs.
Mille Lacs suffered its greatest decline during the period when entire year classes of Walleye would hatch, then grow to yearlings and then somewhere between age 1 and age 2, mysteriously disappear from the system.
I was serving on the Walleye Advisory Panel at the time and recall the intense effort by fisheries staff to learn why these small fish were disappearing. I’m not convinced that anyone knows exactly why, or ever will, but finally Mille Lacs Walleye has produced a strong year class. As you know, the ultra-protective regulation to keep that year class in the lake is controversial. That’s another story, but it does show that even the most troubled lakes can and do, stage their own come backs. For all we know, Mille Lacs is on the road to recovery and in another 10 years we’ll have forgotten this conversation.
Winnibigoshish continues to produce adequate supplies of fish to maintain a healthy population of Walleye. Weather causes ups and downs and some year classes are better than others, but that’s been going on forever. So far, Winnie has held its own, the excellent 2013 year class was followed by a mediocre 2014 class, but early indicators point to a better class of fish in 2015. So for now, the fish are there.
Winnie’s changing environment has challenged all of us; we’ve had to adjust to clearing water conditions caused first by Faucet Snails and now the Zebra Mussels. Still, fisheries staff believes that despite the problems these invasive species cause for anglers, there’s enough food in the water to produce consistent year classes of Walleye.
What we DO NOT WANT is the introduction of another nasty critter called the Spiny Water Flea, these nasty critters live high in the water column and go after the same food that Walleyes need to grow large enough to survive their first winter. As long as we keep them out of the system, she’ll probably be okay, but allowing them in could be disastrous.
This means that the health of future Walleye populations probably depend more on us anglers than on any other single factor.
There’s no doubt that fishing patterns on Winnie will be different than we’ve experienced before. But barring a catastrophe, I don’t see a gloomy future for this incredibly resilient lake.
Okay lets cut to the chase. If you've ever asked a question about using side imaging, how it works or why it works; then you need to watch this video. This is the most comprehensive turorial about using side imaging technology that I've ever seen.
Wired2Fish teamed up with Jeff “Kolo” Kolodzinski of Humminbird to create this detailed video about understanding how and why this technology works.
"The featured product is Humminbird’s Helix-12, but the concepts will help you regardless fish finder manufacturer. Kolo breaks down how to read and interpret what side imaging, down imaging, and two-dimensional (2D) sonar are showing you, and how they can improve your fishing. We filmed real-time drone and underwater video of screen readouts to show you what rocks, weeds, fish, and bottom hardness changes look like on the screen, from the air, and below the water - seeing is believing." View Video >> Understanding Side Imaging Technologies
"I’m just like you, I wish that I could visit my favorite lake any time I want and catch oodles of big Bluegills. I’d like to bring a bunch of them home too, that way I could fix a big family fish fry for every special occasion.
The problem is that if I fish there too often or bring home too many fish, my favorite lake won’t remain favored very long.
It’s a fact of life and we’re going to have to come to grips with it; as a group, we are extremely effective predators and we’re getting better all the time. We have the equipment, the knowledge, the leisure time and the communication skills to harvest fish faster than our favorite lakes can produce them.
We literally have the ability to ..." Read Article >> What Is The Value Of A Sunfish?
Tom Crosby Wrote with a question about the Lake Winnibigoshish Walleye population; “Last year a great majority of the walleyes (that we caught) were in the 17-18 inch variety. We did not see many of the 12-15 inch fish. The strong year class of fish will now be slot fish. Any concerns about the upcoming year class of keeper fish?"
Tom Crosby Wrote with a question about the Lake Winnibigoshish Walleye population; “Last year a great majority of the walleyes (that we caught) were in the 17-18 inch variety. We did not see many of the 12-15 inch fish. The strong year class of fish will now be slot fish. Any concerns about the upcoming year class of keeper fish?
A) Tom, your question prompted me to spend some time studying test reports gathered from the MN DNR's website.
Looking at the public records provided for Winnibigoshish was confusing to me, so I had to compile my own chart using their annual “Walleye Sampled by Length” statistics. The chart made comparing the statistics easier to follow and when I look at them, it doesn’t take long to see why you're concerned.
On the surface, test netting results appear to show a serious shortage of small fish. Statistically, testing in 2014 and 2015 combined produced on 19 fish between 6 and 14 inches. Nineteen fish over 2 years, how is that possible? It can’t be.
We’ve already know better, we’ve seen with our own eyes, the strength of the 2013 year class of Walleyes. We caught them all summer long last year and for many, it was one of the better fishing seasons in recent history.
The more I looked at the numbers, the less sense they made to me, so I dropped into the DNR office in Grand Rapids and talked with the DNR’s big lake specialist, Gerry Albert.
Statistics show the raw numbers, they tell us how many fish actually swam into a net, were captured and counted. But statistics fail to compare environmental differences from one season to the next. In other words, looking at the test net results is fine, but without comparing all of the data available, there’s no way to keep a scorecard.
Albert walked me through a presentation that he’d prepared for at the Lake Winnie Association. After 1-1/2 hours of listening, looking at charts and recalling my own anecdotal stories from the lake, the picture became somewhat clearer to me. In all likelihood, the apparent shortage of small fish swimming into test nets during 2014 and 2015 was weather related.
Albert pointed out another interesting phenomenon too. Look at the chart, index of walleye year class strength. The 2012 year class was very poor and when this occurs, it encourages a much faster growth rate. It makes sense, a smaller number of fish have more space, a better food supply and stand a better chance of survival.
It’s much more likely that the 17-18 inch fish that Winnie produced during the 2016 season were actually fish from that smaller 2012 year class. According to Albert, fish from the very strong 2013 year class are still plentiful in the system and these fish will be in the 16-18 inch range this summer.
On another optimistic note, there are early indications that the year class of 2015 may be good. Making that statement requires a leap of faith because complete statistical information won't be available until after this summer. But anecdotally, there were numerous 10-12 inch fish sighted among observers at the egg harvest station at Little Cutfoot this spring. Those small fish would likely represent the 2015 year class, one which is likely to be larger than 2014.
I know there’s a lot of summarizing contained in this answer, but if you want to drill deeper into the numbers, don’t be bashful to ask more questions.
The upshot for me is that I left the meeting feeling very optimistic about the upcoming season. Our success, or lack of it, will depend on a lot of factors, but all indicators point to a healthy population of Walleye this summer. If we get favorable weather, we should enjoy good Walleye fishing this summer.
For more information about the outlook on Winnie, Bowen Lodge published a good article, Walleye Season Outlook Lake Winnibigoshish on May 1, 2017 and I'd be sure to check that too.
"Finally some warmer days coming again after a spring snowfall this week! Many big sturgeon boated up and down the river this week. Fish different holes until you find fish as one day one hole may be better than the day before. Use a 3 ounce no roll sinker, a 1-1.5 foot leader, and a circle hook (called a sturgeon rig) loaded with and crawlers and/or frozen shiners. Anchor boat up stream of a deeper hole and pitch sturgeon rig into the hole. Heavy equipment is preferred.
Pike fishing is hot right now in shallow bays and in bays on the Rainy River. Best methods so far are using buzzbaits, spinnerbaits, or lying a frozen cisco on bottom with a hook and weight (similar to a sturgeon rig but with less weight). Pike are open all year up on LOW.
Up at the NW Angle, the ice has been gone for a couple of weeks and resorts are getting ready for the MN fishing opener May 13th. Pike and crappies open all year for LOW MN and sturgeon fishing through May 15th and re-opens again July 1st. Walleyes are in good numbers around the lake." – Lake of the Woods Tourism, (800) 382-FISH