"Good numbers of walleyes caught this week on the south end of Lake of the Woods. Fishing was very good. As the waters warm, walleyes are becoming more active. A mixed bag for walleye anglers also includes sauger, pike, perch, and sturgeon.
Although some fish were still caught shallower this week, many fish did slide out a bit deeper. With walleyes now hanging out in water depths of 15 to 28 feet, most anglers are vertical jigging. Anchor up and use jig heads tipped with either an emerald shiner or fathead and having some fun action. Bright colors like gold, glow, pink, orange, chartreuse or a combo of these colors works well.
Good reports arfe coming in from those who are drifting spinners and trolling crankbaits as well. Gold has been a good color for both crankbaits and spinner blades.
On the Rainy River, there is still a lot of current with the dam wide open and high water levels. There were some nice walleyes caught in the river this week.
Typical spots in the main channel are still tough to fish due to high current. Finding current breaks adjacent to shorelines or the mouth of bays has been productive for those fishing the river. Once you find fish, there are normally good numbers.
Up at the NW Angle, it was a great week of multi species fishing. Most anglers are targeting walleyes. As water temps reach into the high 40 degree range, walleye action has gotten hot.
Again, a jig and minnow was by far the most common method vertically jigged below the boat. Some anglers finding fish deep, others finding fish shallow, trolling spinners and crankbaits over 5 to 12 feet of water on the shallow flats or sand has been productive.
Lots of big pike caught this week too. Some anglers also found big crappies on the Ontario side of the lake, still holding in deep water." — Lake of the Woods Tourism, (800) 382-FISH
Ely Area June 29 • Lake of the Woods June 29 • Pokegama Lake June 28 • Grand Rapids June 24 • Ely Area June 22 • Canadian Worm Dirt Update • Lake of the Woods June 21 • Longville June 20 • Cabbage Patch Crappies June 17 • Lindy Rig Walleye June 16 • Lake Winnie June 15 • Follow on Facebook
"Hair jigs catch just about every fish that swims, but there are a lot of design differences based on the target species and time of year. Wisconsin-based pro, Cody Hahner, discusses hair jigs for northern smallmouth bass: when to use and how to fish them, jig specifics, and the best rod, reel and line setup to get maximum performance from this lightweight offering.
Unlike the Preacher jigs of the south, small maribou hair jigs are more akin to flies and excel for springtime and early summer smallmouth. In particular, Hahner loves using them when prespawn smallmouth are cruising shallow flats in search of bedding sites. While you can argue they resemble natural forage: insects, leeches, crawfish, and even minnows, Hahner feels it’s their super-sneaky presence and almost floating appearance that perks smallmouth curiosity and ..." View Video and Learn More >> Finesse Hair Jig Smallmouth Bass | Best Rod Setup
On Wednesday May 26, 2022 I wrote; "Just in time for the Memorial Day Holiday, bait trappers found their traps teaming with the silvery bait fish on Wednesday morning. Overnight, the situation changed from bait retailers rationing customer purchases, to offering anglers “all the minnows they want”, within the legal limits, of course."
Q) Tyson Kuhn wrote; "What’s the “legal limit” on shiners? I’ve never heard that before."
A) Tyson, There are actually 2 answers to your question. Page 30 of Minneosta's 2022 Fishing Regulations Book says. "You can take an unlimited number of minnows and leeches with an angling license for personal use, however you may not ..." Read >> May 28, 2022 Legal Limits For Live Minnows In Minnesota?
"Walleyes have begun to move out of their spawning areas. Small walleyes continue to be caught in and near spawning areas, but walleyes worth bringing home, have begun to setup on shallow, rocky, main lake points and weedbeds. Anglers are finding walleyes in 10 feet of water and less. Pitching light jigs tipped with a minnow remains the most effective technique to catch these fish. Top colors continue to be gold, blue/white and pink/white.
Northern Pike anglers have been reporting excellent fishing this last week. Lite northern and heavy suckers fished under a bobber has been very effective on area lakes. Shallow mud bottom bays and river mouths are the areas to fish for the big pike. Interestingly pike anglers have been catching good numbers of mid-30” pike, but the big girls, over 40” have been few and far between yet.
Smallmouth bass have begun to show up in anglers catches. Smallies are being caught in shallow bay, over boulders, with slow moving baits. Suspending jerk baits, fished very slowly, has been extremely effective on these sluggish bass.
Stream Trout, Rainbows and brookies have been very active this last week. Anglers fishing from shore have been catching good numbers of both on small spoons or jig and twister tail. Anglers fishing from a boat have been trolling small crankbaits or cowbells, and reporting good success." — Arrowhead Outdoors, 218-365-5358
"Anglers opened the season with a great week of walleye fishing on the south end of Lake of the Woods. Anglers returned to shore with good numbers of "keeper fish" and reported catching some big walleyes and northern pike as well.
Fish location varies because different things are happening depending upon which part of the lake, bay or river you are fishing. Some walleyes were still spawning early this week, while others are well past that point. This helps explain why walleyes are being caught everywhere from 3 to 31 feet of water.
Most anglers are finding walleyes vertical jigging. A jig and emerald shiner or fathead did the trick. With the naturally "stained" waters of LOW, gold, glow, pink, orange, chartreuse or a combo of these colors works well. Some anglers reported catching good numbers of walleyes by trolling crankbaits over shallow sand too. The depth range, 5 to 12 feet of water was apparently the best. Regardless of what technique, a lot of good fish on shallow sand this week.
A mixed bag for walleye anglers including walleyes, sauger, pike, perch, and sturgeon.
The Rainy River has a lot of current because the dam is wide open, high water levels are high. Anglers are finding it tough to fish many of the typical, main channel locations. Finding current breaks adjacent to shorelines or the mouth of bays has been more productive for those fishing the river. Once you find fish, there are normally good numbers.
Sturgeon fishing is closed until July 1st. July 1 - Sep 30 is a sturgeon keep season with one fish per calendar year 45 to 50 inches or 1 over 75 inches.
A great walleye bite continues up at the Northwest Angle. Fish are being found in various depths from 5 to 30 feet of water. Shoreline structure, neckdown areas and on some shallow flats are producing fish. Again, a jig and minnow was by far the most common method vertically jigged below the boat. Trolling crankbaits over shallow flats or sand has been productive, 5 to 12 feet of water is the key depth range.
Various ways to travel to the Angle.
"Like most folks in the Grand Rapids area, I’ve settled on fishing on Lake Winnibigoshish as my “Go To” walleye destination. The reason, in part is that the walleye action on Winnie has been reliable. But also, because the turbulent weather has dampened my enthusiasm for exploring some of the more weather sensitive lakes in the north central region. Recent fishing reports from Bowen Lodge and the Pines Resort are accurate, and up to date, so I don’t need to re-hash a full Winnie report, please just review those.
One thing you won’t see in the Bowens or Pines reports are any mention of the action on Winnie’s west side. None of the ‘east siders” wants to battle the whitecaps to get over there. But folks on the west side of Winnie are catching fish too, there are folks reporting good action in select areas all the way from the Mississippi River Mouth to Stony point. Sugar Bay has been mentioned most, there are lots of smaller, 2019-year class fish prowling that shoreline.
Move north from there and check out Raven’s Point, Mallard point and the Third River Flowage, you will find scattered schools of fish at each stop. Perch, some of them large ones, have been showing up on the west side too. Without mentioning exactly where, a friend of mine reported finding a good school of Jumbo Perch that had a smattering of good, keeper size walleyes mixed in on Saturday. Folks wanting to avoid the rough ride across the lake could launch at one of the resorts in the Mississippi River. They offer protection from the west wind and anglers travelling north from there will have smooth sailing.
Strong west winds are only one reason I have not ventured far from home. In a typical spring I’d have visited Upper Red Lake at least once by now. But the last thing anglers bound for Upper Red Lake want to see in the forecast is a strong west wind and that’s been the prevailing wind this week. In fact, the west wind is predicted for today again too, albeit somewhat lighter than it’s been to date, but still enough to keep me away.
Cold water temperatures have diminished my desire to experiment too. Several of my favorite, early season walleye lakes offer the best action when water temperatures get into the high 50s and low 60’s. Surface temperatures have actually declined over the past few days though, I saw readings fall below 50 degrees on Winnie yesterday, the lowest was 48.7 degrees. So, for me, there’s no big rush to be the one to find out that water temps are too cool to kick the deeper, clear water lakes into gear.
We all have the same problem, so I won’t grouse too much about this one. But gas prices aren’t exactly working in my favor right now either. Folks who know me realize that sometimes, I’ll drive considerable distances just to “go see if they’re biting” on a target lake. Right now, I must admit that the idea of spending upwards of $100 or more just to “check out the bite” on prospective lakes has been in the back of my mind. Add the higher cost of bait, insurance, and boat payments, there likely won’t be a lot left over when the dust settles this summer.
That said, as the warming trend arrives and water temperatures rise, I definitely will go visit my favorites in the region. Looking at the forecast, I’d say that mid-week looks better for exploration.
Mid 60-degree temperatures, calm winds and sunshine won’t just make me feel better, the bait dealers are probably chomping at the bit for those conditions to arrive. Rationing is a way of life at the bait shops who have shiners at all right now. A few warm days will encourage shiners to begin spawning runs in a more serious way and that should bolster the supplies somewhat. That is if all that happens before the arbitrary DNR bans on shiner trapping kick in. Complicated huh?
I’m up against the clock right now, so I’ll wrap it up. Tomorrow, I’ll tackle a few more reader questions that stacked up last week. I know that you’re all busy, but I must periodically renew my offer. Your contributions, no matter how small are always welcome, don’t be bashful to drop me a line, even with the tiniest tidbit of technical trivia; it all helps!" — Jeff Sundin 218-245-9858 or EMAIL
In the fishing guide profession, there are often a variety of reasons for selecting a location to fish. Sometimes, decisions are based on comfort as much as they are productivity. On Wednesday, I thought I could work both comfort and productivity into our fishing trip, but it didn’t pan out the way I’d hoped. There were several reasons why it didn’t, but I don’t believe any of them had to do with whether the fish were biting or not. I think they were, but I just didn’t go to all of the places that I could have chosen.
Yesterday’s weather pattern was an anomaly and because of that, I would be deciding to experiment with places that I would not have typically chosen to fish. I think nothing I say about our fishing trip yesterday will provide much quality guidance for folks heading this way to fish over the weekend. So, this morning I decided that instead of theorizing about yesterday’s fishing patterns, I’d catch up a little bit on reader comments and questions.
I’m working on those right now but can see that I’ll need more than a single morning to catch up. Watch for the Q&As on Friday morning. In the meantime, here are a couple of area reports to ponder. >> Ely Area - Lake of the Woods
"Walleye fishing was outstanding for the majority of anglers this last weekend. Many anglers limited out in under a hour. Anglers found mostly post spawn males in and around current areas. 3/8oz jigs, in blue and gold, tipped with a minnow, was easily the most popular and effective way to catch walleyes. Anglers found walleyes in 10 feet of water or less during low light and after dark. During the day walleyes were located 10-16 feet of water.
Northern Pike anglers reported slower fishing then normal for opening weekend. Anglers still reported catching good numbers and good size pike, but the big females, over 40”, were noticeably missing. These big fish are likely still recovering from spawning and should really turn on by this weekend. Anglers catching pike we’re using heavy suckers and floating them under a bobber back in shallow mud bottom bays. Frozen smelt has also been a popular choice for pike anglers.
Stream Trout - With the hot walleye fishing this year, stream trout anglers have been few and far between. The few trout anglers out fishing have been reporting good fishing for rainbow trout in area stream trout lakes. Small spoons, jig and twister and the simple night crawler fished under a bobber have all been very effective for anglers." — Arrowhead Outdoors, 218-365-5358
"It was a great 2022 MN Fishing Opener for many who came to the south end of Lake of the Woods last weekend. Fish locations were a little spotty, but walleyes and saugers are generally hungry and the bite is on! Good numbers of fish caught.
Lots of big fish amongst the eaters. Most anglers were vertically jigging in 6 to 20 foot depth range. Anchor up and jig over the side of the boat. A nice mix of sizes.
The water is a bit dirty on the east portion of the south shore due to runoff from the rivers. A bright jig with a minnow is the most productive.
Reports were also good from the west portion of the south shore. A bit cleaner water and equally good bite. Lots of big fish mixed in with eaters. Some anglers fishing on structure or on the edge of structure where available.
On the Rainy River... A lot of walleyes in the river as predicted, but the current is ripping and the water is a bit dirty. Those who found slack water often found fish. The norm was 6' - 15' with a bright jig and minnow.
Typical spots in the main channel were tough to fish due to high current. The fast moving water helped to congregate fish. Once you found them, there were normally good numbers.
Sturgeon fishing is closed until July 1st. July 1 - Sep 30 is a sturgeon keep season with one fish per calendar year 45" - 50" or over 75".
Up at the NW Angle... A great jig bite up at the Angle for the opener. Most fish were caught in 6' - 20' adjacent shoreline structure, neckdown areas and on some shallow flats.
Again, a jig and minnow was by far the most common method vertically jigged below the boat. With cold water, a subtle presentation. Both fatheads and frozen shiners worked well." — Lake of the Woods Tourism, (800) 382-FISH
Paul Plinske wrote, Q) "With all the talk of a limited supply and high prices of Spottail Shiners this year, I was just wondering if you had any tips for keeping them alive once you leave the bait shop? They seem to sometimes die if you just look at them the wrong way.
A) Yes, I have the answers you need, and will provide them in full detail Friday morning. — Office Cell Call or Text 218-245-9858 or EMAIL
I was excited to meet up with my friends John, Amanda, and Jaime Rezac. They’ve spent their lives on and around Bowstring Lake and I know they love it. How do I know? John’s reply to my text about whether they had any special requests for Monday’s trip; “Walleyes on Bowstring, the rest is up to you.” The Hippie Chick got a chuckle out of his reply, but after hearing glowing reports about Saturday’s fishing opener on Bowstring Lake, commented, “that should be an easy day.” I was optimistic too, but I don’t trust fish, so I was a bit more guarded about it.
An observation made before ever launching the boat was the high-water level. Folks who struggled to get their boats in and out of the lake last season, have nothing to worry about this spring. At the north landing, the water was level with the surface of the dock, waves pushing it across the top and through the planks from below. Debris, washed up onto the bank when Mother Nature blew a hooley on Sunday was stacked up high; standing on the pile of bulrush stems is what kept our feet dry. I’d say that barring a major drought, launching boats, even larger ones, should be easy for the next couple of months.
Surface water temperature on the north shore of Bowstring was 49 degrees. The strong winds must have given the lake a thorough turnover because temperatures were uniform on all four sides of the lake. The coldest reading, I saw was 48 degrees, the warmest was just over 50. Debris, mostly bulrushes and sticks were floating most everywhere too, more evidence of a complete mixing of the water on Sunday.
Temperature change, fluctuating barometric pressure, lake turnover, calmer surface, sunny skies, clearing water, blood moon … any one of those variables could be the reason that the bite was tough on Monday. But my friend, Gerry Albert, retired DNR Fisheries Biologist and big lake specialist reminded me last night that about a more obvious variable, sometimes, the fish just aren’t biting. “We had similar experiences on Leech Lake this weekend, Saturday, the fish were snapping. But after the temperature dropped on Sunday, the bite got a lot tougher.” Albert said.
Gerry reminded me about something else too; “During full moon periods, walleyes often make their primary feeding runs at night. Full after having eaten during the night, daytime feeding activity is reduced.”
Who knows for sure what the reason was? I just took the long way around to say that despite our heightened expectations, fishing action was much slower than we’d hoped for on Monday. The good news, as evidenced by the accompanying photo was that the fish, we did catch were of quality size. Catching fewer fish, but larger ones is often a reasonable trade instead catching lots of little ones, it makes me feel better anyway.
The fish we caught, all males, were still milting, but they were not all in typical spawning habitat. Early in the day, a gravel patch located in 5 to 7 feet of water produced some action. Using the “wiggle-worming” technique but substituting large lip-hooked fatheads on 1/16-ounce Lindy Live Bait Jigs turned out to be the best presentation in the shallows. I kept the boat speed slow; the crew kept their rods tips moving with the wiggle action. The bite was tentative, due to short strikes, we missed or lost several fish before adding anything to our larder.
Later in the day, the shallow water bite became non-existent. In fact, we did not even catch a single perch, and one lonesome pike was all we caught for the entire day. Experimenting with locations, we caught a couple of fish on mid lake structure in water depths of 18 to 22 feet. So, its obvious that some of the fish have already completed spawning and made a move to the middle.
When the water warms and the shiners beginning running in earnest, the fish will return to the shoreline and the action will pick up again. But for the next few days, I’ll be giving Bowstring a breather. I’ll experiment with as many other lakes as I can fit into the schedule and let you know how the week goes from here.
I’m lucky to know the Rezac family, they are happy people who have fun fishing, not just catching. We caught enough fish for dinner, we got a few nice pictures and even got a look at a mysterious creature walking along the shoreline. All things considered; it was a good day. Thank You! — Jeff Sundin 218-245-9858 or EMAIL
Super strong winds gave anglers something to think about on Sunday. Take me for example, it made me think about things like yard cleanup, mowing the grass, washing the carpet, buying a new tackle box, and putting the finishing touches on rigging the new Alaskan. Not exactly the day I’d been planning, but a productive one, nonetheless.
Folks who did tough it out on north central Minnesota waters did enjoy some good fishing, they just had to work harder, for less. The lake names didn’t change much from the early report I posted yesterday morning, but there was some new news from folks fishing on Lake Mille Lacs. It sounded like folks who were quipped to handle the waves and located schools of fish on the lake’s calmer, west side, were rewarded with good walleye action.
Some of the smaller lakes in the Mille Lacs, Aitkin area started kicking out some panfish too. I didn’t hear anything about specific depths, only those crappies were in shallow water, soft bottom bays. Spawning was not part of the equation, the fish were taking advantage of minnows moving in to the warmer, calmer water.
Wild surface water temperature fluctuations from lake to lake came up in conversations with friends yesterday too. Reed Ylitalo was fishing on Lake Winnie and reported 46-degree surface temperatures. The surface temperature on Splithand Lake, where we fished on Saturday were 57 degrees. Those were the 2 extremes, but others reported temperatures that ranged everywhere between them. Until the weather stabilizes, and the lakes become more equal, I’d expect fishing patterns to vary from one lake to the next.
The minnow situation had not changed much from Saturday to Sunday. The stores that did receive shiners, burned through their supplies quickly, even with rationing of customer purchases. Fatheads, rainbows, and other alternatives are available, but even they are not stocked to full capacity at most bait shops. Minnow trappers might appreciate today’s forecast, sunny skies and somewhat calmer winds should trigger minnows to move a little, if the forecast is accurate.
For me, today marks the official opening of my guiding season. So, I’ll cut this report a little short so I can get out of the office earlier and spend extra time scoping out reports along my way to the lake.
Before I go, I want to thank Freya Dick for allowing me to borrow her photo (upper left) from the fishing opener on Saturday. Thanks also to John Rezac for this picture from his lake, taken before the strong winds arrived Sunday morning. I borrowed that scene and it will appear as the cover photo on the FishRapper Facebook page.
If you’re fishing today, good luck. Oh and by the way, you know how to reach me, so don’t be shy, share your updates and help out your fellow anglers! — Jeff Sundin 218-245-9858 or EMAIL
One week ago, (See Report May 7, 2022) the most pressing question folks asked was whether there would be open water for the fishing opener in northern Minnesota. By Saturday afternoon, that was replaced with; “Wow, where did you get all those walleyes?” Not everybody got in a “Hot Bite” for walleyes, but there were a lot more smiling faces out there than some were expecting. In fact, I’d say that the buzz, despite comments about breezy conditions and minnow shortages was darn good.
The better walleye fishing reports came from lakes that opened late in the week. Lake Winnie, Cutfoot Sioux, Bowstring, Bemidji and Lake Vermilion coughed up decent action for many. Leech Lake was spottier, some folks reported finding the right spots, for others, the timing wasn’t so good. Wind was a negative factor on the main lake, but folks fishing the smaller bays and flowages managed to find pods of fish.
While ice-out came in time for north central Minnesota anglers, it wasn’t quite fast enough for some folks in the arrowhead region. My honorary daughter Joelle and her POOSLQ Patrick found ice chunks floating in their favorite Grand Marais area lake. That ice may have interrupted fishing plans, but I have a hunch that it didn’t spoil a nice weekend.
As you can see by the accompanying photo, I had better things to do than worry about catching a ton of fish yesterday. My 7-month-old granddaughter Audrey Jones was on hand for her first fishing trip, and this is the highlight of our weekend. So, we didn’t work very hard at arriving early, staying late or fishing intensely. So, I can’t really judge whether there might have been good walleye action if we’d been more intense about fishing or not. But I didn’t see a lot of fish being caught and at the landing, the AIS inspector did tell me that most folks were reporting slow action. “There were some fish caught, but not a lot,” he said.
The timing of walleye spawning seemed to work against lakes that opened earlier. Splithand for example, opened a week earlier than the lakes I mentioned above. Other lakes that opened earlier were slower yesterday too and I think walleyes may have spawned out and dissipated sooner in those lakes. When the weather stabilizes and minnows begin spawning, the shallow bite on those lakes should spring back to life.
Further south, Chris Andresen reported that northern pike action was a lot better than the walleye fishing on his favorite Mankato area lake. “We had water temperature of 64 to 67 degrees down here. Crankbait colors did not matter, we worked shallow water, under 8 feet in the newly developing weeds. Easily caught 30 pike in the 20-to-30-inch size range. Walleyes were reacting better to jig and minnow presentations,” Andresen wrote.
Minnow shortages affected everybody this weekend. There were some shiners at some stores for a while on Friday. But even with strict rationing, most of the shiners were sold out before Saturday morning. In some cases, even rainbows and fatheads were hard to get. I tried 3 stores myself before finding some decent fatheads at the Lucky Seven in Grand Rapids. The bait dealers were making their rounds yesterday afternoon, so tanks will be replenished soon, but it will be nip and tuck for a few more days.
It looks like we’re in for another windy day today, so again, I’m not sure how hard I’ll be working at fishing. But I have a lot of friends on the water who will be checking in and my guiding season begins in earnest tomorrow. From here on out, the information will flow freely and there will be plenty of updates. — — Jeff Sundin 218-245-9858 or EMAIL
Questions about whether Minnesota’s most popular opening weekend walleye fishing destinations will be ready for boat traffic next weekend are pretty much settled. Central and north central walleye factories like Mille Lacs, Winnibigoshish, Leech Lake, Upper Red Lake are either already open, or so close to being open that the point of monitoring them is now is moot, they will be open next Saturday.
Reader reports like this one from Bob Ekstrom, MN DNR have become common too. Ekstrom; “Hey, I drove around Lake Bemidji, Cass Lake and Pike Bay Sunday May 8 in the AM. There was some ice here and there, but all three lakes were, for all intents and purposes, open and any remaining ice should be gone by the end of the day today, I'd say. Big Wolf, Andrusia and a few others opened in the afternoon and evening yesterday, May 7 due to the big wind we had yesterday. Looking pretty good over this way for a great opener.”
Likewise, in my home territory, smaller lakes are opening fast too. Grand Rapids’ Pokegama Lake was wide open on Saturday according to reports. I and the Hippie Chick confirmed that on Sunday, we could not see as much as an ice cube floating in the middle. From Deer Lake, my friend Rick Hastings submitted the accompanying photo along with this; “Piled up about 10 feet on my shoreline this morning. Otherwise, the rest of the lake is open. Small waters everywhere in the Itasca Region are opening up faster than we can keep track of.
With north central Minnesota lakes open, I started checking up on lakes further north. Vermilion, Rainy Lake and Lake of the Woods all have ice on them now, but if the trajectory remains similar to what north central lakes experienced over the past few days, they will be open, or mostly open next weekend too. The image, courtesy Morris Point Resort, of Lake of the Woods tells the story. Lots of water open already this morning, floating sheets of black slushy ice being blown out to sea by the brisk south wind. Similar images from both Lake Vermilion and Rainy Lake reveal comparable progress. At Ely MN, the image of Moose Lake shows, black, soggy ice riddled with cracks.
The focus of reader questions is changing now from where there will be open water, to whether bait inventories will be adequate for the strong opening weekend demand. So, that’s my work assignment today, checking in with bait trappers, wholesalers, and retail stores. There is a lot of ground to cover, but I’ll have updates about who will have the best minnow supplies soon, some of them trickling in as soon as this afternoon.
These folks in the bait industry are busier now than they ever will be, and they don’t have a lot of time right now for phone calls and emails. If we can all band together and help them out by gathering updates, I’m sure they’ll appreciate it. So, if you’ve already stopped by your favorite bait store and know what they have on hand, shoot us an update. Your fellow anglers will appreciate it too, I am sure of that. — Jeff Sundin 218-245-9858 or EMAIL
Typically, I don’t write reports on Saturday mornings. Most folks who read them are usually out in the field anyway, and like most folks, I need a few hours to rest occasionally too. But the timing of Mother Nature’s warmup this week puts Saturday morning smack dab in the middle of a hot news cycle. So, here is a brief report about observations I made yesterday and some educated guesses about where we’ll be a week from now.
First, an announcement about the Cutfoot Sioux Walleye Egg Take. MN DNR Fisheries announced yesterday that they will not set up gear or strip walleye eggs at Little Cutfoot this year. Although the ice will be out soon on Little Cutfoot, timing was getting cramped. It would have been several days before they could have gotten gear set up and the egg take likely would have conflicted with the fishing opener. That, combined with news that other DNR areas were enjoying robust spawning activity made skipping the egg harvest possible. The Grand Rapids quota of walleye eggs was filled by other DNR regions, Bemidji and Brainerd chipped in for sure; there may have been eggs from other regions too.
Because of the egg take cancellation, anglers will be allowed to fish in Little Cutfoot, Little Little Cutfoot and Egg Lake. Previously, the DNR announced that these lakes would be closed to angling on the walleye opener. So, regardless of what you may have seen previously, you can now follow the guidance provided in this email update from Grand Rapids Fisheries Supervisor Dave Weitzel.
Weitzel; “I wanted to send you a quick update on spring fisheries projects related to Winnie and Cut Foot Sioux. With the delayed ice out, we have not been able to set up the traditional egg take station at Cut Foot. In the meantime, our colleagues in Brainard, Walker, and Bemidji have had big runs and have taken all of the eggs needed for production this year. This means we will not be taking eggs at Cut Foot but will still be hatching and stocking over 9 million fry into the Winnie system. Fry will hatch around Memorial Day. It also means that there will be no seasonal closure at Cut Foot Sioux and the entire system will be open for the fishing opener.”
Speaking of Little Cutfoot, I stopped at both ends of the lake yesterday and from what I could see, the ice will be out either today, or tomorrow. There were already large gaps between the shoreline and ice, and with strong winds forecast today, breakup should occur quickly. Images from the Williams Narrows webcams also reveal large gaps, broken ice and a deteriorating ice sheet on the main lake. There is already much more open water there than there was on the fishing opener of 2013. That year, the ice did not last another full week and that’s why I think Cutfoot will be wide open before next Saturday; we’ll see.
I had already checked out the east side of Winnie and the images from there speak for themselves. To save time, I linked all of them below so you can make your own judgment. Remember, these images were taken before noon on Friday and since then, it’s been sunny, 73 degrees and breezy.
From Little Cutfoot, it made sense to drive east to Bowstring, so I did. I only stopped once, at the north landing and was surprised by conditions there. I saw more gaps, more cracks and darker ice than I was expecting. Ice-out for the opener is not guaranteed on Bowstring, but I’m pretty sure that it will be open. At the least, access to the outer extremes of the lake will be open and anglers should be able to navigate around any remaining ice, if any still exists by then.
I did not see it with my own eyes, but Lake Bemidji, according to reports was already showing signs of breaking up. “The lake is covered with dark, slushy ice and there are large holes open already.” Wrote one reader yesterday. I was able to check a satellite image and that appeared to confirm that report. Plus, the image revealed other Bemidji Area lakes that are either already ice-free, or at least so dark in color that they appear to be open. Bemidji area readers, feel free to drop us a line with an update or photo, they are always appreciated.
Today’s forecast calls for strong winds, south southeast gusting as high as 25 MPH. So, if you drive around the north end of larger lakes, it will still appear that there’s a lot of ice. Conversely, tour the south ends of them and you’ll believe that ice out is just around the corner. Optimists, take the south route, pessimists, tour the north and before next weekend, we’ll meet in the middle. When we do, we’ll probably all be looking at lots of open water. — Jeff Sundin 218-245-9858 or EMAIL
Images from Friday May 6, 2022 Little Cutfoot Sioux South Landing • Little Cutfoot Sioux Mosomo Landing • Little Cutfoot Sioux Hwy. 46 Bridge • Lake Winnie at Tamarack Point Near Highbanks • Lake Winnie at Tamarack Point Landing • Bowstring Lake North Landing
On Tuesday, I travelled south to Rogers Minnesota where Dave Osborne’s Clam Corporation hosted the 1st annual, MN-FISH “State of Minnesota Fishing Summit”. I debated about whether to write a long report about the summit, but with everything that’s on the schedule, the time is better spent for now on current fishing news.
Even though I decided to save my thoughts about the fishing summit for later, I will say this; MN-FISH put together what turned out to be an impressive meeting. Almost everybody who can decide anything about fishing in Minnesota, from the Governor on down, was there. Ron Schara, MN-FISH President, along with everybody on the board of directors did an outstanding job of organizing and presenting at the meeting.
MN-FISH did live stream the video yesterday, but I have heard that the sound quality wasn’t great. Supposedly, it will also be saved on their YouTube channel. So, if that happens and the video is understandable, I definitely will share a link to it.
Following up on reader questions about ice conditions, particularly on Lake Winnie and Leech Lake will get the lion’s share of my attention over the next few days. What I know for sure this morning is that both of those lakes remain ice-covered, in fact so is almost every lake north of Leech Lake. The good news though is that the ice-line is creeping north.
On Tuesday, beginning with Hanging Kettle Lake (pictured), every lake from Aitkin on south was wide open, including Lake Mille Lacs.
The wind was blowing from the north, so the entire lake was ice-free until I came to Virgo Rd. north of Onamia. At that end, there was still a band of sloppy, slushy chunks of broken ice along the south shoreline. That slush stopped a buddy of mine from launching his boat on the south shore but would not stop anybody from travelling freely across the main lake as long as they launched a boat further north. In fact, there were already 8 or 10 rigs parked at the public landing north of Garrison. I think most of them were DNR vehicles, apparently beginning to place test nets near the shoreline.
The satellite image from Tuesday shows nothing but ice when travelling north of the yellow line. In my opinion, that map makes the situation look worse than it really is. When viewing some of those areas from the ground, shoreline areas, along with small rivers and feeder creeks are already open. With 3 days of sunshine and calm seas in the forecast to close out this week, the stage will be set for rapid deterioration of mid-lake ice cover and after that, any strong wind that comes along will break it up.
Speculating about ice conditions on specific lakes from the computer desk doesn’t do a lot of good. So, today, and tomorrow are boots on the ground days for me. I’ll be gathering as many images from as many places as I can get to, as fast as I can get there.
Following up on questions about the walleye egg take at Little Cutfoot Sioux. There is still no hard news about any possible starting date, but don't expect to see anybody setting up gear this week. In a call to Grand Rapids Area Fisheries Manager Dave Weitzel this morning, he cautioned that ice-conditions are not looking good for starting this week. While the weather looks favorable for melting ice over the next few days, it will still take time for the wind to churn the lake and re-oxygenate it. Weitzel reported that there is a crew headed up there today and they will assess the timing. Right now, it appears that next Monday or Tuesday is the most realistic estimate.
I was able to confirm an early report from an observer of the Brainerd Area’s Pine River operation. Carl Mills, Brainered Area Fiheries Staff says that their operation is in full swing. "Our goal was to deliver 700 quarts of fertilized walleye eggs to the Brainerd hatchery and we've already completed that. Yesterday (Tuesday), we reached 837 quarts and sent the surplus 137 quarts over the Glenwood Minnesota hatchery."
Typically, the Glenwood hatchery would receive those fertilized egss from Grand Rapids. So, the fish arriving from Brainerd are a way of taking future pressure off of the Grand Rapids operation. Mills, "We will keep fishing for a while to take more pressure off of Grand Rapids and if we reach the full quota for Glenwood, ship some extra eggs over to Bemidji too."
A few years back, I visited the Pine River operation and reported about it. If you usually visit walleyes in the traps at Cutfoot, taking a detour south to Pine River might be a fun trip for you. Here’s a link to more details about the >> Pine River Walleye Egg Take Operations
The Walker Lake Walleye Egg Take was in full swing over the weekend too. Ottertail County was there and asked MN DNR officials what the late spring means for walleye anglers and also asked them to gauge the overall walleye populations in Otter Tail County, MN. If you’re a Facebook user, you can view that video here >> Walker Lake Walleye Egg Take Ottertail MN
Stay tuned for updates as the countdown to Minnesota's Walleye Fishing Opener heats up. — Jeff Sundin 218-245-9858 or EMAIL
"As more images reveal Minnesota’s “ice line” moving further north, the list of reader questions about specific lakes is growing longer. Naturally, anglers are most curious about Minnesota’s Core Walleye Lakes, the 10 largest and most popular destinations for opening weekend walleye anglers.
Like I mentioned yesterday, this is the time of year when the clever selection of images could make it look like the ice is going to last forever. For example, look at this image of Little Cutfoot Sioux, north of Deer River; all you can see is ice and nothing else. But wait, look again, this time closer. Appearing only a few feet away from where I shot the first photo, the swimming critter revealed that there’s a nice big crack in that ice. A few days of sunshine, or heavy winds and that crack will grow fast. Multiply that by all of the other holes and cracks and little drainages out there and it adds up to ice-out coming sooner than we think.
Amy Perrington, Cutfoot Sioux Resort pasted some images of Little Cutfoot on Monday. They revealed a wide swath of open water through the channel in front of the resort, where the Grand Rapids Area Fisheries Staff will place the trap nets for the “Walleye Egg Take” operation. The nets can’t be placed until after the ice is completely gone from the adjacent lake, Little Cutfoot Sioux. Ideally, there should be a gap of 3 or 4 days between ice-out and the placing of trap nets.
On Monday, reader questions about the walleye egg take prompted me to call Dave Weitzel, Grand Rapids Area Fisheries Manager, for an update about this spring’s timeline. “We need at least a few days for the lake to re-oxygenate before we can put the nets in. So, it’s doubtful that anything will happen before at least the end of this week.” Weitzel said. “Right now, other DNR egg take operations are already starting up. Once we know how productive some of those runs are, we’ll have a better idea about how long the nets might be in, and how many eggs, if any, will be needed. In fact, we’re considering sending some of our Grand Rapid’s staff to assist managers at some of the other operations.” Weitzel, added.
Besides questions about the walleye egg take, ice conditions on Winnie and Leech top the list of questions. I’m up against the clock this morning, so those questions will have to wait until tomorrow, but I promise that there will be updates every day this week." — Jeff Sundin 218-245-9858 or EMAIL
It’s the time of season when creative use of images could lead anglers to believe that the ice will last forever. Or, that ice-out has already occurred on all the lakes, everywhere. The truth is, the situation is someplace in-between, but are surely moving in the right direction.
On Sunday, an unexpected road trip gave I and the Hippie Chick an excuse to document ice conditions on some of the more popular walleye lakes south of Grand Rapids. After we shuttled a package over to Floodwood, we took the long way home, following Hwy. 73 south to Cromwell, then west to McGregor where we picked up northbound Hwy. 65 for the return trip home.
I reasoned that route would give us a chance to check on several lakes that are not just good walleye lakes but also offer high quality panfish opportunities too. I was hoping for some optimistic news because any of them could be good for the upcoming walleye opener, provided that ice-out has occurred by then. The news, we discovered, was even better than I’d hoped for!
We started our trip right at Floodwood by checking the water level of the St. Louis River. The water is high, current is strong, and water is over the banks, flooding adjacent low-lying terrain. That was no surprise because every river, even small ones in our region look the same, flooding has occurred on many of them and there are some road closures, especially gravel roads off the beaten path.
The first lake we saw was Prairie Lake, north of Cromwell. As shown in the photo of Prairie Lake, the bay adjacent to the public access is already open. The ice covering the rest of that lake is soft, dark and ready to break up soon; I’ll be surprised if the ice lasts until next weekend on this lake.
Our next stop was Tamarack Lake, just south of Wright, MN. As shown in the photo of Tamarack Lake, there was even less ice than there was at Prairie. In fact, except for some floating chucks, we could have called this one in to the DNR as being ice-free. As you can see, the dock is already in, and the boat ramp is in good shape. Tamarack isn’t known as a great walleye lake, so it’s not likely an opening day walleye spot, but panfish anglers, anxious for some fresh air could hit this lake up for a test ride any day now.
Eager to check ice conditions on some of the better walleye waters, we skipped over the rest of the small panfish lakes and headed straight to Round Lake, northeast of McGregor, MN where we were surprised to find that ice-out had already occurred there. That’s right, as shown in this photo of Round Lake , it was ice free on Sunday, but don’t rush over there yet, the boat ramp needs repair first. The ice buckled the concrete this winter and unless you can launch a smaller boat across the beach, you’ll have to turn back.
Lake Minnewawa, our next stop, is a popular walleye lake near McGregor too. So. I was hoping to see more open water there, and we did. A good portion of the lake was already ice free, but it’s gonna be a little while before we can get out there. As pictured in the photo of Minnewawa, there is still a floating layer of semi-heavy looking ice chunks. They’ll break up soon, but first the wind will have to blow them around a little bit more. I’m certain that the ice won’t last more than a few days and that’s why I have Minnewawa on my list for possible fishing opener destinations.
Big Sandy Lake, another one of my favorite places to fish wasn’t as close to ice out as the others, but it won’t be long. From the wayside rest on Hwy 65 at the lake’s west side, you can see that the main lake remains covered by a dark, grey sheet of water saturated ice. Sunshine would help kill some of that ice, so how fast it disappears depends on how soon we receive some sunny weather. But even though the main lake remains ice-covered, the shallow bays are opening faster. At the Sandy Lake Campground, river flow, combined with dark, shallow water have opened the entire bay already. At the entrance to main lake, the open water will grow rapidly this week and I have no doubt that it will be wide open in a week, maybe less.
We didn’t make any more stops between Big Sandy and Grand Rapids. But this morning, I feel good about how fast the line delineating open water is moving north. I know that today, some of the larger, popular walleye lakes still have areas of heavy ice cover. But there are a growing number of lakes on the ice-free list, and they are good ones. So don’t get caught sleeping. Get that boat polished up and charge your batteries, there are already and will be more good options for the walleye opener coming to light every day. — Jeff Sundin 218-245-9858 or EMAIL
Pete Peterson wrote; "Good morning Jeff, I have been following the conversation about barotrauma and have not seen anything about revival techniques when faced with this problem. Many years ago at a not so secret crappie spot on the LOW there were literally hundreds of floaters. Then a couple of techniques were discovered that seemed to revive them and now the very few floaters end up as eagle food.
The two techniques I have seen include dropping the fish flat on the deck or any flat surface. If the fish quivers, they go back. Most seem to make it because they never pop up. If it doesn't respond, you have to keep it. The second is more difficult because you have to lean over the side of the boat. If you hold their mouth shut as you gently put them in the water nose first, they seem to survive too.
I am sure someone else has a technique that works. But, just throwing them back will pretty much guarantee a lot of floaters (wanton waste). Eagles will love floaters." Pete Petersen
A) Thanks for the note, Pete, your comments are appreciated. Yes, these techniques, along with others, have been discussed periodically. To be sure, there are some cases in which techniques aimed at mitigating fish mortality caused by barotrauma do work. Unfortunately, in many cases, they only appear to work because the injured fish swims away, giving the angler a false sense of accomplishment. The problem is that saving a fish from being a “floater”, as you put it, does not address all the internal injuries that often affect the fish later, in some instances, well after what appears to have been a successful release.
Ruptured internal organs, damage to fish’s eyes, and even simple stress can cause delayed mortality. We assume that the fish, because it is not floating on the surface, has swum away, and therefore survived. Meanwhile, internal injuries kill the fish slowly, and it eventually sinks to the bottom of the lake.
The impact of delayed mortality has been documented by anglers who fish winter panfish derby’s using underwater cameras. Ice fishing for panfish, especially crappies through the ice is frequently done over concentrated deep water, mid-lake-basin areas. When angling pressure is high, released fish that do die begin stacking up. Singles become doubles, doubles become dozen’s and so on.
By your own account, there were at one time “hundreds of floaters” at your favorite spot and others have reported similar occurrences, except that they’ve viewed dead fish laying on the bottom near highly pressure fishing spots in deep water.
So, delayed mortality is why I seldom offer guidance about how to revive fish caught in deep water. There is just no way to guarantee that fish survive, even if they appear to be healthy when released. True, some of those released floaters do survive, so any attempt to save them is better than nothing. But the BEST thing to do is not to pursue fish in deep water. When catching panfish in deep water is the only game in town, catch and harvest the fish you intend to eat. If you still want to catch and release fish, then move on to other species that inhabit shallower water.
"Mille Lacs Lake walleye anglers will have two potential opportunities for harvest during the 2022 open water season.
A one-fish limit will allow Mille Lacs anglers to harvest one walleye, 21 to 23 inches or one walleye longer than 28 inches from Saturday, May 14, 2022 through Monday, May 30, 2022.
(Catch and release fishing for walleye begins on May 31, 2022 and ends on June 30, 2022)
After a summer of catch-and-release fishing with an early July closure to reduce hooking mortality, the one-fish limit is expected to return on Thursday, September 1, 2022.
“We must continue to manage state harvest very carefully on Mille Lacs so we can provide as much angling opportunity as prudent while protecting the opportunities for the ..." Learn More >> Mille Lacs Lake: One-fish walleye limit set for spring, fall fishing 2022/2023