It is good to remember, not all walleyes do the same thing. Some schools are deep, some shallow. Some may be feeding on minnows, others critters in the mud. Good reports in various areas along the south shore of the lake as well as Knight & Bridges Island area.
Anchored up and vertical jigging a jig and minnow or frozen emerald shiner has been very successful. Gold, pink, orange or a combo hard to beat. Drifting with spinners and trolling crankbaits also catching fish. A nice mix of eaters, slots and trophies. Some big pike and jumbo perch in the mix.
On the Rainy River, anglers caught some good walleyes in the river this week. Best depth 12-24'. Jigs and minnows working the best. The edge of the river channel in Four Mile Bay also giving up some walleyes. Smallmouth bass in good numbers. Typical spots, rocky areas, current breaks, bridge and rip rap areas. Somie big pike still hanging out in bays. The sturgeon season is closed until July 1st when the season re-opens.
Until the US-Canada border re-opens, guests can travel across the lake into the Minnesota waters of thre Northwest Angler. Some resorts are offering transport service across the lake, staying in MN waters to the Angle prior to the border opening. Some guests are setting up with transport to follow charters in their own boats. Various south shore resorts are offering parking for guests of NW Angle resorts.
Fishing is great. Anglers fishing the Angle are catching good numbers of walleyes. Jigging rocky points in 10 - 22 feet of water producing nice walleyes. Some good fish also being caught on crankbaits in 8-12' of water. Big pike in bays and creek mouths. Smallmouth bass in bays and shallow rocks." — Lake of the Woods Tourism, (800) 382-FISH
"Fishing action remains hot! Many Anglers are working different locations and depths as well as different baits and tactics.
There are many Walleye just off of Pine Island and around the Lighthouse Gap. All the way along the south shore there are currently large numbers of Walleye. Some Anglers are trolling shallow waters with plugs, others are anchored and jigging while further out. There has also been some drifting going on. It’s a great time to come up and apply your own preferred method. Other Anglers have been boating as far as Knight and Bridges Island, those venturing further out are having success and it also may help to thin the crowds of boats along Pine Island.
We are continuing some projects around the facility. The dining room ceiling is getting some new color and lights. We have rearranged the booths and tables as well. The 3-bedroom riverside cabins are getting new decks and benches. In response to Covid compliance we have plenty of space for 48 people to dine outside on the deck.
We now have touchless menus and food ordering and the waitstaff is excited to be serving and seeing the so many great people we see every summer. Also, ready for the summer is soft serve ice cream treats! And, without question, the guides are ready to get back on the lake and tracking the Walleye trends.
There isn’t much change in the forecast for this week. We may have a little rain later this afternoon, which is needed, as long as it knows when to stop. The waves today were under 1 foot, tomorrow they are forecasted to be about 1 foot and then going back down to under a foot again on Tuesday. The temperature forecast shows our low for the week is 49 and a high of 78." — 1-800-776-3474 Border View Lodge
Upper Red Lake held up to heavy pressure, delivering limits to most anglers who fished there. After returning from a day trip, my neighbor reported that traffic moved smoothly both on and off the lake despite having an overflow crowd at the Washkish landing.
Walleyes are still on the shoreline and will likely remain there for the next week. Jig and minnow is the presentation of choice for most anglers, but there were quite a few fish caught by anglers trolling crankbaits this weekend too. Experiment with shallow running, minnow style baits and fish in water depths of 6 to 8 feet.
For me, Leech Lake served as the office and while the walleye bite wasn’t wide open, it was definitely good enough for us. The attraction of fishing on Leech Lake is the average size of the walleyes we catch there. The accompanying photo fairly represents the range of sizes that we caught. Bill Linder holds the largest fish of our day, 24-1/2 inches while I hold one of the smallest, a 16 incher.
We found walleyes on both shores of Portage Bay in water depths of 6 to 12 feet. They were scattered and it took persistence to locate them, but when we did, they were hungry. Typical of leech, when the breeze blew, fish moved shallower and became more aggressive. When the seas were calm, scratching them out, one-by-one became the norm.
Similar reports came in from other clear water lakes in the region too. I ran into a friend who spent the weekend fishing on Cass Lake. “The fishing was weird over there this weekend. You could see the fish with your eyes, they were in about 14 feet of water and scattered. Most of the time, they wouldn’t bite, but every day there was a period when they became active. We just had to be lucky, fishing the right spot at the time they bit.”
The secret to catching those fish was to move slowly along the deep breakline, pitching a jig and minnow into shallow water. Fish struck whenever they were unaware of the boat, but once they element of surprise was gone, they became fussy.
Anglers fishing on Lake Winnie echoed reports from the past week. They caught plenty of fish in the protected slot and a ton of the 11 inch fish from the upcoming monster 2018 year class. Fish in the keeper range were few and far between. Most folks who want to eat fish are using perch for that purpose and they have been fairly easy to come by.
For many, the highlight of the weekend was fishing for panfish. The warm weather encouraged them to begin moving into shallow water in preparation for spawning. Without seeing the fish with my own eyes, it’s hard to say how far along they are in the spawning process. But I have the sense that they could be fanning beds intensely this week, at least as long as the warm weather continues.
For me, this was more than the simple passing of Memorial Day weekend. The upcoming weeks promise to bring a certain sense of normality back into my life. The unsettled times are far from over, but with the beginning of summer, I can see the situation becoming calmer.
For today, I have a return trip to Red Lake planned and the weather forecast appears to be playing into my hand. I’ll report about that tomorrow and then, the rest of the week, promises time for experimentation. I’m hoping to take a crack at those crappies and maybe some sunfish too, if the timing works out. — Jeff Sundin 218-245-9858 or EMAIL
"Walleye fishing was excellent to unbelievable for many anglers this last week. Walleyes have largely pulled away from current area and relocated on large shallow shoreline flats, in 5-12 feet of water, looking for spawning bait fish during the morning and evening hours. Anglers have been throwing 1/8oz and 1/4oz pink, blue, purple and white jigs, tipped with either a shiner or rainbow minnow. Dock owners have also been experiencing excellent fishing right off their docks during the evening hours. Here, floating jigs tipped with a minnow or a jig suspended under a lighted bobbers is proving very effective!
Very large pike continue to be found shallow earlier and earlier in the day. Pike as big as 45” have been have been hitting very large suckers, fished under a bobber, in the back of shallow bays. Anglers have also been having success trolling spoons around these same shallow bays.
Crappies and sunfish have finally started showing up in the shallows looking for warm water and begin spawning. Hair or feather jigs, tipped with a small crappie minnow, fished under a bobber can be extremely effective right now. Anglers should be looking for shallow bays with firm bottom bays to find these fish.
Lake trout fishing continues to be up and down for anglers targeting them. One day laker are hanging tight to the bottom unwilling to move for anything, the next day anglers struggle to get their lines set before they are popped by a aggressive laker. Anglers have been finding them in 30-50 feet of water chasing bait pods. Large trolling spoons has been effective, but anglers have also been reporting that heavy tube jigs, jigged over deep water, has also been very effective.
As with lake trout, stream trout fishing has been up and down. When the trout are biting, the fishing is outstanding, but when they aren’t, anglers can only watch as multiple trout follow baits but don’t bite. Anglers have been having luck with small spoons, night crawlers and small minnow baits.
Smallmouth Bass have begone to invade the shallows looking to warm up and eat a little before they spawn. Anglers targeting them have been having good luck fishing slow moving baits, like husky jerks, wacky worms and streamers." — Arrowhead Outdoors, 218-365-5358
Memorial Day weekend is upon us and it looks like a great time to be out on the water! Most of us who plan to fish already have a good idea about where we’re going, but in case you’ve been on the fence about which way to go, here are a few notes that may help.
Shiners are available, but not yet plentiful. Most of the bait shops across the north central region have supplies delivered by trappers from Red Lake. The Red Lake shiner run is in full swing already, but other popular shiner lakes like Winnie, have not yet begun to produce. With water temperatures warming, the more clear lakes should begin producing soon.
As I reported on Wednesday, the Red Lakes shiner run has activated a reliable walleye bite on the big lake. Everyone I have talked to, have turned in good reports, that’s the good news. The bad news is that Upper Red is going to be a busy place this weekend, if you don’t like big crowds, you might ponder some alternatives.
The fishing on Leech Lake has been spotty, but the fish are in a biting mood. The trick is locating schools of fish on the sprawling flats and weed edges. Over the past few days, I’ve heard better reports from Portage Bay than from Sucker Bay. The Walker Narrows continues to produce fish and agency bay does too. There have been fish on the rock bars and reefs toward the south end of the main lake as well. Walleye and smallmouth are piling up for short feeding spurts during windy periods.
Access to Portage Bay on Leech was somewhat limited because of the closure at the US Army Corps of Engineers ramp at Federal Dam. As I understand it, the USACE plans to re-open the boat landing later today, May 22, 2020; I was told it will open at 4:30 PM. There wasn’t any additional news about that facility in particular, so I don’t know if the fish cleaning station or rest rooms will be open. I’d suggest planning that they will not be open and if that poses a problem, making other plans.
Fishing on Winnie has been good and if you’re into CPR, you’ll convince some really pretty walleyes to become super-models. If you’re a fish eater, look to perch as your protein source this weekend. Without a doubt, you’ll have better luck catching them in numbers large enough to feed the family. If you did not check it out on Thursday morning, you can get all the details about the Winnie bite here >> Bowen’s Lake Winnie Report May 21, 2020.
Lake Bemidji, Cass (on the main lake) and Pike Bay are good options too. But these are all untested by me so far this spring, so I’ll leave the exploring up to you on those.
For folks who want to avoid big water, smaller lakes are warming up and the fish are beginning to “turn on”. I and my crew fished a smaller lake in the Bemidji region yesterday and found some active walleyes on a shallow weed flat. We did not catch our limit, but we did bag 10 walleyes using jig and minnow combinations. The mixed cabbage, coontail and northern milfoil held some pike and perch too, so the action was fairly good. Some of the perch were better than others, but there were about 20 keepers in the creel at days end as well.
Surface temperatures were still cool, 55 to 58 degrees and that’s about average for other lakes in the area as well. That means we’re likely to see glimpses of panfish activity in and near shallow spawning territory. If you don’t mind fishing late in the evening, there will almost certainly be crappies moving along weed edges at dusk. The crepuscular feeding pattern is classic at this time of the year, so if you’ve got a “favorite” crappie lake, this would be a good weekend to check it.
Anchor up along the weedline, setup a slip float and use small jigs tipped with live minnows. Key depth varies from one lake to another, but 3 to 5 feet is common. Bring your bug spray because the Mosquitos have hatched and they are hungry.
Whatever your plans for the Memorial Day Weekend, I hope that they work out well. Like you, I’ll be hustling around outside, so I might not get every little detail about what’s biting and where; that’s where you could help. You do not have to give up your secret hot spots to be helpful. A few words about general fishing trends and patterns to your fellow anglers go a long way. What goes around comes around and one of these days, one of them will help you in return; it’s happened to me more than once! — Jeff Sundin 218-245-9858 or EMAIL
Traffic on a lot of lakes has been light, partially because of campground closures. But according to this MN DNR News release, that is about to change.
The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources will reopen its campgrounds at state parks, state forests and recreation areas in a phased approach beginning June 1. Gov. Tim Walz announced that public and private campgrounds may reopen beginning June 1, if they create a Preparedness Plan and follow State of Minnesota campground guidelines.
“We look forward to welcoming overnight visitors back to ..." Read >> DNR to phase reopening of its campgrounds June 1, 2020
"Walleyes have begun to move away from spawning areas and started cruising main lake shorelines looking for minnows and warm water. Many anglers have been reporting excellent fishing right off their docks. Lighted slip bobbers fished with a minnow, floating jigs fished on the bottom or jig and minnow has been the ticket! Key depth has been 3-10 feet of water during the evening, 15-20 feet during the day. Hot colors have been pink, purple and blue.
Very large pike have been very active and hungry! Large suckers, smelt or alewife fished under a bobber has been very effective. Many anglers have been going through a dozen heavy’s a day. Early afternoon has been the best time to be fishing them. Anglers have been focusing on shallow mud bottom bays for these big pike.
Stream trout anglers have been reporting catching easy limits of trout. Trout on many area lakes are being sight fished in super shallow water, very close to the shoreline. Just like the walleyes, trout are simply cruising the shoreline looking for minnows and bugs to eat. Anglers have been catching them on small flies, spoons, spinners and twisters.
Smallmouth bass fishing has been getting better and better as smallmouth move up looking for warm water and food. Anglers need to fish slow, as bass are cold and still sluggish. Wacky worms, medium size streamers and suspending jerk baits have been best. Anglers should be looking for shallow rocky flats, out of the wind and in the sun." — Arrowhead Outdoors, 218-365-5358
So far, most shiner traps in north central Minnesota are collecting more seaweed than minnows. Cold, gloomy weather persists and until we see some sunshine and warmer temperatures, it is unlikely that bait supplies will improve.
In a typical spring, shortages are usually limited to spot tails, but right now, even rainbows have been harder than usual to come by. A friend who traps his own minnows got some rainbows last week when it warmed up, but since this cold snap struck, they’ve disappeared.
Leeches are a problem too; cold water has slowed their delivery rate as well. Right now, that is more of a problem from the sales point of view than it is from an angling perspective. Most of us could get by without them for a week or two and there are enough of them around to keep hard core leech anglers satisfied.
I got the bad news out of the way first so I could end on a more optimistic note. I just walked outside, and the sun is up, the sky is blue and it’s already warmer than the high temperature was yesterday. There is an even warmer warmup predicted for the next few days and that means there is a good chance that some of the trappers will have better luck soon.
Chad Benson, a professional shiner trapper out of Bemidji says that it’s hard to stop ‘em once they get started. In fact om on the phone with Chad right now and he’s pretty sure that in another 5 days or so, he’ll have more shiners than knows what to do with.
“When it comes to fishing, there are no guarantees, but the warm temperatures are definitely going to help. I’m already seeing signs of improvement, one of the traps I put out 2 days ago had a gallon of shiners in it yesterday morning. There’s a good chance that trap will have a lot more in it when I check it today.” Benson says.
I agree with Chad, weather forecasts for the next week promise a welcome summer-like pattern. Highs in the 70s maybe even close to 80 degrees by midweek. Not only will that be good for minnow trapping, but it won’t hurt the prospects for walleye fishing either.
Stay tuned for updates, I’ll make a point of checking in with bait dealers and resorts later today and share the news tomorrow morning. — Jeff Sundin 218-245-9858 or EMAIL
"Guests who fished during the opening week of walleye season found a classic post spawn, cold water pattern on Lake Winnie.
It’s been a couple of weeks since spawning walleyes made their move through Little Cutfoot With the spawning run completed, female walleyes have already moved out and were found migrating away from Cutfoot and into the big lake. At this stage of the season, fishing can be a little “hit and miss” and that’s what we’ve observed so far.
Because of the cold water temperatures, there was little incentive for most of the migrating fish to move shallow and feed. Instead, they closely followed traditional migration routes along shoreline breaks and along the river channels. Anglers who found and fished along those migration routes were rewarded with good catches.
Areas that produced well for our guests, included ..." Read >> Bowen Lodge Fishing Report May 14, 2020
A fishing guide without work is a fishing guide with time to go fishing; so that’s what I do. But for me, working and not working can look a lot like the same thing unless I go someplace out of my usual “working” territory.
Infrequently, I fish at Lake Mille Lacs; it is just far enough away that it always feels like new water. The walleye bite was good there over the fishing opener weekend; my friends all told me that. And with plenty of free time to gather fish for my own freezer, there was no worry about releasing any fish I’d catch, not on this trip anyway.
I’ll give you my report from Mille Lacs, but not before I tell you that none of the info actually originated with me. I didn’t drive down there and search the sand bars ‘till I found the motherlode and I didn’t develop any special techniques or presentations either; I just made a phone call and followed instructions. I’m lucky, I can sometimes do that you know.
Jon Thelen, when it comes to fishing Mille Lacs, is the first man on my call list. It is his water, he’s guided there, filmed TV shows there and when he has time off, he plays there too. Jon was out on Mille Lacs last Saturday and despite the cold, snowy weather, had a fabulous fishing opener.
“It’s basically the same every year, shallow sand located near spawning territory holds male fish for a week or so after the opener”, he told me. There are spots all along the shorelines where fish spawn in the spring. By opening day, the females are usually gone, but the breaklines continue to hold males for a while.
Jon clued me in on another tip too, the water was cold, 45 degrees when I fished there and because of that, walleyes showed a definite preference for lively shiners presented on Lindy Rigs. That was his experience over the opener, but he did add that there were folks pitching jigs too and that they did catch some fish rigging leeches as well.
That idea piqued my interest because I thought of it myself last Saturday, but I didn’t have any larger minnows to work with. I wrote about it last Sunday; “I think the fishes lethargic attitudes could have been overcome, by a slower, more tantalizing live bait presentation. A traditional Lindy Rig with a #4 hook, trimmed to about 6 feet and tipped with a large rainbow would have been a good idea, I think.”
Being as jig and minnow oriented as I am, this felt like an opportunity to try and perfect an alternative early season presentation. Who knows, it could come in handy up here one day when jig and minnow presentations were not producing well.
On Mille Lacs, most anglers prefer longer leaders and Jon’s guidance was in-line with that. Lindy Rigs come packaged in 10 foot lengths these days and when I asked if he had trimmed them shorter he said; “Nope, use the whole 10 feet, the red colored #4 minnow hook is what I used. Hook the shiner in the top lip only and don’t kill it, when the fish get close, it will start going wild and you’ll know there’s a bite coming.”
That’s pretty much the way it worked out too. Except for the fish that just came up and slammed the bait without warning, there was always a telltale wiggle on the tip of my rod before a strike. It reminded me of hunting over pointing dogs vs a flushing one, that moment of warning is sort of nice.
About the only thing that could be considered experimental was figuring out the depth. Straddling the moderately fast tapering shoreline break at 14 to 15 feet was the trick this time and a ¼ ounce Lindy Rig walking sinker was enough weight to hold position at that depth. Thelen; “You just have to keep adjusting your depth, the fish will move deeper when it’s sunny and shallower when it’s not. When I see fish on my Helix, I know that I’m usually going to catch ‘em.”
So there you have it, a fishing guide’s version of having a day off. I learned a lot on that fishing trip, but because I wasn’t “working” it just didn’t feel like it.
OH and by the way, if your go to spring presentation is a jig and minnow, you may have shared with me a certain opinion about what constitutes a good shiner. In my home range, most anglers prefer shiners in about the 3 inch range; typically that is a good size for jigging.
I’ve heard more than few guys grumble when they encountered the extra-large spottails that come out of Mille Lacs Lake. But I was amazed by how active those minnows were when I fished them on the Lindy Rigs. I don’t know if it’s because of their large size, or if they have a heartier constitution, but they were really tough and really durable. I know one thing, the walleyes sure liked them and fish in the 16 to 18 inch range had no problem gobbling a 4 to 5 inch long minnow. — Jeff Sundin 218-245-9858 or EMAIL
"Fantastic fishing opener follows a great bite this winter. A clicker is needed to track the numbers by the hour for some anglers. Water Temps in the Mid 40’s to low 50’s depending on location.
Most areas of the lake put out good numbers of Walleyes and quite a few Smallies too. When i say most areas I mean fish coming in from all depths and areas from North end sand to south end rocks. Crank baits absolutely demolished fish on opener from midnight on.
Mille Lacs Lake “ where GREAT FISHING is a Problem”. — Steve Johnson, Johnson's Portside 320-676-3811
"The opener is here, and we are happy to be helping people get out on the water! Bait has been decent so far this year. We are seeing signs of spot tail shiners, but limited quantities. Fatheads and rainbows have both been very popular as they have been running at a great size.
We are hearing reports of water temperatures everywhere between 44 and 52 degrees with fish hanging in 6-14 feet of water. " Andy Walls, 1000 Lakes Sports 218-999-5992
"Seems like Mother Nature imposed a 1 walleye limit per boat. Did see 1 person that limited out. Freakin' cold and windy. Good jumbo perch caught." — David Wanner, Northern Acres Resort 218-659-2845
"My brother Randy and I started at 6:30 AM and we were already parking a couple hundred yards away from the Bowstring south access ramp. We were greeted with 26° air temp and 47.9 water temp.
The fish we encountered were very sluggish and would grab our presentation, hold and drop. Bouncing around from spot to spot. We would pick up one here, two there until we finally found a spot of our own. 7 FOW with rock, to gravel, to sand transition.
A nice 50 yard stretch of enough action to keep us there. It was a very good day to fish with my brother in the boat. Considering the weather and the fish not jumping the live well. Looking forward to warmer weather. Throw another log on the fire!" — Robby Ott, Bowstring
"Leech Lake!! Fish were found in shallow water 6-7 ft in sucker bay. Finding spottail shiners was a big big problem. If you had shiners you caught fish if you used fat heads or rainbows you struggled. When the fish were hitting they hit hard. The cold front and snow did not help. It seemed the fish would bite right at sunset and right after, up until midnight and nothing. Golden jig was best." Lee Nupson, Oak Point Resort 218-335-2993
"With opening weekend now in the rear view, hopefully soon we will be able to put the ice fishing gear away until next year.
Overall it was a decent opening weekend on Leech Lake, but mother nature decided to throw us a good old fashioned Minnesota snow storm Saturday morning. The ground was completely covered and accumulating quickly by late morning. It is a good thing the fish didn't seem to mind much.
The Walleyes seemed more spread out this year than they have in the past, but staying persistent kept putting fish in the boat. Along with being persistent, staying mobile to stay on top of fish is key right now. 6'-13' of water was the best for my boat this weekend, but as always this time of year things change quickly.
A simple jig and minnow or Lindy Rig and minnow is all that is needed to catch fish on Leech Lake right now. Begin looking for fish on shoreline areas that are windswept. Those areas will typically hold the more active and willing bitters." Steve Nosbisch Guide Service, 507-421-4068
"It will be known as the Great Opening Weekend that almost wasn’t. With all the planning and organization, many extra phone calls, uncertainty, anxiety, and so many things which made trips considered to be on again and off again while having years of tradition at stake, it’s great to say we did it! Opening weekend was a great success!
We did not get the snow like central Minnesota saw. It became a little breezy Saturday afternoon and put most Anglers in the river. The morning reports were great and the action slowed into the afternoon as the boats came back into the river. That tells us that the spawn is over.
The forecast shows we will have some low 20’s overnight this week, but also shows some days having highs in the 60’s." — 1-800-776-3474 Border View Lodge
"Lake of the Woods resorts and hotels welcomed guests with a variety of COVID - 19 safety measures within their businesses to ensure guest and employee safety. Lodging is available and businesses are open.
On the south end... Some great walleye action for the MN Fishing Opener weekend. Walleyes and saugers were caught along the south shore in a variety of depths from 6' - 23', with 20' a good starting depth. Anchored up and vertically jigging a jig and minnow, in many cases a frozen emerald shiner, was the ticket.
Gold or a gold combo was good. Chartreuse, pink and glow were also effective. The walleye / sauger limit on LOW and the Rainy River is a combined limit of 6 fish, up to 4 can be walleyes. The slot limit is 19.5" - 28" must be released. One walleye can be kept over 28". Good numbers of pike still being caught in bays.
On the Rainy River... Some good walleyes were caught in the river, Four Mile Bay and the Bostic Bay areas. Some fish left over from the spawn, others local fish who live there. Jig and a minnow was the go to bait. The sturgeon bite continues strong with numbers of fish being caught. The sturgeon catch and release season goes through May 15 and then closes until July 1st when the season re-opens.
Up at the NW Angle... The US and Canada have agreed to keep the international border shut until May 20th.
Until the border opens, guests can travel across the lake and stay in MN waters. Some resorts are offering transport service across the lake in MN waters to the Angle prior to the border opening. Various south shore resorts are offering parking for guests of NW Angle resorts.
Anglers who fished the Angle for the opener were rewarded with good numbers of walleyes. Jigging shoreline structure, points and neck down areas in 6 - 22 feet of water was effective." — Lake of the Woods Tourism, (800) 382-FISH
Creel results varied from lake to lake and so did the weather conditions. We dodged the worst weather, finding calm seas and middle 40 degree air temperatures on Splithand Lake, south of Grand Rapids. Some of my friends spent chillier days fishing in snow and sleet, but by their accounts, caught more fish than we did.
From our point of view, the trade-off, exchanging less fish for better weather was a good one. It allowed my mom the chance to spend another Mother’s Day weekend in the boat. She was bundled her up in my Striker ice fishing suit which provided warmth and allowed her to manage a full afternoon on the lake. That was blessing enough because ever since her stroke last January, there has been precious few moments of joy and tranquility; but on Saturday, we shared a few.
By 1:30 PM at the landing, traffic was brisk, but moving efficiently. The ratio of folks leaving the lake was about equal to the number arriving, so parking spots for new arrivals became available as the early crowd headed toward home.
The lake’s surface water temperature varied little from spot to spot, 51.1 to 51.6 was the range I observed. I was surprised by how little variation there was, but apparently 3 consecutive days of brisk wind was enough to churn the water into uniformity. We’ll need some sunshine before those temperatures will change very much.
Fishing wasn’t great on Splithand, but I got the sense that everybody caught a little something. We observed one angler showing a stringer of fish to the game warden; it contained 5 or 6 nice eating size walleyes. Most of the anglers we talked too reported catching at least a few fish as well.
Anglers’ opinions about fishing depths varied, but the overall consensus was that 12 to 16 feet was a safe bet. I marked the most fish when I straddled the breakline from 14 to 16 feet. Fish were scattered along that drop off in small packs. Typically I’d see 3 to 4 fish in a short stretch, and then there would be a longer stretch devoid of markings on the Humminbird.
Prepared for a family day more so than a hard core fishing day, I only brought jigs and a handful of small minnows. That was good enough for us to bag fish for a meal. But I felt that some of those fish I marked which did not strike the jigs would have taken a larger, lively minnow instead.
I think the fishes lethargic attitudes could have been overcome, by a slower, more tantalizing live bait presentation. A traditional Lindy Rig with a #4 hook, trimmed to about 6 feet and tipped with a large rainbow would have been a good idea, I think.
Anglers at boat ramps aren’t exactly the “group hug types” to begin with. In fact, most often I’m lucky if I can get anyone to even mumble a few words about their fishing. So to the extent that socially correct fishing is even required, my observation was that folks had the situation well under control. Everyone kept their distance, and nobody was complaining.
It was a bit odd for me though, watching my new Alaskan being broken in by somebody else. My daughter Annalee and son-in-law Austin usually fish with us on the opener. But since we didn’t want run the risk of all being together in the same boat, as a family. They drove separately, with the new Alaskan in tow; “it ran nice”, they said.
Susan was snapping a photo of a walleye that I just caught when I heard my mother say; “it’s a miracle.” I’m not sure if she meant that it was a miracle that I was able to catch a fish, or that she was there to see it. Either interpretation would work, if you know what I mean.
After today, reports about who caught what, and where they caught it, will begin flowing in. Be sure to check back as the flow of information intensifies. — Jeff Sundin 218-245-9858 or EMAIL
OH-OH, the 2020 Minnesota Citizens Fishing Opener has finally arrived. I haven't even left the house yet and I've already had to change my game plan!
Hoping that we might enjoy the same great fishing that we had on Upper Red Lake last year for the 2019 fishing opener, I called my friend Bill Lundy at Mort's Dock. Lundy; "Have you been up this way lately? Nobody in this region can ever remember seeing the lake levels this high, there's water up into the trees along the shoreline." You could probably use the ramp, but the water is so deep that we were only able to get one dock section set in place.
The campground and lodge were already closed because of the Governor's stay home order. If they had bait to sell, they could be open to do that, but Lundy said that Chad Benson, Lundy's business partner at Mort's has shiner traps set in the water and they are not filling up with minnows. Echoing the report we got from the Youngbauers' yesterday, Lundy confirmed that cold water has discouraged the shiner run from getting started.
So if Mort's isn't open and the water is that cold and there's no bait, I guess I'll save Red Lake for later. That way I can save the Hippie Chick from all the hubub at the busier landings.
We're still planning to fish somewhere today, but for us, there's no big rush. The outside air temperature is only 29 degrees right now, so maybe we'll have a leisurely breakfast and wait for temps to hit the 40 degree mark; that's a nice, round number.
For everyone headed toward the lake today be thoughtful, take good care of yourselves and your neighbors. Enjoy your time on the water and good luck with that first walleye of the season, I hope it shows up quickly and brings lots of friends! — Jeff Sundin 218-245-9858 or EMAIL
I was on Highway 169 yesterday for the weekly trade-off of my mother and between Grand Rapids and Onamia traffic was light, I thought. There were some crowded spots, where trucks towing boats stcked up a little bit, but far fewer than I expected to see.
Of course, it was only Thursday, today could bring larger crowds, but my early sense is that the number of folks travelling to fish this weekend will be way down compared to a typical opener.
Tomorrow morning is liable to play out differently. Fellow guide Jason Alto was on the phone with me yesterday, running some scenarios that might play out. He thinks that traffic will be heavy at the landings tomorrow, here is why. “Just think about all of the people who go camping every spring. Usually, they come up and launch their boat in the water, park it at their campsite and leave it there. A lot of those folks were local, so they’ll still want to fish, but they’ll have to put their boats in and take them out each day;” Alto said.
Jason could be right about that, the compression effect could be one of the un-intended consequences of the ban on public camping; we’ll know shortly.
Updates about bait supplies are coming in very sl-o-o-o-ly and that’s not a good sign. Cold water temperatures have already hampered efforts to start the shiners running and temperatures are predicted to get even colder tonight.
I do expect a report from Kent Keeler up at Kabetogama later this morning, and there will likely be some updates from area bait shops. So check back in this afternoon for any last minute notes about bait supplies.
It will be interesting to see how the traffic patterns develop today. — Jeff Sundin 218-245-9858 or EMAIL
"Another fishing opener is upon us, and even though we’ve been through a lot of them, this one seems to have thrown us a curveball with the Coronavirus.
So to help keep everyone within the guidelines, we are going to give everyone a couple of options. We will have a cash and carry table set up outside with prebagged minnows and a few trays of USA made jigs for those that just need the essentials.
The doors will also be open to the store for those that want to do a little shopping and get minnows inside, or to pay with plastic. We hope everyone has a safe and enjoyable fishing opener and we will do our best to make it happen!." — Bill Powell, Fred's Bait, 218-246-8710
"It feels good to be back on the water again. Unfortunatrely, Shiners have not run yet on Upper Red Lake, so we cannot offer them as a choice of bait. We are located at Morts Dock on Upper Red Lake and the Campground has been closed due to covid-19 orders. So we are currently shut down until May 20th, when we hope to resume with summer rentals and fishing guides.
Walleye spawning has declined and walleyes staged in rocks around 4 to 8 feet deep. No deeper spots will be active until water warms. Best bait: spinner-tipped with minnow. Best depth 3 to 6 feet morning and afternoon. Evening bite, first drop contour at about 8 feet. Bobber fishing with minnows or leeches will out fish trolling as walleyes are slow this time of year.
Our business phones are currently off until government lifts ban, but we will provide updates when the shiners begin to run. We will be on the water Friday night at 11:59 PM for midnight fishing opener and report back about that too." — Northwoods Fish Houses, Shane and Samantha Youngbauer 218-308-0766
My phone rang off the hook yesterday and it’s already started this morning, I think it's gonna be another one of those days. Most of the calls are from folks asking questions about what they can do, and in some cases what they can't do for the fishing opener this weekend. I am a little frustrated because most of the information I've disseminated is already available right here, on this page.
Frequent readers of my reports already know that I’ve gone to considerable effort to make sure that I accurately report the dos and don’ts of fishing during the “coronacrackdown”. Not everyone is familiar with me though and the hardest part of my day yesterday was attempting to provide corrections to compensate for inaccurate or misleading information that folks have been picking up on the social media pages.
I checked some of them myself and was astounded by what passes for information on some pages. That’s why I need to ask you for a favor, especially if you frequent any of the fishing groups on Facebook.
If you see that somebody has asked a legitimate question, please let them know where they can go to find an accurate answer. In many cases, I am not allowed to share links to my website pages, but others often can. I know that there are a certain percentage of those folks who would appreciate learning from you. And it would allow me extra time to gather and report about fishing instead of reporting about who can sit where whenever they do it.
Today, there will be more updates about weekend bait supplies and I just got a call from Chad Mertz who is working on a Lake Winnie fishing opener forecast. That will be published sometime before noon, so be sure to check back for that. — Jeff Sundin 218-245-9858 or EMAIL
"It sounds like shiner minnows will likely come at a premium for the next couple days. There will be some around but certainly not an over abundance of them. Everything else seems to be running pretty darn nice crappie, fatheads, rainbows, suckers, crawlers, and leeches are all available! Good luck this weekend. Remember there is no such thing as bad weather, just bad clothing!" Andy Walls, 1000 Lakes Sports 218-999-5992
"The lake and river are ice free and are primed for walleye fishing. Lake of the Woods resorts and hotels are welcoming guests back and have implemented a variety of COVID - 19 safety measures within their businesses to ensure guest and employee safety. Lodging is available.
On the south end... The MN Fishing Opener is Saturday, May 9th and Big Traverse Bay is open water. Traditionally, walleyes and saugers will be spread out across the south shore in various schools. The majority of anglers will be catching fish anchored up and jigging with frozen emerald shiners or other minnows. The walleye / sauger limit on LOW and the Rainy River is a combined limit of 6 fish, up to 4 can be walleyes. The slot limit is 19.5" - 28" must be released. One walleye can be kept over 28". Good numbers of pike are being caught in bays. The pike season on LOW never closes.
On the Rainy River... There will be a good population of walleyes in the Rainy River and Four Mile Bay come opening day based on walleyes being caught by sturgeon anglers. The sturgeon bite has been hot with fish over 70" being caught. The sturgeon "keep season" continues through May 7th. May 8-15 is catch and release only. May 16th the sturgeon season closes until July 1st.
Up at the NW Angle... The US and Canada have agreed to keep the international border shut until May 20th. Residents of the NW Angle and necessary supplies can travel across, others including visitors and land owners for the time being cannot.
Until the border opens, guests can travel across the lake and stay in MN waters. Some resorts are offering transport service across the lake in MN waters to the Angle prior to the border opening. Various south shore resorts are offering parking to guests of NW Angle resorts.
The NW Angle has open water and is prime for the opener. Resorts are prepared and looking forward to the open water season. Most fish will be caught jigging shoreline structure, points and neck down areas." — Lake of the Woods Tourism, (800) 382-FISH
"We have been open for cabin rental for over a week now. Sturgeon fishing has been going great. We have fine-tuned some new check in and check out processes along with many other changes. We have been using new chemicals and processes to clean cabins, picnic tables, door knobs, cabin keys and many other items we use every day.
This past weekend we started off with online food ordering and are working out a number of challenges to streamline those processes. We are operating with business as usual, okay, not normal kind of usual, but back at offering practically everything we have in the past. For now, food orders are all prepared to go and can be picked up at the lodge or delivered to the cabins.
Our menu will be changing on Friday the 8th for opening weekend. We now have online ordering for food right on our website, you can check that out now. Checking in and out of cabins is all done via phone and paid on credit card at arrival.
Most of the ice is gone, there may be some pieces floating around on the lake yet, but nothing of significant size. We are still working through the central sewer project from last November and are yet to have landscaping done. We hope it will be done soon, thankfully this spring has been dry so far.
The forecast shows a bit cooler this week with highs up to 50’s and Saturday and Sunday are supposed to have plentiful sunshine." — 1-800-776-3474 Border View Lodge
I have a busy day planned checking with bait stores and resorts about supplies and services available for the fishing opener weekend. Updates will be posted as they come in, so you may want to check these pages more often than usual over the next few days.
Bill Powell at Fred’s Bait in Deer River is always my first go-to guy about bait supplies. Among the best minnow trappers anywhere, Powell has his fingers on the pulse of Mother Nature’s ebb and flow.
“I got the shiner traps out late last week, but the water was still cold and after a couple of days, only had a few shiners. The big winds that blew over the past weekend trashed the whole setup, now I’m hoping for calm conditions to get the flow started again”; Powell said.
He added, “I do have some rainbows and really nice fatheads on hand, but I’m not sure how long they’ll last, that depends on how much traffic we have for the opener.”
Predictions about weekend traffic are all over the map, the rumor is that Minnesota fishing license sales are up. Anecdotally, I would believe that because I’ve seen heavier than usual traffic at all of the boat landings. But whether those licenses were purchased in anticipation of the walleye opener is an open question. It could just be that folks were feeling cooped up and because many are out of work right now, they headed to the lakes for relief.
I’ll be in touch with Bill every day and updates about shiner trapping will be forthcoming. If you really want shiners, then do him a favor and check here for updates before you try calling. It’s a lot easier to trap minnows if you’re not on the phone all day long, so let’s try to help him out with that.
I got un-official confirmation from from an employee at the US Forest Service regarding the report I posted yesterday. In it, I wrote; "In my region, Chippewa National Forest administers several popular boat ramps. In fact, all the public access ramps on Lake Winnibigoshish are US Forest Service facilities. According to staff at the Deer River Ranger Station, those ramps will remain open."
After reading yesterday's report, the source wrote; "I understand that information flow is less than ideal and just wanted to give you the basic nuts and bolts to share with your audience. I know the closure orders have been posed on social media, Chippewa National Forest Facebook page. (I) Read your report this morning and thought I could help clarify some points regarding the current Chippewa NF closures.
Today, I will reach out to folks at the Superior National Forest. Watch for updates as they become available. — Jeff Sundin 218-245-9858 or EMAIL
"Right now we are stocked with leeches, crawlers, fatheads, crappie minnows, sucker minnows, and golden shiners. Spottails are going to be hard to come by this opener due to cool water temps, might be a week or so before they start to really shop up.
As for fishing, I’d be fishing under 10 ft and using light line such as 6 lb. Fish are half in spawn mode and half spawned out so they’re going to be spread out in schools. I’d be checking post spawn areas to try and find the more active schools of fish." — Northwoods Bait & Tackle, 218-444-2248
"As normal, bait is tough to get your hands on because of cold water temps. Very few shiners so far and not a lot of larger leeches yet either." — Bait Den, Saint Cloud 320-257-0162
"High Banks Resort boat launch open to the public, $10 fee. Bait available, fatheads, leeches, crawlers. Lodge open for pickup service, call to place food orders." Rick and Kim Leonhardt 218-246-2560
Bobbers Bar will be open at noon on Friday! May hours: Friday/Sat/Sun Noon to 9 PM, Mon-Thursday 3 PM to 9 PM
Walk up to the the lakeside window and take out service available. We will have full bar selections and the grill will be open.
Boat parking available at the front dock.
A few temporary changes to take note of:
Thank you for your understanding during this time. Your business is greatly appreciated!" Joe and Kelli Karau, 218-246-8703
"The boat dock at Eagle Nest Lodge will open this weekend and we'll have gas and bait available. " Bryan Harris, Eagle Nest Lodge 218-246-8701
"In response to State and Federal guidelines, we have made changes to our routine. All common areas will be closed to the public. However, with that being said, business as usual.
Fred's Bait shop is open and ready for all our guests. At the resort, we have Fats and Crappie Minnows. Shiners are hard to come by up here. WE went out last night for a boat ride and found fish out there. Opener is going to be AWESOME! Can't wait! Erin" — Bill & Erin Charlton, Trails End Resort 218-832-3231
The great Minnesota Fishing Opener is this weekend! We finally made it! So now, what do we do when we head into this weekend? A good start is to have a list of what is important on the trip, whether you’re headed to your cabin or just out on the lake for a day. Plenty of snacks, beverages, and bait should be on your mind along with your favorite rod and reel combo. It will also be a little cooler this weekend, so pack some warm clothes. Layer up as you can always take off layers, but when you don’t have them, it is hard to add warmth!
Another aspect to this weekend is that Governor Walz has recommended that only household members should be in the boat together this season, all while practicing our social distancing at the ramps and on the water. This is something that we will all struggle with on this opener, as we usually enjoy this with our family members from other households.
This season is the first time I’ll have to be in the boat alone, but I look at this as a way to cover more water. As like many of us, we have our usual “spots” picked out for opener, and while I usually have multiple people on the boat, the other group will be in a separate boat this season. That being said, the group will be able to cover those spots more efficiently this opening season and dial in the bite.
Get a game plan together and mark some spots you normally wouldn’t try. The temperature is looking like it will be stable for a couple of days across the state, leading into a great Saturday of fishing! Southern Minnesota is seeing a good rig bite right now, as temperatures are in the upper 50-degree mark. I have even heard of the trolling bite picking up as well. Central and Northern Minnesota should see a good jig bite.
Mille Lacs ice went out mid-week last week, so fish will be on the gravel, rocks, and first break points as will some of the other deeper lakes around the area. As a reminder, Mille Lacs is catch and release this season for all walleyes with a closure in July, which includes a live bait ban. New bass and pike regulations on the lake have also been set in place this season, so check the DNR regulations for those changes.
Shallower lakes should see a decent bite in the Central Minnesota region as well. I have been seeing some weed growth around the Sherburne and Wright county areas, which has been bringing in some panfish and baitfish. You can bet the hungry pike and walleyes are nearby! Cast the weedlines closest to sand/gravel transitions and deeper drop-offs. Walleyes and pike will be waiting for an easy meal, so jigs tipped with minnows are likely the choice of presentation for those toothy critters.
Some final thoughts heading into this weekend:
1. Make sure you have your 2020 fishing license in hand!
2. Support your local bait and tackle shops and call ahead of time for curbside pickup if you need any last-minute items such as hooks, jigs, bobbers, snacks, and bait (or said license in number 1).
3. Inspect all of your equipment and see that it is safe and ready to go. Rods, reels, life jackets, throw(s) with rope, horns/bells, first aid kit, and up to date fire extinguisher(s). This includes the engine, trolling motor, and your electronics as well.
4. Keep your distance at the docks and on the water this opener. Make sure you are not rushing anyone and that you keep enough space between the next person when launching and boarding your own vessel.
5. Most importantly, stay safe on the water and abide by the boating laws! We want you home safe, as well as your family!
Stay Safe, Stay Healthy, and Have a Great 2020 Minnesota Fishing Opener! — Shane Boeshart, 641-529-0270
Helping your fellow fishermen and women stay abreast of fishing conditions in your area is good for everybody and it's easier than you think!
You don't have to write a book, you don't have to share your secret fishing spots and you don't even have to mention your lake. But even a few words about general trends, seasonal patterns and local weather conditions can really help.
Be like me, become a duly deputized "Cub Reporter", it's good for fishing! Contact Us or if you prefer to be "social", Fishing Reports Minnesota, the Facebook counterpart to this page is open to the public, so you can post your own fishing update or just share a photo of a nice catch.
I hadn't thought of it until just this morning when I was getting paperwork together for my insurance agent. But the boat I picked up from Ray's Marine on Monday represents a milestone. It's been 20 years since I picked up my first 2000 Alaskan Tiller. That's right, for the past two decades, I and my customers have caught fish from one of these efficient and versatile boats.
As the accompanying photos reveal, I still have some rigging to do if I'm gonna have it ready for the fishing opener, but something tells me that I'll meet the deadline.
I am really excited to see if this rig lives up to the standards set by my 2019 Alaskan. Last I wrote about that rig was late summer in 2019 when I reported that in my estimation, the 20-foot Alaskan, paired up with the Pro XS 115 HP engine constituted the perfect fishing setup. I've been happy with every one of these boats that I've owned, but last year's boat was the best ever and I'm hoping that I'll feel the same way when this one hits the water.
In today's report, I've got a few updates about lake accesses and availabilities for the fishing opener.
Yesterday, I talked again with Hunter at the US Corps of Engineers office at Federal Dam. He confirmed that the boat ramp, fish cleaning station and parking lot will remain closed for the opening week of fishing. Even after conducting a meeting to discuss revising the plan, officials have decided that opening the facility is a threat to our safety.
The access road into the compound will be gated, anglers and campers will not be allowed to access the facility be vehicle. Foot traffic on the other hand will be allowed, “We’re thinking that we will open up the ball field across the road. People who want to fish the river from shore will be allowed to walk in.” Hunter said.
I just got off the phone with Megan at the US Army Corps of Engineers office at the Pokegama Dam. Boaters will have access to the Mississippi River upstgream from the Poekgama Dam via the boat ramp. Anglers who wish to fish from the bank along the river can use the parking lot near the dam and walk in.
While I had her on the phone, I asked Megan if she knew anything specific about other Corps of Engineers locations. "Unfortunately, each facility handles their situation as an individual project. I do know that that at Lake Winnie, the ramp going downstream from the Winnie Dam will be open for boaters and walk in traffic as well. The same is true for the landing at Big Sandy, the ramp will be open and walk in access to the river there is also allowed." she said.
Many Minnesota State owned boat ramps did not have docks in place by the end of last week. If you were checking boat ramps in your area and were disappointed, you’ll be happy to know that apparently, the situation was temporary.
According to an update I received this weekend from Tom Neustrom, he spoke with MN DNR Operations Support Director Laurie Martinson, Martinson confirmed, he said, that boat docks at most of Minnesota’s state-owned landings will be put in place this week. Apparently, the lag in scheduling was connected to a budget issue with the state. The budget issue has been resolved and work to install docks at state owned landings should have already begun.
In my region, Chippewa National Forest administers several popular boat ramps. In fact, all the public access ramps on Lake Winnibigoshish are US Forest Service facilities. According to staff at the Deer River Ranger Station, those ramps will remain open.
I attempted to learn more about other US Forest Service ramps in our region but received this error message about the local page on the website. On the national home page, you’ll find this message; “The Forest Service is taking the risks presented by COVID-19 seriously and is following USDA and CDC public health guidance as we continue to offer services to the public. Visitors to our National Forests and Grasslands are urged to take the precautions recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).”
Another google search gave me this; “National Forest Service closes campgrounds, trails and lakes remain open. Combining that with what I know about the Deer River station, I presume that means that boaters should be able to use all the USFS ramps. I did not confirm that, so don’t take it to the bank and if you know more about these facilities, please do let me know.
Bait trappers have their nets in the water, but early word is that Shiner trapping is off to a slow start. I have reached out to a number of dealers and I will contact more today. These folks get real busy at this time of year, so please be patient and I will post updates as they trickle in. — Jeff Sundin 218-245-9858 or EMAIL
With everything that’s happened this year, we’ve been so wrapped up with stuff to do that The Hippie Chick hadn’t had a chance to fish. In fact she hadn’t held a fishing rod in her hands for nearly 7 months. Saturday was our first chance to change that.
We knew it would be windy, but maybe we could tuck ourselves into a quiet corner, all we really hoped for was a nice afternoon. So even if the wind was blowing at 30 MPH, we were bound and determined to find a lake, we made a rough plan, prepared the prepare-able and headed toward the bait shop to pick up some minnows.
When I walked into 1000 Lakes Sporting Goods on Saturday Andy Walls was beaming with happiness. “Crappie fishing has been really good around the area; everybody has been coming in with good reports”; Andy said. He gave me a few pointers about shallow water spots where folks had been catching Crappies, advised me about the habitat and key depths, then sent me off with a scoop of crappies.
When we arrived at the lake, Pokegama in this case, there were already a half dozen rigs at the landing and more coming behind us. Everyone we saw had “that look”, like they were anxious to get out to their favorite spots. I guessed that was because they’d been to the lake earlier in the week and were enthusiastic about repeating happy experiences.
But after being spoiled by a week of warm, calm weather, we were all in for a surprise. The wind was worse than we thought, pushing across the lake was cold and wet. We found the exact location that Andy had mentioned, all of the details matched up perfectly. But even being tucked away in the back bay didn’t help, we were out of the waves, but not out of the wind and presentation was terribly difficult.
The obvious thing to do should have been to abandon the shallow water and look for fish in deeper water. The whitecaps would have made that feel more like work than pleasure, so we quit worrying about catching fish and settled for being happy that we had time on the lake. Loons, eagles and a couple of small perch provided enough contact with nature to satisfy us.
We crossed paths with several anglers and chatted with some, everyone reported poor fishing success. But like us, most were content with not being locked up in the house and smiling faces were the norm, not the exception.
Sunday, I decided to pick a smaller lake, one that could be managed in strong winds, even if we had to fish in the deep water, away from shore.
We lingered around home in the morning, waiting for the air temperature to rise about 40 degrees. By the time we arrived at the lake, it had risen to 45 degrees, but the wind speed was about half of what it was on Saturday. We reasoned that the additional layers of clothing, along with the smaller size of the lake, we’d have about the same comfort that we had on Saturday, even if it was 20 degrees colder outside.
The conditions on the lake felt like a classic cold front. Cold north winds stirred up small whitecaps on the surface and water temperatures were dropping. At the beginning of the trip, I could find 54 degrees on the surface, but before we left, 52 degrees was the best I could find.
There was one other angler on the lake, and he acted like he’d caught fish there earlier in the week. He had staked out his territory, a stretch of shallow bulrushes and was “spot-locked” there. That gave me the idea to cruise the shoreline, looking for fish with my side imaging. I covered a lot of water and spotted plenty of good-looking cover but marked very few fish, so out to the deep hole I went.
The results of my search validated the comments I made last Thursday; “We’ll be heading for a different lake this weekend, one that I’ve wanted to try for a while. But when we get there, I plan to follow the same formula that led us to the crappies last spring. I’ll start at the deepest hole, then locate the sharpest breaklines and scan them for schools of fish. My guess is that the fish will be somewhere nearby.”
The accompanying map shows exactly where we found the fish. A sharp breakline that lay adjacent to both a shallow, rocky flat and the lakes deepest water. Out over the center of the hole, the maximum depth was 34 feet and up on the rocky flat, the water was about 5 feet deep. The fish held tight to the breakline in 21 to 22 feet of water.
On Sunday, finding the fish was easier than catching them, but we did catch enough to know that we were on the right track. I didn’t bring tons of tackle that day, so we only tried one presentation, 1/8-ounce Lindy Live Bait Jigs tipped with crappie minnows. I used the green chartreuse color and as you can see in the photo, Susan used the glow-blue color.
I’m sure this won’t be marked on my wife's calendar as the best fishing trip of the 2020 season, but it be remembered fondly. For me, there is comfort knowing that my fishing partner can help put food on the table to feed us while I’m temporarily out of a job.
The forecast calls for cool conditions all week long, that will not bode well for minnow trappers. I’ll be checking with as many dealers as I can reach today and let you know what I learn over the next couple of days. — Jeff Sundin 218-245-9858 or EMAIL
Q) "Did I read right a couple of weeks ago that the Walleye harvest was not taking place this year at Little Cutfoot? If not, what do you thing the impact will be on the DNR stocking program?"
A) Yes Larry, you did read correctly, MN DNR fisheries staff did call off the egg take, not only at Little Cutfoot but they cancelled all of the walleye, northern pike, steelhead, sucker and musky egg takes statewide for 2020.
How it will impact fishing in Minnesota will vary from region to region. Some regions of the state are blessed with lakes that have good natural reproduction. Other areas are not as fortunate and have higher percentages of lakes that are dependent on stocking.
In my home territory, Lakes like, Winnibigoshish, Leech, Bowstring, Bemidji, Upper Red and others are famous for their resiliency. Sometimes called “walleye factories”, these lakes periodically produce excellent year classes of walleye. While they do have their ups-and-downs, there are typically more good years than bad.
There are other lakes in my region that depend much more heavily on stocking. Lakes like Deer and Pokegama come immediately to mind, both lakes depend on consistent stocking and they both have relatively heavy fishing pressure. In some regions of the state, the percentage of lakes that depend on consistent stocking is much higher than it is here.
Last spring I visited Brainerd area fisheries staff at the Pine River Egg Take operation. Brainerd Area Fisheries Supervisor Marc Bacigalupi in that interview said; “Except for a handful of small lakes in our service area that pull off an occasional strong year class of walleye, most of the popular ones depend on stocked fish to provide anglers with good opportunity to catch walleyes.” Read Full Story >> Brainerd Fisheries Pine River Egg Take 2019
In the news release dated April 14, 2020, DNR Fisheries Section Manager Brad Parsons said; “Fish populations naturally are made up of fish hatched in different years, so a missing or weak year class is not uncommon.” “In fact, in lakes with natural reproduction, a strong year class often follows a weak year class, so not stocking for one year might actually benefit the following year’s stocked fry.”
Brad Parsons is a smart guy, I have served on Minnesota’s Walleye Advisory Committee with him and I have the highest regard for both his knowledge and his integrity. So the last thing I want to do is sound like I’m disputing that statement, I’m not, in fact I actually agree with it; but there was something left out.
Many popular walleye fishing lakes in Minnesota have little or no natural reproduction, that’s why they stock them. You can’t escape the fact that any of those waters that were slated for stocking this spring will definitely suffer, even if the suffering is short term.
If the DNR decides to take action in 2021 to make up for 2020 stocking deficits and if it’s a “good spawning season”, one that offers opportunity to harvest and hatch additional eggs, and if the fry have a good survival rate, and if they get stocked in the right lakes, then recovering from a one-time cancellation of stocking this spring will be less painful.
On the other hand, if something goes wrong next spring, then the bubble could get bigger and the suffering will be spread out over a longer period of time. I’m sure nobody wants that to happen, but it is something to prepare for; I think.
The way I see it, a lot depends on how successfully fish stocks are replenished next year and I would encourage DNR Fisheries staff to “double-down” on stocking in 2021.
Viewing the situation from an angler’s point of view might make a lot of sense. If you had a favorite fishing lake or bought a lake cottage primarily to fish there, then to you, the quality of fishing in that lake would be the most important thing in the whole wide world. Even though the state’s “walleye factories” will probably come through just fine, let’s not forget about the lakes that depend on stocking and receive far less public fanfare.
Look, we’re already battling AIS on one hand and coronacraziness on the other. Anglers are more nomadic than ever and information is free flowing, so chasing the hot bite has become the norm. Wouldn’t you think that it’s more important now than it ever has been to provide folks every conceivable chance to stay spread out and fish in their own territory?
While one missing year class may not be the end of the world, cancelling stocking for 2020 was definitely a step in the wrong direction. Hopefully, 2021 will bring better circumstances and with luck, there are folks at DNR Fisheries who think I’m making some reasonable points.
From the page on the MN DNR website About Fish Stocking ; “When done well, stocking can work wonders. Hundreds of Minnesota walleye lakes would today offer little or no walleye fishing were it not for regular stocking.”
So, my question would be, if it works wonders when it’s done well, what happens when it’s not done at all? — Jeff Sundin 218-245-9858 or EMAIL
So far in 2020, I’ve looked forward to the beginning of each new month hoping that it would be better than the last one. So far none of them has and now the month of May did not even make me wait for a single day to find out that it won’t be any better either.
I’ve been pouring through the details of the recent changes to Governor Walz’ Executive Orders. From what I can see, yesterday’s signing of Emergency Executive Order 20-48, will keep fishing guides and charter operators in dry dock until the 18th of May, at least.
The order, “Extending and Modifying Stay at Home Order, Continuing Temporary Closure of Bars, Restaurants, and Other Places of Public Accommodation, and Allowing Additional Workers in Certain Noncritical Sectors to Return to Safe Workplaces” was good news for certain retailers who can set curbside pickups and home deliveries. But does not relax restrictions on any face-to-face business activity, like fishing.
Launches, charter boats and fishing guides are expressly prohibited from conducting business as was spelled out in EO 20-38 on April 17, 2020.
In every revision, they include a section that spells out the penalties for non-compliance; the use of the word “MUST” is most disturbing; I think.
EO 20-48 April 30, 2020 Look at item #10
“Pursuant to Minnesota Statutes 2019, section 12.45, a worker who willfully violates this Executive Order is guilty of a misdemeanor and upon conviction must be punished by a fine not to exceed $1,000 or by imprisonment for not more than 90 days. Any business owner, manager, or supervisor who requires or encourages any of their employees to violate this Executive Order is guilty of a gross misdemeanor and upon conviction must be punished by a fine not to exceed $3,000 or by imprisonment for not more than a year.”
Some of my fellow guides have called and we’ve pondered the perplexities of the situation. Instinctively, we know that folks would be a lot safer out on the lake than they are in the waiting line at Costco. But that doesn’t matter because anglers in Minnesota, professional or otherwise, haven’t ever had a unified voice. Some have asked me if I have ideas about who to contact or how to influence the system, so I’ll throw this out there.
If there is a single group that has enough clout to be heard in St. Paul, it is probably MN-FISH. Still in its infancy, the group has pledged to become that “unifying voice” that advances the influence anglers have in Minnesota. I wrote about MN-FISH in March of 2019 when I signed up as a life member.
MN-FISH has taken an official position on the corona-crisis and has issued this public statement. Learn More >> MN-FISH Public Statement Covid-19 Situation.
The fishing guide ban is going to be hard on me, but whether I like it or not, I’ll have to live with it. You’ll have to decide for yourself whether or not you think it’s a good idea. But if you’re one of the folks looking for an umbrella organization for some guidance, pun intended, then maybe this is the group for you. — Jeff Sundin 218-245-9858 or EMAIL
Early spring offers anglers a chance to get outside and go fishing. Crappies are one of the first fish available to most of us, but while pre-spawn crappie fishing can be a blast, there are times when they can be tricky to locate.
Jon Thelen shares a few tricks and tips that can help make finding them more consistent.
Join us on Fish Ed, and let host Jon Thelen show you a great way to target prespawn Crappie. Grab you panfish box, some Thill Crappie Corks and a bunch of minnows and get out on the water now!
Opening words from Ron Schara, MNFish President; "A year ago, a new non-profit fishing organization called MN-FISH was launched for the purpose of “shortening-the-time-between-bites”. Our goal was to give state anglers what we haven’t had; greater representation in the Minnesota Legislature. We also intended to act as a watchdog and support DNR fish management decisions when appropriate.
During this startup period, we discovered MNFISH would face its own growing pains and hurdles; such as attracting and communication with
members, developing social media, news releases and the like.
As the MN-FISH president, I feel we have accomplished most of our year-one goals. However, I regret that we’ve failed to ..." Read >> MN Fish Newsletter April 2020