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image denotes commentary by Jeff Sundin Jeff Sundin April 28, 2024 "First Annual MN DNR Fisheries Summit? I Hope So!"

image of slide presentation about Minnesota's Crappie Population Dynamics Report You may have heard, Brad Parsons, MN DNR Fisheries Section Chief orchestrated the formation of the 2024 “Fisheries Summit”. The summit was held this past Saturday, and it was a refreshing departure from recent large scale DNR operations. No Governors, no commissioners, no legislators, and no pontificating from industry big wigs. Instead, this was a gathering of folks who are much more likely to get their feet wet and their fingernails dirty in the field.

The audience, primarily members of the various fisheries workgroups. Like me, these folks have a passion for fishing, and have chosen to volunteer their time, hoping to offer constructive views and opinions aimed at helping shape future decisions about fishing in Minnesota.

The speakers, primarily DNR fisheries biologists, researchers and field staff shared reports about ongoing research projects and introduced some new ones too. A few highlights included updates about crappie population dynamics, barotrauma research, and the evolution of fishing technology. There were reports about how the 2023, one-time legislative budget allocations will be used for funding outdoor projects like the renovation of fish hatcheries, boat ramps and improving angler opportunities to access additional shoreline fishing spots.

In many cases, we were introduced to “preliminary data” and much of the 2023 research efforts are still being analyzed. Throughout the summer, reports about these ongoing research projects will be published and there will be plenty of specific information in upcoming articles and reports.

MN DNR Fisheries Section Chief Brad Parsons Will there be another fisheries summit in 2025? Brad Parsons, MN DNR Fisheries Section Chief said, "I hope so, I plan to."

I hope so too, there are so many good reasons for continuing to have them. Personally, the most valuable reason is having access to folks whose cumulative knowledge is vast. Often overlooked by average anglers is the ability to get real, factual information from folks in the field who know what happens there. Imagine having the chance ask any question you’ve ever had about fish, or fishing in Minnesota. Imagine too that your question can likely be answered by somebody who’s in the same room, right there, on the spot.

Over time, I've offered lots of information on these pages, and hopefully, some of it has been helpful to you. Many of the reports and articles could never have happened without personal exchanges between fisheries folks like these, and me. In many ways, participating in the fisheries groups have been the best form of education that I’ve ever discovered.

Have I mentioned that the opportunity to participate in the process IS AVAILABLE TO YOU? Yes, it is and if you believe that nobody cares what you think, think again, they do. In a way, I am living proof of that. So, the next time you catch yourself opining about anything fishing in Minnesota, remember, your chance to influence the system is literally, here at your fingertips right now. If you’re passionate about fishing, offer the gift of your time and knowledge to become a volunteer for any one of these 5 Fisheries Workgroups. Want to learn more before you sign up, read the MN DNR Fisheries Work Group Charter.

image reader comments A couple weeks back, I searched for ways to compare water levels on Lake Winnie from one year to another. I never did find any really good way to do that. One reader, T.R. James, may have come up with a better way to compare annual water trends. Try using this link to compare Lake Winnibigoshish Dam near Bena, MN water levels to previous seasons.

April showers, will they bring May water levels up? Who knows for sure, but as April sees its way out, the outlook is at least somewhat encouraging. It’s been raining on and off here in the Twin Cities for most of the past 24 hours. It was raining on our trip south from Grand Rapids on Saturday too, and at times, ditches were filled with flowing water. If the forecast pans out, our trip back home will be wet again too, and it may rain for most of this week.

I know, lake levels are still low, and Mother Nature has a lot of catching up to do. Still, it’s good to see moisture on the ground, and I’m optimistic that we’ll have good conditions for the fishing opener, stay tuned. fish smiley image — Office Cell Call or Text 218-245-9858 or EMAIL

image links to wired2fish Wired2Fish April 23, 2024 "Spring Jerkbait Fishing Walleyes | Advanced Tactics"

image links to fishing video about using jerkbaits to catch walleyes during spring"Join Wired2fish contributor Scott Walsh as he dives into springtime walleye fishing using jerkbaits. Throughout the year, especially post-spawn, a large population of walleye set up in the shallows to feed on baitfish. Walsh demonstrates how the combination between modern electronics and jerkbaits effectively put walleye in the boat.

Exploring the benefits of advanced fishing technology, Walsh incorporates tools like high definition mapping, MEGA 360 Imaging, and forward-facing sonar to pinpoint the ideal fishing spots and individual fish without wasting time. He shares insights into how these technologies not only assist in locating fish but also in making informed decisions about ..." View Video to Learn More >> Spring Jerkbait Fishing Walleyes | Advanced Tactics

image links to Lake of the Woods, LOW Tourism April 25, 2024

"There is still lots of ice on the south end of Lake of the Woods, out over the lake's main basin, but it is definitely deteriorating. As late as last week, there were still some anglers ice fishing, catching northern pike with tips ups. At that time, "pre-spawn" territory over 8 to 14 feet of water, located adjacent to shallow spawning areas was the key to catching them. Now that the ice fishing season is over, Northern Pike enthusiasts can re-locate fish in the connected bays and feeder creeks where pike have mostly already spawned.

Beacuse the northern pike season is open all year long on Lake of the Woods, locating post-spawn pike now offers an excellent opportunity. Catching them invloves fishing many of the same areas that ice anglers focused on a week ago. Intercept post spawn fish on the main lake breaklines adjacent to those shallow water spawning creeks and shallow bays. Anchor, or "spot-lock" your boat in 8 to 14 feet of water and use live suckers or dead bait such as smelt and herring suspended below large floats to catch pike.

As the water warms, pike will recover from spawning and become more agressive. Then, casting spoons, jerkbaits and large soft plastic swim baits will begin producing more fish. The possesion limit for Lake of the Woods pike is 3 fish, and allows 1 fish over 40 inches. All northen pike from 30.0 to 39.99 inches must be immediately released. An angler may not posess more than the legal possesion limit, and may not posess more than 1 pike over 40 inches.

image of anglers holding a huge sturgeon caught on the Rainy RiverThe walleye season ended last Sunday with an absolutely incredible week of walleye fishing. Walleye anglers, as a rule, caught good numbers of fish and lots of big fish. This spring was one for the books. Multiple reports from folks who caught dozens, if not hundreds of fish. With both the ice fishing and spring fishing on the Rainy River being so good, many are looking forward to the MN Fishing Opener on Saturday, May 11, 2024 and it should be epic.

The sturgeon harvest season is currently underway and continues through May 15, 2024. Although every day can be different, many boats have caught 30 to 40 sturgeon in a single day! We have heard of lots in the 60 to 70 inch range, as well as some fish measuring into the low 70 inch range.

Most sturgeon anglers are either a glob of crawlers or a combo of crawlers and frozen emerald shiners on a sturgeon rig, which is an 18 inch leader with a 4/0 circle hook combined with a no roll sinker. Local bait shops have all of the gear and bait.

If you fish during the sturgeon harvest season and wish to keep a sturgeon, you must first purchase a $5.00 sturgeon harvest tag. Then, you may harvest one sturgeon per calendar year (45 to 49.99 inches inclusive, or over 75 inches)."  Lake of the Woods Tourism, (800) 382-FISH

image links to fishrapper home page April 23, 2024 MN Fishing Opener "Water Temps, Shiner Runs and Walleye Locations?"

walleye fishing guide Jeff Sundin holding nice walleye caught on jig and minnow Q) Paul Plinske wrote; "With the walleye opener fast approaching, I’m sure the excitement is building around the area. Of course, the preferred live bait for walleye around the opener is the spottail shiner, and other minnows such as fat heads. I was wondering at water temps do you tend to see walleye switch their preference from minnows to crawlers and leeches, and then back again from crawlers and leeches to minnows for the fall bite? Thanks, Paul”

A) Paul, I do believe that water temperatures loosely influence trends in walleye feeding patterns and locations. But when it comes to truly figuring out walleye feeding preferences, water temperature appears to only be a starting point. The timing of seasonal feeding trends, for me, is all about figuring out where the easiest food sources are available at the time. These can change daily, and sometimes there can be more than one pattern happening at the same time.

There are numerous times every year when I hear from one walleye angler who reports catching fish on a given bait. At the same time, another one reports catching walleyes in the same lake, at the same time using something completely different. Over the years, this has led me to believe that walleyes don’t actually have “feeding preferences”, they simply take advantage of whatever food is most easily available at any given time.

During spring, shiners, along with other minnows and small gamefish move both into and out of shallow water flats. During warm weather periods, the water there encourages plankton growth, and weedy cover habitat develops early. When their eggs are fully developed, female minnows and small baitfish move shallow again, and for a time, shallow flats are filled with food. Walleyes, and other gamefish move in because of the easy pickin’s. This is when jigs and minnows are the best way to “match the hatch”.

image of night crawlers in bedding Suddenly, the timing is right and insect hatches begin to emerge from areas of marl substrate. Now the water, filled with food in the form of insect larvae attracts fish of every shape and size, including all the minnows that were formerly located in the shallows. During this time, we can still catch walleyes using minnows, but many anglers “choose” to start fishing with leeches, night crawlers or artificial baits.

Eventually, bait shops run low on inventory and premium minnows are not widely available. So, when you think about it, anglers follow the same rule as the fish and buy whatever is the most widely available, night crawlers and leeches. It’s not that walleyes wouldn’t bite minnows, it’s just that we aren’t fishing with them.
Later, as fall approaches, fish begin feeding more heavily in preparation for the coming winter. If we can find them, they’ll still eat leeches and night crawlers. But now, the bait store inventories of these have become sketchy. At the same time, minnows begin their own feeding runs and trappers have better success catching them. Guys like me, who love fishing with minnows are standing in line to greet the “fall feeding” runs.

Bearing in mind that these are only my personal, rough guidelines, let’s backtrack to your question regarding feeding periods and the corresponding water temperatures.

  • Jig and Minnow presentations range between 50 to 65 degrees. For me, 57 to 62 is optimum and it doesn’t matter if it is spring or fall.
  • Leeches presented using Lindy Rigs, slip floats, or drop shot rigs “feel good” to me in water temperatures from about 60 to 65 degrees.
  • Night crawlers can be used at any water temperature, and during any season. My personal preference is to use them in water temps ranging between 64 and 72 degrees. They work in warmer water too but be prepared for lots of interaction with panfish and perch. The warmer the water gets, the more panfish action you’ll have.

The longer I fish, the more I realize gaps in my knowledge. Pinning down feeding patterns based on exact dates and water temperatures has been tricky to say the least. Seasonal patterns exist but are nuanced and can change day-by-day. The best anglers I know succeed by responding to what they see and not what they know. When they arrive at the lake, they look around and base their fishing presentations on the conditions they observe at the time. When you think more like a fish, you’re gonna win more often. fish smiley image — Office Cell Call or Text 218-245-9858 or EMAIL

image denotes commentary by Jeff Sundin Jeff Sundin April 19, 2024 "Bewteen Seasons Stuff To Do? Pondering the Prospects"

I realized recently that a lot of the “between seasons” fishing stuff that I used to do was driven by my kids. My ambition of keeping them interested in the outdoors led us to explore creeks and small lakes, looking for whatever we could find. Since they’re grown and moved away, I notice myself more often sitting out the "in between times", waiting for the arrival of big events like the walleye opener, or in winter, early ice on my favorite crappie lakes. This spring might be different, I’m sensing the urge to explore and that’s piqued my interest in some fish that I never realized I could catch, at least not in my own back yard.

Stream trout have always been a mystery to me. I’ve been encouraged over the years by some of my customers who live in southeastern Minnesota. They’ve said things like “you really have to come down and fish for trout with me in the spring.” Many of them tell me that they catch a lot of trout, and while I’ve been interested, I haven’t been willing to commit the time to travel, learn the streams and so on.

Believing that the southeastern Minnesota region was “the only game in town” for finding good trout streams, I never pondered north central Minnesota as an option. I’ve assumed that opportunities to fish for stream trout here were limited to finding “designated trout lakes”, and then fishing for them during the summer season, which conflicts with my guiding season. Or, in my case, searching for them during winter and fishing for them through the ice.

image links to map of Minnesota trout streams and lakes It wasn’t until August of 2021 that I caught my first rainbow trout on open water, when the Hippie Chick and I took an “almost vacation” to the Ely, MN area. Since then, we’ve never tried them again. But recently, a random idea to check for trout streams closer to home led to a surprise. There are trout streams everywhere, and a few of them are within 20 miles of my office. Click the image right, of use this link to check out >> MN DNR Fishing Minnesota Trout Streams Map

Now I’m not going to pontificate about the awesome opportunity to fish for stream trout in my back yard, but I am going to check it out. You don’t really need me to tell you much more because the DNR website has a fabulous section devoted to stream trout. You can just do what I’m gonna do, check out the map of streams, go for a drive, then a walk, and report in about how your search goes.

You say you’re not interested in trout fishing? Well, the suckers will be running soon, if they aren’t already and they are a blast to catch. My kids used to love fishing for them during spring, and I loved smoking and canning them. Like pike, suckers get a bad rap because of their bones, but once you get past them, they really are delicious to eat. Using a pressure cooker, we’d make “mock salmon” with them. My real favorite method of preparing them was to smoke the fish first, and then pressure cook the smoked fish in pint size jars. When they’re done, you’ll have a jar of perfectly preserved, bone-free, and delicious smoked fish.

Another off-beat fishing idea that has my attention right now is finding catfish. Cats are another fish that I love but have assumed they are too far out of my territory for convenient travel. I’ve already learned that I was wrong about that, and now that I know where they are, I need to learn about catching them at this point of the season. I’m not sure if the time will allow, but they are on my list.

Most of you know already that Sturgeon fishing on the Rainy River has become a big deal. I used to fish up there during spring, but these days I value solitude more than sturgeon. Even in the early days, I wasn’t up for fishing in big crowds, so when we fished the Rainy, we used the off-beat boat ramps to fish further upstream from the most popular areas. You may not catch as many fish, but finding less populated stretches of the river does work.

Right now, sturgeon fishing on the Rainy is catch and release only. Beginning Wednesday April 24, 2024, and running through May 7, 2024, anglers who possess a $5.00 “one-and-done” sturgeon harvest tag, will be allowed to harvest one sturgeon. Only sturgeon from 45.0 to 49.99 inches or over 75.0 inches qualify for the one fish annual harvest limit.

If you’re not too fired up about fishing, but still want to get out of the house this weekend, try the antique outboard show at the Minnesota Fishing Museum, 304 W Broadway, Little Falls, MN 56345. The MN GOPHER CHAPTER of Antique Outboard Motor Club is scheduled for Saturday April 20, 2024, from 9:00 AM – 3:00 PM. While you’re there, you can check out the fishing museum to learn more about Minnesota’s rich fishing traditions.

Panfish are always an option this time of the year too. For now, the water is too chilly to trigger spawning runs into shallow water. So, on most lakes, the search for crappies and sunfish will lead you into deeper water. Locate and fish for them the same way you would during the early part of the ice fishing season. As you know, I prefer avoiding deep water and if I was going to try panfish now, I’d select lakes that have maximum depths of less than 20 feet. There are more of them you may realize, and it’s one way to assure that having fun catching panfish doesn’t result in harming a good fishery.

image links to Rays Sport and Marine special set the hook savings promotion on Lund Boats If you like boats and motors, but prefer something newer, Lund Boats happens to be running a special offer now. Lund’s “Set the Hook” sales event offers special discounts on select models is going on right now. I see too that my home dealer, Ray’s Marine in Grand Rapids is offering additional discounts on 2023 models remaining in stock. If you wsere on the fence about getting a boat this summer, maybe this is your chance? I know that Ray's can handle all your Lund Boat needs. Grand Rapids not convenient for you? No worries, call them anyway and they’ll get you hooked up with sales and servicers located closer to your home. >> Ray’s Sport and Marine, 895 NE 1st St | Grand Rapids, MN 55744, Call/Text (218) 326-0353

I may come up with another idea or two about what to do during the "in between season", and if do, I'll share with our fellow anglers. Right now though, I better get rolling because I'm running low on time! The Minnesota walleye fishing opener is now only 3 weeks away and there's a lot to do. That's right, 21 days and I'll be smack dab in the thick of another fishing season. fish smiley image — Jeff Sundin 218-245-9858 or EMAIL

image links to wired2fish Wired2Fish "Budget-Friendly Forward Facing Sonar"

image links to fishing article about affordable forward facing sonar units"Love it or hate it but everybody is talking about it. Forward facing sonar is the most capable and controversial piece of equipment to ever enter the bass fishing stratosphere. I’ve never shared my personal opinion on it, and I’m not really here to do so today. All I’ll say is that I don’t have it on my boat… yet. However, that has been as much of a financial decision as a moral one to date.

My dad does have a 9-inch HDS Lowrance unit on his boat with Active Target. I’ve used his Lowrance a good bit by now, primarily to scan around to see what the contour of the bottom looks like in front of me. I’ve maybe caught 10 or 12 fish as a direct result of seeing them on the screen, though I haven’t actually watched a fish eat my bait yet.

I do like FFS for that purpose though, for being able to see the contour in front of and around me. I like that I can find cover like brush with it that I wouldn’t have known about otherwise. I like being able to see whether there’s bait around or not. Although I don’t really want it to take over my fishing, and that is one reason I ..." Read Article to Learn More >> Budget-Friendly Forward Facing Sonar

image denotes commentary by Jeff Sundin Jeff Sundin April 17, 2024 "Noting The Note-Able"

image of the beach at Wooden Frog Campground Rainy Lake MN For most Minnesotan’s, ice out has already been fait accompli for a while. Cross the 48th parallel heading north though and you’ll find more typical early spring conditions. On Lake of the Woods, there were still folks ice fishing just last week. On Rainy Lake, Voyageurs National Park officials announced ice-out at the Wooden Frog Campground just yesterday.

Anglers fishing in the cold waters of the Rainy River enjoyed a very strong run of “pre-spawn” walleyes through last weekend. There were numerous reports of catches in the 100+ fish per day range, and plenty of photos showing off big walleyes. Now that the walleye season has closed, they’ll be forced to hold off until the walleye opener on May 11, 2024.

Northern pike anglers were catching fish in shallow water last week and could still get in on some shallow water action. By now though, most of these fish have spawned, and are already in transition between shallow back bays, and feeding areas along shore on the main lake.

Sturgeon fishing, from now until the fishing opener takes over as the current most popular pursuit on the Rainy River. For now, all sturgeon caught must be immediately released. Beginning Wednesday April 24, 2024, and running through May 7, 2024, anglers who possess a $5.00 “one-and-done” sturgeon harvest tag, will be allowed to harvest one sturgeon. Only sturgeon from 45.0 to 49.99 inches or over 75.0 inches qualify for the one fish annual harvest limit.

image of angler holding huge sturgeon caught on the Rainy RiverDespite the early ice out, most north central Minnesota lakes are settling into relatively typical seasonal patterns. The walleye spawning runs are fully underway, pike have moved away from shallow water creeks and small rivers, and panfish are still located over deep water, mid-lake basins. Sucker runs should begin soon, if they haven’t already, and hopefully I’ll know that firsthand within a few days.

Drought conditions have worried us, but yesterday, the weather conditions finally turned wet. We’re a long way from refilling the wetlands and dry creek beds, so don’t expect to see water levels rising. Still, seeing some rain in the forecast makes us feel better at least.

Regarding low water levels, Jim Parker wrote, “Morning Jeff, I saw the article you wrote on the lake levels on Winnie, Little Cut Foot, and Bowstring Lakes. We have been on Bowstring Lake for 8 years and the water level is the lowest we have seen it. The ramp off Pagoda Rd. is pretty much useless. I understand the precipitation has been low resulting in some of this. What are your thoughts on what can be done to correct this issue. It’s pretty bad when you’re considering not putting your dock in and your boat lift is a definite no go. Thanks for your time and keep up the great reports.”

Jim, without doubt, I get more questions about water levels on Bowstring than about any other lake in my region. The shallow ramp on the northeast side that you mentioned is more often problematic than not. The ramp in the northwest corner, near the Northern Acres Resort is often better, but still less than ideal for larger rigs. The “south landing” is the best, but anglers have to deal with the long, bumpy gravel road that leads into it. That road has kept me away from Bowstring more than a few times over the years.

Answering what can be done to resolve problems caused by low water levels is not an easy task. I hate to answer a question by saying that I don’t know, but honestly, I don’t know. Short of major interventions like building dams to control water levels, we’re stuck with whatever Mother Nature dishes out.

There is a large scale DNR fisheries meeting scheduled soon, and I’ll be attending that meeting. I’ll make a point of seeking out somebody who can help teach me more about how that watershed works. Who knows, maybe there are some remedies that don’t require massive investments. If there are, I’ll do my best to share them here, with everybody.

Also, regarding water levels, another comment about Winnibigoshish came in via email yesterday afternoon.  TR James wrote, “Hi Jeff, here’s (how to find) a daily look at Winnie. Click Historical Pool Elevation to compare year to year data.” TR

Thank you, TR, for the guidance! As it turns out, this link takes me to the same site I tried to use last week when I wrote, “I discovered that using that site makes it difficult to compare current water levels with those of previous years.”

When I followed your link, I found the tab for historical data, and I found the graph showing historical water levels. My problem is that it still doesn’t allow me to compare one specific year to another one. I guess maybe I just need a crash course on how to find and compare 2024 to 2023 or other years previous.

Is there a way to filter a report that compares a single date, year-by-year? fish smiley image — Jeff Sundin 218-245-9858 or EMAIL

image denotes commentary by Jeff Sundin Jeff Sundin April 16, 2024 "Cutfoot Walleye Spawning, A Game of Give and Take"

image of Grand Rapids DNR Fisheries Staff checking walleyes for mature spawn You don’t suppose that The Supremes were thinking about spawning walleyes in 1966 when they sang “You can't hurry love, No, you just have to wait”? I know, it’s not very likely, but still, the chorus of that song does seem to sum up how walleye spawning runs progress during a spring like this one, when the ice goes out super early.

At the entrance to Little Cutfoot Sioux, walleye traps were set last Friday. Slowly, steadily, they've been filling with migrating walleyes ever since. Through the past weekend though, the eggs of most female walleye had not yet matured, “ripened”, as they say. That meant that through Sunday, there wasn’t a lot of egg fertilizing going on up there. That began changing on Monday morning, DNR fisheries staff managed to gather, fertilize and transport about 100 or so quarts of eggs. Combined with those that were gathered over the weekend, brought the total of collected eggs up to a total of about 200 quarts, give or take.

As we watched the sorting process, it was obvious there were still a lot of “green females” being returned to the holding pens. As those fish, along with fresh ones that swim into the traps each night mature, the pace will quicken and it’s likely that that by weeks end, fisheries staff will reach the 2024 goal of about 900 quarts. So, if visiting the walleye egg take is part of your spring ritual, plan on getting up there sometime this week.

While we were there, a group of school students showed up to watch the operation. As the accompanying image shows, even in the midst of doing a tough job, DNR fisheries specialists like Stev Mero are always welcoming and gracious to visitors. Personally, it does my heart good to see the license money I spend put to use in this way. Yesterday, our grandaughter Charlie got some personaized instruction too. "I touched some walleye eggs, and they were sticky", she later reported to her parents.

Last week, I fielded a reader question regarding the potential correlation between early ice out years with poor spawning success on Lake Winnibigoshish. In the article, (Walleye Spawing 2024 Prospects For Strong Year Class? April 12, 2024) I mentioned the likely connection between higher water levels during spring and strong spawning production. The article shares some speculations about water levels on Winnie and how they may or may not affect the 2024-year class of spawning walleyes.

In response, Jim Denny wrote, “Hey Jeff, just read your article today and you had mentioned water levels and how it impacts spawning and reproduction. Thought I would share something with you.” A few years back, I attended a big water meeting that the DNR held about Winnie. In that meeting, Dave Weitzel mentioned the correlation between water levels and year class. Dave said the DNR had learned that years where there were poor year classes water levels were low. They attributed this to the spawning rocks being exposed. The years that water was high, and rocks covered showed better year classes.

They stated that the water level on Winnie needs to be at 1297.2 to keep spawning rocks covered.  He stated that after learning this, they have been working with the Army Corps to maintain that level.  I checked today and the current level is 1297.7. Obviously, there are other factors that contribute but thought I would share.  I’ve included a link to this US Army Corps of Engineers Website where you can see the current level on Winnie. Normal summer level would be 1298.2. So, we are low, but rocks are covered.”

A) Jim, thank you for the notes and the link. Yes, I agree, and as mentioned in the April 12, 2024, article, there is a working assumption among DNR fisheries folks that higher water levels during spring do appear to help produce better spawning success. You’re right too that at 1297 feet, Winnie’s current water level does meet the target goal agreed to between the US Corps of Engineers and the Grand Rapids fisheries specialists.

Your link for following water levels on the US Army Corps of Engineers website is helpful. But when I checked that last week, I discovered that uisng that site makes it difficult to compare current water levels with those of previous years. A graph, or chart that allows readers to compare water levels by date would be very helpful, I think. So, for higher definition, interactive charts and water flow reports, try using this link to >> US Army Corps of Engineers website. Enter Lake Winnibigoshish in the search bar and then click on the right side link to select the Lake Winnibigoshish Dam. From there, use the top navigation bar to access the Dam Profile Chart, the Annual Variability Chart or any other information you want to view.

Additionally, there's also an article that goes further into detail about how the most recent decisions about regulating water levels might benefit Winnibigoshish walleyes. Follow this link to read the full article >> April 9, 2021 "Are Water Levels High Enough For Winnie Walleyes?"

The point that I attempted to make in last week’s article is that while optimum water levels, and strong spawning success during spring are surely cause for optimism, they do not guarantee a strong walleye year class. For that, it takes a strong growth rate and high survival rate over the first winter. It usually takes a couple of seasons before fisheries staff have enough testing and analysis to assess the potential strength of a given year class.

Like the Supremes sang, “Love don’t come easy, it’s a game of give and take.” No matter what, it’s good to see spring getting off to a good start. From here on out, let’s hope Mother Nature deals the Winnie Walleyes a winning hand for 2024. fish smiley image — Jeff Sundin 218-245-9858 or EMAIL

image denotes commentary by Jeff Sundin Jeff Sundin April 11, 2024 "Water Levels and Walleye Spawning Updates"

image of walleye traps set up at the Little Cutfoot Sioux egg take operationOn Wednesday, the Hippie Chick and I took a tour of the Winnie, Cutfoot and Bowstring Lakes region. We expected to see that water levels were low, and they were, but not as low as I had anticipated. I’m in touch with folks at the corps of engineers now and will provide updates on the precise water conditions later today. Before I do that though, lets talk about the Cutfoot Sioux walleye spawning run and the DNR egg take.

As the photo reveals, most of the walleye trappig gear was already set up at Little Cutfoot Sioux walleye egg take site on Wednesday. We drove in and talked with fisheries staff who told us that be setting the traps and holding pens sometime today, Thursday Aprill 11, 2024. Dissolved oxygen levels are good they reported, and water temperatures are moving toward ideal range. So, whenever the fish are ready, the action will begin.

It is still early though, and I would advise that we don’t get too excited about seeing fish in the nets just yet. Reports from other egg take operations that are already underway in other regions indicate that the fish, so far, have not been ready. Very few walleyes have come to the traps at the other operations and if my visual observation is any indication, walleyes haven’t started moving into the narrows at Cutfoot Sioux either. Why do you think that Jeff, you may be asking?      

Well for one thing, there weren’t any pelicans trolling the shorelines in either First River or Little Cutfoot. It seems to me that those birds find fish almost instantly, and their absence is a sign that walleyes haven’t arrived there yet. Another indicator that I use is the Williams Narrows web cams. Walleyes make a lot of commotion during their spawning runs and early in the morning, I can see them moving the surface water along the edges of the narrows. Yesterday, there was very little movement in the calm water.

We’ll probably run back up to check on the setup again tomorrow, and I’ll post an update for folks thinking about checking out the traps over the weekend. fish smiley image — Jeff Sundin 218-245-9858 or EMAIL

image denotes commentary by Jeff Sundin Jeff Sundin April 11, 2024 "Minnesota Fishing Museum - Helping Anglers Remember the Memorable"

image of minnesota hall of fame fishing guide Jeff Sundin from 1960 standing at the tiller of old martin motor Did you know that the outboard motor I’m clutching in this photo is a late 40s or early 50s Martin? No? Don’t feel bad, I didn’t either until after I visited the Minnesota Fishing Museum last Friday. After I’d wandered around the museum looking for one like it, I sought the advice of Jeff Doty, former MN Fishing Museum board president. I asked if he recognized the motor in my photo. “No, I can’t say that I know that one, but we have a couple of guys here who do. I’ll track one of them down and we’ll get you hooked up,” Doty replied.

A couple of hours later, Doty introduced me to board member Bruce Reischl who advised, “that engine is a Martin. We don’t have one on the floor at the museum right now, but I do have one in my personal collection. It, along with many more, will be on display at the MN Fishing Museum on Saturday April 20, 2024, as part of a special event hosted for the Antique Outboard Motor Club.

The photo reveals my obvious personal connection to the fishing history associated with that old engine. I was thrilled to be in a place where I could not only learn more about it, but even have the opportunity to see and touch one. Maybe your curiosity about the history of fishing is about something different, your personal connection might be to a special fishing lure, fishing reel or some other piece of historic gear. No matter what your curiosity might be, there’s a good chance that the answer can be found here, at the state of Minnesota’s official fishing museum. That is of course, if the museum is still there for you when you need it.

There’s a proposal in the Minnesota Legislature that will help make sure the museum remains open. It’s called HF 5209, and it would provide a $150,000 grant from the arts and cultural heritage fund, one of the four funds overseen by the Lessard-Sams Outdoor Heritage Council. The goal of the legislation is to provide funding for programming and educational opportunities celebrating Minnesota's outdoor culture and heritage.

The first hearing is scheduled for tomorrow, Friday April 12, 2024, and the folks at the Minnesota Fishing Museum could use our help. A few words of support directed to the committee chair could go a long way toward getting the legislation passed. It’s important to note too that these funds would not come from any new taxes. That’s right, the money has already been raised through Lessard-Sams 3/16% of Minnesota sales taxes that we’ve already all paid. The role of the Lessard-Sams Outdoor Heritage Council is simply to oversee who receives the grants. So, for angling enthusiasts, this is purely a winning proposition.

I didn’t always value the impact of history on my daily life, but these days I do. That’s why I’m supporting the measure, and I’d love it if you’d join me in contacting Representative Leon Lillie, Committee Chair and voicing your support for this bill. Rep. Leon Lillie (DFL) District: 44B, 365 State Office Building, St. Paul, MN 55155, 651-296-1188 or Email: fish smiley image — Jeff Sundin 218-245-9858 or EMAIL

image links to Lake of the Woods, LOW Tourism April 9, 2024

image of big walleye caught by brett amundson on the Rainy River "This is the time of year that some are still ice fishing on the south end's main basin of Lake of the Woods, while others are fishing out of boats on the open water of the Rainy River. It's nice to have options!

Ice anglers targeting walleyes are being rewarded with good catches of walleyes, saugers, and some jumbo perch. Most action is in 18 to 25 feet of water. Northern Pike enthusiasts are catching big fish by tip up fishing in prespawn areas that are adjacent to traditional spawning areas. Tip ups with live suckers or dead bait such as smelt and herring in 8 to 14 feet of water has been the pattern overall.

Soon, pike will be sliding into back bays to spawn, which creates an entirely different fishing opportunity. The pike season on Lake of the Woods never closes. The limit is 3 pike per day with one being able to be more than 40 inches. All fish measuring 30.0 to 40.0 inches must be released.

Anticipation is high for the MN Fishing Opener, which is Saturday, May 11, 2024. Good numbers of walleyes and saugers are currently staged in many locations along the south shore.

On the Rainy River, open water has made it all the way to Four Mile Bay. Walleye fishing and sturgeon fishing has been excellent. The water clarity is still very good and there are a lot of fish in the river. Boat ramps are open all the way to Wheeler's Point. Birchdale, Frontier, Vidas, Timber Mill Park in Baudette, and the Wheeler's Point boat ramp at the mouth of the Rainy River are all open.

Jigs with brightly colored plastics or jigs with a frozen emerald shiner have been the ticket for most spring walleye anglers. Don't forget about slow trolling crankbaits against the current as this is a very effective technique this time of the year.

Sturgeon are active and being caught on the river as well by both walleye anglers and those targeting sturgeon. Most sturgeon anglers are either a glob of crawlers or a combo of crawlers and frozen emerald shiners on a sturgeon rig, which is an 18 inch leader with a 4/0 circle hook combined with a no roll sinker. Local bait shops have all of the gear and bait.

Up at the Northwest Angle, open water is appearing in some of the areas with current such as Flag Island Flats, Minnesota Point and Million Dollar Rock, just to name a few. The sight of open water simply is wetting the pallet of those eager for the MN Fishing Opener on May 11th, 2024"  Lake of the Woods Tourism, (800) 382-FISH

image denotes commentary by Jeff Sundin Jeff Sundin April 8, 2024 "Countdown To Walleye Opener"

It’s time to start the countdown, with only 32 days until the walleye opener, it's time to start rigging rods, fine tuning gear and checking water conditions.

Some of the folks that gathered to chat at Ray’s Marine Open House this weekend expressed concern about the dry conditions and low water levels. There’s no doubt that concern is warranted, it’s been a long time since I’ve seen it so dry during the month of April. That said, our conversations reminded me about the dramatic turnaround we experienced during the 1999 fishing opener. A couple of weeks before opening day, rain began falling and didn’t stop. Pokegama Lake in Grand Rapids was littered with dock sections and other debris that floated away from shore under flood-like conditions.

I’m not saying that will happen again this spring, but Mother Nature has a way of making up for lost time. There are signals in the forecast that she’s at least thinking about making up for dry conditions in north central Minnesota now. There’s rain falling outside my office window as I write this. It won’t be enough to re-fill the rivers and lakes in my region, but if do we receive the forecast ¼ to ½ inch, it will at least be a start.

Rising water would also be helpful in terms of improving spawning conditions for pike, walleye, and other fish. On Saturday, I got word from a friend that the Grand Rapids fisheries staff plan to set up their gear for the walleye “egg-take” operation at Cutfoot Sioux this week. I’ll confirm that today as soon as the DNR regional office is open for phone calls. The timing for this is good for me because this week we’re entertaining our granddaughter Audrey Jones, and grandpa is looking for excuses to get outside. We’ll wait for a dry day, and then we’ll take a tour of the area to check conditions.

Meanwhile, I borrowed a photo from my friends at Williams Narrows Resort. The William's Narrows Resort Web Cam provides views from the narrows at the river between Big and Little Cutfoot Sioux Lakes. As you can see, water levels there look fairly good. That’s likely because the Corps of Engineers are holding back on river flow at the Winnie Dam. I’ll double check with them to confirm that too. fish smiley image — Jeff Sundin 218-245-9858 or EMAIL

image denotes commentary by Jeff Sundin Jeff Sundin April 5, 2024 "Sundin's Short List of Fishing Guides"

For some strange reason, folks keep asking me when I plan to retire. I guess they think that 40 years as a full-time fishing guide ought to be enough time for me. But I don’t think it is, and my answer to the question is never, I do not have any plans to “retire”, at least not any time soon.

You might think my reason is because I love to fish, and while that is partially true, I love people more than I love fishing. So, if I were to retire, I’d likely still get to fish a lot, but it would not be the same, I’d be losing out on what’s really important to me, the daily contact with customers; people who over the years have become friends, close friends, like family almost.

While I don't plan to retire, I have noticed something about myself, and it's that my primary focus has shifted away from the daily grind of working purely because I need to pay the bills. Instead of fishing every single day of the season, I'm taking the occasional weekend off to work in the garden, or stay caught up with family and friends. I've discovered too that sometimes there are other guides who can do a better job than me when customers have specific goals in mind. Musky fishing trips for example, are better handled by guides whose primary business is doing that. Sometimes, folks want to fish in an area that I don't vist very often, it can be more gratifying for customers when I line them up with somebody who fishes in that region specifically.

For me, finding and helping really great fishing guides get establihed has been gratifying. That’s why this year, I’m establishing “Sundin’s Short List of Fishing Guides”. The project is the result of customer inquiries about booking fishing dates that I can’t handle myself. When I’m already booked up, I try to find the right guide for the right job and it’s not always easy. What I have in mind is a listing that prospective customers can use to book alternative guides who have availability when I don’t or serve customers outside of my typical service areas.

I’d be interested in hearing from you about fishing trips you have taken with guides of exemplary quality. Fishing guides who you know have delivered service over and above your expectations. It doesn’t matter to me if they’re seasoned pros, or if they just started guiding, it only matters that they are good. And if you are a guide yourself, have a strong work ethic and believe in delivering excellent service to your customers, you might be the one I’m looking for, so let me know who you are!

Public appearances where I can meet and chat with people who love fishing has been another gratifying pursuit for me, and I have a couple of them this weekend.

Tomorrow, I’ll be at the Minnesota Fishing Museum and Fishing Hall of Fame in Little Falls for their annual “Night with the Pros” fundraising event. There’s an early, member’s private event at the Museum in downtown Little Falls at 3:00 Pm, then at 4:30 a meet and greet at the Rice Creek Convention Center, followed by dinner at 6:30. Silent auctions, raffle prizes and giveaways take place before, during and after dinner.

The event is particularly “kid friendly” and fun. If you come, you’ll learn that all of the fishing pros love autographing their photo programs, hats and the like. For a full list of the fishing pros who will attend the event click here >> MN Fishing Museum Night with the Pros Celebrity List

Ticket sales end soon but are still available as of Wednesday morning. Here’s a link to the ticket sales page on Event Brite >> 2024 Night With The Pros Minnesota Fishing Museum and Hall of Fame

On Saturday, I’ll be on hand at Ray’s Marine, Grand Rapids location open house. Hall of Fame Fishing Pro, Ted Takasaki and Capt. Donnie Obert will both be there delivering free fishing presentations. plus there will be lots of other pros on hand too and we'll help answer questions about boats, motors, electronics and more hot new fishing gear for the upcoming fishing season. Follow this link for more information about Ray's Marine Boat Show and Open House

If you're thinking about fishing this weekend, you'll have options. On Friday morning, I will drop in a few updates about where to go this weekend. fish smiley image — Jeff Sundin 218-245-9858 or EMAIL

image denotes commentary by Jeff Sundin Jeff Sundin April 4, 2024 "Nashville, Myrtle Beach, Little Falls and More!"

image of the Hippie Chick standing in front of wall of Azaleas at the Brookgreen Gards In case you noticed that I haven’t been around much lately, I apologize, it is completely my fault. You see after 55 years in the work force; I finally took off with the Hippie Chick for my first ever 2-week vacation. Yup, that’s right, I’ve never been away from work this long since the day I got my first paper route way back in 1969. Now that we’re back home, you’ll notice the fishing reports and updates flowing freely again. But before I get myself fully immersed in work, gather around the water cooler and let me tell you about some highlights of our trip.

On this trip we first re-visited some of our favorite places in the Myrtle Beach region of South Carolina. Then after a week of looking at flowers and walking along the beach, ae headed to Nashville where our focus shifted to music.

I can’t say that fishing never entered my mind, but the weather down south wasn’t that much nicer than what we were missing out on back at home, so we never booked any fishing trips. In the end, cooking fresh shrimp and tuna from the fish market was as close as we ever came to wetting a line.

Brookgreen Gardens is our happy place near Myrtle Beach. We’ve been there in April November, December, and now, March. There’s been beautiful art, sculpture, flowers and scenery on every trip, but they’ve all been different. This year, we caught the Azaleas in bloom, they were everywhere, and they were breath taking! If you occasionally visit the area but you’ve never been there, don’t let yourself miss it on your next trip, its beauty simply can’t be overstated.

image of birds fishing in the rocks near Myrtle Beach The ocean wasn’t quite as welcoming to us this year, cold air temperatures and strong winds kept most of our beach walks short. Luckily, there were just enough warm afternoons to allow us to get out there a little bit.

The trip from Myrtle Beach over to Nashville was an interesting one. I’ve never seen so much traffic in my entire life, it seemed like we were surrounded by cars and trucks for every single minute of the 12-hour drive. Luckily, once we arrived, “Music City” more than made up for our trouble. Everywhere we looked there was food, music, flowers, and history; more than we could possibly take in on a single trip.

I won’t speak for my family, but for me, the absolute highlight of Nashville was getting to see the band Kelley’s Heroes. The 3-piece group used to be the “backup band” for Don Kelley, a legend in the Nashville music scene. Since Don retired and moved to Florida, the band continues as a 3 piece, but their sound is way bigger than any 3-piece country outfit I’ve ever seen.

As a guitar player, my interest was drawn to Luke McQueary, their virtuoso guitarist. But both Joe Fick their bass player and Billy Van Fleet their drummer are equally talented in every possible way, they are probably the most entertaining musicians I’ve ever watched. Since we’ve been home, watching them, along with former versions of Don Kelley’s bands have entertained us even more. You can find dozens of videos on You Tube, but here’s a link to one that I like a lot. >> Kelley's Heroes Performing Working Man Blues

image of Nashville Band Kelleys Heroes performing at Roberst Western World Besides the live music, Nashville’s rich history offered more highlights. We took the backstage tour of the Ryman Theatre and that was awesome. My brother Gary and I dragged our wives to a few music stores too. Again, as a guitar player, I was flabbergasted by the sheer number of vintage musical instruments. It would literally take years of shopping in Minneapolis-St. Paul to handle the number of vintage guitars that I saw in a single day in Nashville.

While we were at the Gibson Garage, I got the bright idea to re-live my musical life vicariously through the guitars they had on display. If you happen to follow my personal facebook page, you’ll see the guitars that represent ones I’ve owned, and let slip through my fingers over the years. There’s nothing important about the project, just something interesting to do while I wait for the fishing season to start. If you like music, guitars in particular, you can check out the daily updates on my facebook page.

This week, my re-entry to fishing will include some personal appearances. On Friday, I’ll be on hand at the Minnesota Fishing Museum and Hall of Fame “Night with the Pros” event. The annual fundraising event will be held at the Rice Creek Hunting and Convention Center near Little Falls. The event starts at 4:00 PM with a meet and greet session where you can chat it up with fishing pros, gather autographs, and checking out the auction items. Dinner starts at 6:30 and prize drawings follow. Ticket sales end soon but are still available as of Wednesday morning. Here’s a link to the ticket sales page on Event Brite >> 2024 Night With The Pros Minnesota Fishing Museum and Hall of Fame

On Saturday, I’ll be on hand at Ray’s Marine, Grand Rapids location open house. Hall of Fame Fishing Pro, Ted Takasaki and Capt. Donnie Obert will both be there delivering free fishing presentations. plus there will be lots of other pros on hand too and we'll help answer questions about boats, motors, electronics and more hot new fishing gear for the upcoming fishing season. Follow this link for more information about Ray's Marine Boat Show and Open House

If you're in the neighborhood for either event, stop by and let's catch up! fish smiley image — Jeff Sundin 218-245-9858 or EMAIL

image links to Lake of the Woods, LOW Tourism April 3, 2024

image of young angler with monster northern pike from Arneson's Rocky Point Resort "For a while now, Lake of the Woods has been the only game in town for Minnesota anglers who want to continue ice fishing. Now that the deadline for shelter removal has passed, most folks have given up on ice fishing, but not everybody. Up at the Northwest Angle, the ice bite finished strong but is now finished, and the focus is now on the May 11, 2024, walleye fishing opener.

On the south end of Lake of the Woods, cold spring weather helped dispel certain social media predictions about the greatest of weather and deteriorating ice conditions for the late ice fishing season. The bottom line, after an early warm up, conditions turned back to winter, preserving ice conditions for those wanting to take advantage of them. March ice anglers were rewarded with good catches of walleyes, saugers and of course this time of year, monster pike. 

Although the walleye season continues through April 14th, 2024 for the most part, ice accesses are closed for the year.

In the areas where access remains available, monster pike are staged in pre-spawn areas.  If you can get to them, the opportunity to catch a big pike is good. But soon, they will make their way to back into shallow, open water bays and ditches to spawn. This early spawning run creates some great pike fishing as the pike season on LOW never closes.

image of Nick Ney holding giant walleye caught on the Rainy RiverAnticipation is high for the Minnesota Walleye Fishing Opener, which occurs on Saturday, May 11, 2024.  Good numbers of walleyes and saugers are currently staged in numerous areas along the south shore.

On the Rainy River, open water gave way to fresh ice formed during the recent cold spell. Now that the weather has moderated, open water is expanding nicely and with daytime temps in the 40's and 50's over the next couple of weeks, things are looking good for some walleye fishing action. The Nelson Park boat ramp in Birchdale, the Frontier boat ramp and Vidas boat ramp are all open. 

Very good numbers of walleyes are in the river.  Most fish being caught are 16 to 26 inches with a few giants over 30 inches being caught.  The hope is the big female walleyes will be making their way up the river from the lake once water temps rise a bit.  Be ready!

Jigs with brightly colored plastics or jigs with a frozen emerald shiner have been good for walleyes.  Slow trolling crankbaits is a very effective technique this time of the year.

Sturgeon are being caught on the river as well by both walleye anglers and those targeting sturgeon.  Most sturgeon anglers are using a sturgeon rig, which is an 18-inch leader with a 4/0 circle hook combined with a no roll sinker.  Local bait shops have all of the gear and bait."  Lake of the Woods Tourism, (800) 382-FISH

You Are Invited To Become A Duly Deputized Fishrapper Cub Reporter

image links to fishrapper facebook page If you've been waiting for a gold engraved invitation to participate in the daily reports, then stop waiting and consider this your own personal invitation.

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.