Q) "Hi Jeff, I did buy the new 20 foot Alaskan just like yours and love the boat but have two major issues.
1) With the gas tank in the rear, the seat is so far from my sonar I can’t reach it. What do you do about this?
2) What do you do with your fishing rods? The side storage compartments are without rod tubes and mine is a tangled mess. Thank you for your help." Bob Caticchio
A) Bob, the Lund Alaskan does have a wide, open floor plan. So, you’re right, it can be a stretch from the coxswain position over the controls on your graph. Your seat could easily be relocated, but I wouldn’t suggest that because if you’re like me, getting a comfortable grip on the tiller handle overrides reaching the graph.
The simplest and least time-consuming solution for gaining an easier reach to your sonar controls would be to add a RAM mount. The adjustable swing arm will allow you to bring your unit into reach. Andy Arola at Ray’s Marine in Grand Rapids can fix you up with the right model and I’d suggest going that route.
Rod storage, for me, in Alaskans became a piece of cake when I added the right rod covers. The “Expando” style covers you see here are sold under several brand names and are available in an array of colors and lengths. In the accompanying image, you can see the array of 14 rods I have in my boat right now. The array varies according to season, but by color coding the rod covers, I can easily see and select which ones I need for any presentation style.
In my boat, the 4 rods that are least likely to be needed today are stacked at the bottom of the locker all facing the same direction. The next 4 rods, also less likely to be needed today, are stacked at the bottom too, but facing the opposing direction of the first 4. Finally, the rods that I know will be needed immediately are stacked in on top of the rest. Using this simple system allows easy access to the right fishing rods at the right time. As a bonus, this system also affords an easy storage solution during the off season. I hang mine along the garage wall, where they are safe and protected.
Be confident, these 2 fast and simple workarounds work like a charm for me. I’m sure that when you try them, your “2 major issues” will melt away faster than a Hershey bar in the hot sun. — Office Cell Call or Text 218-245-9858 or EMAIL
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Last week, while we were out on the lakes enjoying fishing, the Minnesota legislature was busy wrapping up the 2023 session. Historic legislation, including bills to provide MN DNR with funds from the state’s general budget passed. So, for the first time, MN DNR will have access to general fund dollars, earmarked for specified DNR projects. Most notably, to repair state managed public accesses, fish hatcheries and public fishing piers.
You may recall the stories about last year’s 2022 MN FISH spring summit meeting when founding member Ron Schara managed to get a public commitment from Governor Tim Walz to include MN DNR projects in the state budget. Why that was a big deal is because historically, DNR has never received funds from the general budget. Their only sources of revenue were fishing/hunting licenses, wildlife stamps and certain small stipends from federal excise taxes on sporting gear.
True to his word, Walz did include DNR project funding in this year’s budget and last week, much of it was passed into law.In a news release late last week, a MN DNR news release spells out everything. For a PDF version of the entire news release, follow this link to >> Historic MN DNR Funding Bills Pass Legislature May 29, 2023
"Join pro bass angler Keith Poche as he adventures into hard-to-reach shallows using a small boat to reach underpressured bass. He shares valuable insights for targeting bass in shallow backwaters using a hollow-body frog and shares practical advice on equipment, techniques, and locating prime fishing spots.
Poche emphasizes the power of using a small boat in shallow water, allowing anglers to navigate through challenging spots like Beaver Dams. Frog fishing requires specialized gear. He discusses his ideal setup, recommending a 7’3″ heavy-power rod for accurate casting and reliable hook sets. Poche explains the benefits of using a high speed reel when working your bait through thick grass and lily pads.
Although technically I am "off" this weekend, I did promise to share any noteworthy tips that I stumble into during my busman's holiday. So, both in the interest of keeping that promise, along with bragging on my wife, here goes.
When I asked Susan what she wanted to fish for on Saturday morning, she replied "crappies". So, I started doing a mental inventory of places that might make catching some of them possible. I came up with an idea about a medium size lake in the Leech Lake region, packed up the jalopy and headed over. Along the way, Lilac’s blooming, sun shining bright and warm air temperatures provided convincing evidence that we'd be looking for crappies on, or around spawning beds. And when we arrived at the lake, 63-degree surface water temperatures made the theory even more convincing.
Within a few hundred feet of the boat ramp, I put down the Terrova, hit the spot-lock and started rigging up Susan’s favorite fishing rod. “What’s the plan, what are we doing here?” She quizzed. I answered, “Well sweetie, I have already seen what we’re looking for, so we’re going to try right here.”
What I’d seen were several sunfish, a few rock bass and 2 or 3 crappies swimming around in the shallow water. In the bulrush, wild rice, and emerging weeds, I could see a few beds, areas that had been cleared open in the sand by panfish “fanning” away debris with their tails. None of the fish that I saw were holding tight to the beds though and when I cast the small jig and bobber set up into the shallows, the fish scattered fast, and did not return.
Understand that every lake is different, and today they are probably in a variety of stages of development. But on this lake, it appeared that we arrived in the later stages of a “pre-spawn” movement. Fish were interested in spawning but had not yet begun the physical act itself. I explained to Susan that if the fish were guarding beds, they’d be much more reluctant to leave. But these fish were so spooky that any movement sent them fleeing at 100 MPH.
We moved our search into deeper water, a bed of cabbage weeds located close to a shallow flat. The cabbage was green and lush, its outer edges extending into about 9 feet water. We started backtrolling along the edges of the vegetation, I used a 1/8-ounce Lindy Jig tipped with a Ripple Shad, Susan used a 1/8-ounce Lindy Live Bait Jig tipped with a small fathead. As you can see by the photo, it worked. Crappies, along with small pike, rock bass and the odd perch came along at regular intervals.
At one point, I and the Hippie Chick were both reeling in fish at the same time. When mine arrived at the boat, I glanced over and caught a glimpse of hers. In my “Dad Voice”, I said don’t hoist that one in, let it swim until I get to the net. She did and I did, and we got the fish in the boat and onto the ruler. If I tried hard, I might have stretched it across the 15 inch mark, but the non-exaggerated was a solid 14-1/2 inches.
I know that some of you have caught larger ones, but like me, you know they don’t come along every day, so this was a big deal for Susan. In fact, she declared this to be her “summer of kings”. First the King Salmon she caught a few weeks ago, now the king crappie and next … “I need a king walleye” she said.
Who knows, maybe this is the summer for a King Walleye? She certainly is starting the season off on a roll and I’m loving every minute of it. After a couple years being “dry-docked” by family concerns, it’s nice to finally have her back in the boat again.
The selfie image of our "double" shows that the male crappies we caught were sporting their dark black spawning colors. So, it won't be long before they are in full scale spawning mode. But if you're on the lake today and don't find them in shallow water, think about trying the weed patch trick; it might pay off.
Today, we’re off to fish again, but maybe not as intensely as yesterday. Rumor has it that our 2-year-old granddaughter Charlie might for the first time, be seeing the business end of a fishing rod. Wouldn’t that be nice. — Jeff Sundin 218-245-9858 or EMAIL
Memorial Day Weekend is upon us, and the NOAA Weather Forecast for Deer River MN suggests a “non-typical” fishing holiday. Sunshine, warm temperatures and moderate breezes are predicted to replace the usual, cloudy, drizzly, and windy holiday.
The good news is that the sunshine should help advance seasonal trends such as weed development, minnow and panfish spawning, even increased algae production. The result, I think, will be plenty of happy panfish anglers, minnow trappers and picnic planners. While it will feel great to be outside, walleye anglers on some lakes will miss the typically blustery and grey conditions.
Adjusting to the cool, clear water conditions, anglers on Lake Winnie, Cass Lake, Leech Lake and more, have already learned that daytime walleye action will likely be slow and spotty. For folks that were here last week, fishing in the evening and early morning feeding runs produced much better action. But the shortened feeding window meant that figuring out where to fish required fast thinking. So, this weekend, learning the best fishing areas from friends, or being able to predict where walleyes will go when the sun appears at the tree line will be key.
On Winnie, the trend has been for smaller walleyes from the 2019-year class to move deeper. The 13-1/3 to 15 inches are gathered in fairly large schools along shoreline breaks. So far, the fish appear to relate close to the shore, not on mid-lake structures located further out in the lake. The depth varies day-by-day, ranging between 16 and 26 feet of water. Follow your electronics and you will locate schools of fish on all 4 sides of the lake. One caveat, while there are some exceptions, the majority of fish you’ll find in these areas ARE 2019-year class fish. If you’re hoping to find larger fish, don’t linger when you’re catching the smaller fish.
The larger fish we’re finding on Winnie, like the one pictured here, were caught in shallow water, in the back bays. On Wednesday, the conditions were cloudy and there was a stiff breeze and both walleyes and perch became active. Cabbage patches located along the shallow, 4-to-8-foot breaklines were the key locations. The problem was that on Thursday, the sun came out, the breeze laid down and most of those fish went dormant. I think the evening bite would have been good, but I wasn’t there to prove that.
Jig and minnow presentations continue to be the primary method used by almost everybody on the lake. We’ve used ¼ ounce Lindy Live Bait Jigs in deeper water, 1/8-ounce sizes for the 6-to-10-foot depth range and occasionally, 1/16-ounce sizes in the super-shallow or weedy water. Key colors for me have been perch, glow blue, black and gold.
Shiners are available almost everywhere and supplies should be reliable, albeit expensive. Supplies will increase soon, whenver the shiners begin spawning runs on Winnie, Leech and other Itasca area lakes. The spawning run has not yet begun on Winnie, but probably will start this weekend. Last week, Bill Powell at Fred’s Bait told me that spottails usually start running around the 28th of May. Yesterday, I crossed paths with Donnie Ellis from Leroy’s minnows, and he confirmed that. Ellis, “For as long as I can remember, the shiners have started running 1 or 2 days either side of dad’s (Leroy) birthday. That’s on May 29th, so they should start showing up in the traps any day now.”
Personally, I’ve cut way down on how many shiners I bring along, but still, I do always bring some. Even if they’re expensive, there are times when the fish do show a strong preference. Lakes like Leech, Winnie and Cass are places where I think they make a difference and I'm sure you have a few in mind too. On Upper Red Lake for example, shiner minnows are absolutely not necessary at all. Fatheads, rainbows, river mix minnows are all perfectly fine. In fact, there are days when fishing with a piece of plastic on your jig will produce just as well as minnows do. The problem is that this doesn’t work every day, so I bring some minnows for the meat eaters every time. Planning just involves knowing the lake you’re fishing.
Speaking of Upper Red Lake, the walleyes are still on the prowl there. Folks looking to beat the clear water problem will probably head that way, so expect the crowds to be large.
The old saw about crappies on the beds when the lilacs were in bloom really is true and right now, lilacs are in full bloom around my home area. In backwater areas, we’ve found water temperatures consistently in the low 60s, so the technical information lines up as well. I’ve been seeing pictures of folks showing off crappie catches for a few days already, and as you know, we caught some earlier this week on Upper Red Lake. When you add it all up, I think this will be a great weekend for crappie fishing.
Recently, I’ve learned to be more like folks who have “real jobs” and using the high holidays as an excuse for taking some time off. So, this weekend will be playing time for me and I don’t know whether that means fishing, plunking my guitar or planting petunias. If I do hear a good tip about fishing, I’ll share it, but you might notice the reports are downsized for the weekend.
If you’re on your way to the lake already, stay safe along your travel route. On the lake, have fun and be happy, it appears to be a picture of perfection headed our way. — Jeff Sundin 218-245-9858 or EMAIL
"Walleye - As water temps climb into the high 50’s walleye are on the move. While yes, you can still find walleyes hanging around spawning areas, but the majority of them have now left those areas. Now walleyes are cruising shorelines looking for an easy meal. Anglers are now working points, large shallow flats and river mouths.
Anglers are finding walleyes in 12 to 16 feet of water during the day with a jig and minnow, but during the evening hours, walleyes are sliding up as shallow as 3 feet looking for minnows and leeches. Here a slip bobber and a leech, large floating minnow bait, and jig and minnow have been very effective for catching walleyes.
Northern Pike anglers continue to enjoy excellent pike fishing up in shallow bays. Similar to the walleyes, pike are on the move and cruising shorelines looking for an easy meal. Anglers fishing off their dock or a boat have been casting large spoons, spinnerbaits and floating large minnows under a bobber for trophy pike.
Smallmouth Bass anglers were starting to find active smallies this last week. Anglers are finding smallies with suspending minnow baits, soft plastics and spinnerbaits. Key now, is to fish slowly. Water is still cold for the smallies and they are sluggish, but they are also very hungry too. Anglers are finding active smallies on large rocky flats, around islands with large rocky flats and along rocky shorelines.
Panfish - Crappie anglers are reporting that crappies are schooling up at the mouth of shallow bays and venturing into shallow bays as water temps climb. Crappie minnows and small hair jigs, fished under a bobber at the mouth of these bays, has been very effective for crappie anglers.
Stream Trout - Now that many anglers got their walleye fix, many have started to look to stream trout lakes. Anglers are finding aggressive trout cruising their favorite stream trout lake. Shore anglers are catching active trout casting small spinners, spoons and jigs. Anglers fishing from a boat are catching trout trolling small spoons and crankbaits. Trout are generally being found in 10 feet of water or less, anywhere in the lake, right now.
Lake Trout – Lake trout anglers were reporting good fishing this last week. Anglers fishing off their campsites, on an island near deep water, had success casting heavy spoons out into the deep water. Laying a dead smelt or sucker minnow off the bottom was also very effective for them. Anglers fishing from a boat or canoe reported catching trout with heavy spoons and deep diving crankbait, trolled out over 30-80 feet of water." — Arrowhead Outdoors, 218-365-5358
Yesterday, in my report about fishing on Upper Red Lake, I noted that walleye anglers have been dragging in a few crappies. I pondered whether targeting them specifically might be worth trying this spring. I still don’t have the full set of facts, so I’m not going to spend a lot of time here this morning. But after fishing on Upper Red Lake again yesterday, I’m beginning to believe that we might get into some “above average” crappie fishing, if we try.
Because I was fishing on a one angler trip yesterday, with Ken Seufert, I had some extra time to experiment. Part of the plan was for me to fish exclusively using artificial lures, instead of drowning any minnows. So, I rigged up a gold, 1/8-ounce Lindy Jig and tipped it with a 3 inch Ripple Shad. These are not only a good choice for walleyes, but in my experience, often outperform live bait when I’ve targeted crappies.
Yesterday, after catching almost exclusively walleyes for most of the day, we stumbled into a stray crappie. The bonus fish was nice, but we were still fishing for walleyes, and I decided to move down the shoreline and try another spot. After we finished with that, I returned to the area where we caught the first crappie, but this time, instead of simply passing through, I stopped focusing our effort on the small spot. Long story short, we did bag 7 crappies and it appeared that if we’d spent more time there, harvesting Ken’s 10 fish limit may have been possible.
Today, I’m hoping to try that again, and if it still looks like I’m on to something, I’ll let you know. If you’re out on Red Lake today, and do your own experimenting, I would love to hear your thoughts. You know how to find me. — Jeff Sundin 218-245-9858 or EMAIL
"Walleye and sauger fishing continue to be really good on the south end of Lake of the Woods. Most walleyes are spawned out and feeding nicely. Great reports by resort charter boats and others across the lake. Anglers are catching a nice mix of eaters (under 19.5 inches), protected slot fish (19.5 to 28.0 inches) and a good number of trophy fish (over 28 inches) caught this past weekend.
The combined limit of walleyes and saugers on the MN side of LOW is 6 fish total, with up to 4 of the 6 being walleyes. Anglers are allowed to keep one trophy walleye over 28 inches, once in possession, anglers may not harvest additional “trophy” size fish.
This is the time for jigging. Most anglers anchor their boats and fish vertically using jigs and minnows. The best jig colors are gold, orange, chartreuse, pink or a combo of these colors. Tip jigs with live minnows or frozen emerald shiners. Quick LOW tip ... Place the hook of the jig through the mouth of the minnow, out the gills, slide the minnow all the way up to the jig head and hook the minnow through its midsection. This will get you hooking more fish.
The best fishing depths varied from shallow to deep water, depending upon where you were fishing. Not every fish in the lake is feeding on the same forage, hence, varying depths is important. This week walleyes were caught in depths ranging from 8 to 30 feet; watch your electronics for fish.
Northern pike continue to be active. Back bays and shoreline structure are the best spots. As the waters continue to warm, lures such as inline spinners, spinnerbaits and crankbaits are producing more fish.
On the Rainy River, walleye anglers are finding some nice walleyes in the Rainy River. Some walleyes will make their way back to the lake after the spawn, many will stay, some for a while, some all year. Anchored up or slowly moving upstream with a jig and minnow are the go-to techniques. Trolling crankbaits also working nicely to find fish or fish walleyes spread out on a flat.
The river is a slow rolling, relatively small water nice for boats of all sizes. There are 42 miles of navigable waterway from the mouth at Wheeler's Point east to Birchdale.
The sturgeon season will re-open again July 1st and will continue through May 15, 2024.
Up at the Northwest Angle, great walleye fishing continued this past week too. The jig and minnow is again the way to go in this cold water. Points, neck down areas, flats with some current, and areas with shoreline rubble holding nice walleyes. As is normally the case amongst the islands, a variety of fish are being caught while fishing walleyes. Saugers, pike, smallmouth bass, crappies, jumbo perch and an occasional muskie. Lots of action." — Lake of the Woods Tourism, (800) 382-FISH
Yesterday, I wrote that culling fish in Minnesota was not legal; I was wrong. An email message from a reader included a screen shot of the Minnesota regulation on culling. It said that except for MN-North Dakota border water, and on Lake Mille Lacs, culling IS ALLOWED on all other waters.
Just to be sure that I wasn’t getting my leg pulled by a prankster, I looked it up in the 2023 Minnesota Fishing Regulations. Sure enough, there it was on page 32 of the booklet. If you do not possess your full legal limit, you CAN continue to “high grade”, that is trade smaller fish for larger ones. Once you’ve captured your legal limit, that’s when you must stop culling.
Now, I’m not so sure if culling is advisable, or whether I’d be willing to even go to the trouble. But if you want to, you can. This goes to show how easy it can be to pass along information based on misconceptions. I honestly can’t say where I got the notion that we were not allowed to cull fish in Minnesota, but obviously I’ve had the wrong impression.
The reader didn’t offer a name to share, but no matter, the information is true and correct. So, thank you very much for the illumination! — Jeff Sundin 218-245-9858 or EMAIL
"Walleye - Anglers found walleye in a classic post spawn pattern, meaning mostly males and largely scattered but hungry fish. As usual, a jig and rainbow rained supreme over opening weekend for anglers. Gold, gold/red, pink, blue were the top colors over the weekend for anglers. Anglers focused their efforts on current areas and large gravel flats in anywhere from 2 feet of water, down to as much as 16 feet of water. There was a handful of anglers who focused on these same areas with large floating rapalas, during the evening hours, and are being rewarded with some very large walleyes. Peak water temps reported were 53 degrees.
Pike - Pike anglers have not been disappointed so far this year. Anglers have been catching some very large pike with a heavy suckers floated under a large bobber. Shallow water, 10 feet or less has been best. Best areas to find these big pike has been in shallow mud bottom bays, near river mouths, but floating a sucker right off your dock or campsite, no matter the location, is always worth it this time of the year.
Stream Trout - While there were not a lot of stream trout anglers over opening weekend, there were still some who targeted streamers. With the late ice out, trout were located very close to shore and very high in the water column. Small spoons, small crank baits and spinners, casted along shorelines was every effective on hungry trout. Other anglers fishing from shore floated a night crawlers, about five feet under a bobber, and reported having good success.
Panfish - With several days in the high 70’s, crappies were being found in the shallow, mud bottom bays. Crappie minnow or hair jigs, suspended under a bobber was very effective. Pencil reeds and downed trees are areas to focus on within these mud bays." — Arrowhead Outdoors, 218-365-5358
"Walleye fishing was fantastic for the Minnesota Fishing Opener on the south end of Lake of the Woods. Anglers returned to the landings with many limits of eaters, and released lots of slot fish along the way. There were a good number of trophy fish over 28 inches also caught this past weekend.
Most anglers were after walleyes anchored up and vertically jigging with a jig and minnow along the south shore of Lake of the Woods. Ice just went out the week before so fish were still adjacent to spawning areas in many cases. Once you found the fish, it was typically good fishing.
The best jig colors were gold, orange, chartreuse, pink or a combo of these colors. Some tipped jigs with live minnows, others, frozen emerald shiners. Both worked well and there was plenty of bait available for the opener.
Depths varied from shallow to deep, depending upon where you were fishing. Some anglers catching walleyes in as shallow as 3 feet of water to as deep as 30 feet, with that 15 to 25 level being the most consistent.
The pike fishing continues to be good in the back bays. Some anglers are taking advantage of the numbers of fish in the bays post spawn, some love the action of pike fishing while others just like to mix it up a bit. As the waters continue to warm, lures such as inline spinners, spinnerbaits and crankbaits are producing more pike.
On the Rainy River, walleye anglers found some nice walleyes in the Rainy River for the opener. With the late spring, good numbers of walleyes are still in the river and in Four Mile Bay.
Anchored up and jigging with a minnow is the go to technique this time of year and worked well this past weekend for anglers fishing the river.
The spring sturgeon season finished up May 15, 2023. It will re-open again July 1st and will continue through May 15, 2024.
Folks had a great fishing opener up at the Northwest Angle too, with good fish caught. The jig bite produced on points, near neck down areas, adjacent spawning areas and areas with shoreline rubble produced walleyes for the opener. A lot of fish caught shallow as the water is still cold and most walleyes have just finished spawning." — Lake of the Woods Tourism, (800) 382-FISH
Frequent visitors know that I always reserve fishing opener for family fishing and usually, celebrate Mother’s Day too. This year, we had planned to fish on Lake Winnie, but just before we left home, I looked at the weather forecast, noted the wind speed and decided on a last-minute change.
At 18 months old, I wasn't interested in taking Audrey Jones, our guest of honor on a wild ride in the waves, we can do that when she's older. Thinking about close by lakes that might offer calmer seas, Susan and I settled on giving Swan Lake a try. We’ve had decent luck on walleyes in the past, and almost always catch some northern pike too.
At the lake, I was amazed by water temperatures in the 42-to-43-degree range. Wow! I didn’t expect to see swimming temperature water, but given the warm, sunny weather we’ve enjoyed recently, I expected something warmer than that. The only spot my graph registered warmer temperatures was on the west side of the lake. East winds had driven the warmest surface water into that direction, and it had stacked up along the shoreline.
Ironically, the fish were not really on that side though, the best spot we found was on the east side, in the coldest water I found. That’s right, a walleye, some pike and random perch bites all came from a spot where the surface water was 42 degrees. That flies in the face of conventional thinking, right? But I think the “apparently” warmer surface water on the west side was caused by the breeze and affected only the upper portion of the water column. In deeper water, the water was probably cold there too, so seeing the warmer surface reading was more like a false positive.
Jigs, 1/8 ounce tipped with small to medium rainbows was the only presentation we used. But if we’d had some medium sucker minnows, I wouldn’t have minded rigging up some bobbers. We caught several pike in the protected slot and it might have been using floats to try for larger pike. Despite the cold water, 6 to 8 feet was the key depth range. Whenever I scanned the deeper breaklines, the screen of my graph was clear.
Sunday, Mother’s Day turned out to be a fun in the sun day for I and Susan. We went shopping at the greenhouse and then played in the yard and garden. We did plan to go fishing too, but it was so nice outside that enjoying a nice day in the yard won the battle for our attention. Besides, there’s a lot of fishing in our futures, so we don’t feel like we missed out too much. Now our fingers are crossed that the weather stays warm so our early start on planting doesn’t turn out to be a problem!
Today is going to be focused on fishing and most folks that were on Winnie this Saturday had a lot of fun. The walleyes were on the prowl and there were lots of limits caught, and from a variety of areas. All those success stories has influenced my game plan for today, so Winnie is our intended destination. It appears though that we’ll be battling some strong west winds if we go there. So, the plan could change before we arrive at the lake; we’ll see about that. Either way, I’ll let you in on the results tomorrow morning as the season, for me, begins in earnest.
If you’re headed for the lake today, good luck out there, wave if you see us motoring across the lake. — Jeff Sundin 218-245-9858 or EMAIL
The supply of spottail shiners began making its way into dealers’ bait tanks on Wednesday. The word “limited” appears in most of the descriptions I’ve read, so I expect to see rationing and high prices this weekend. That said, the weather has presented minnow trappers with perfect conditions for trapping shiners. If the forecast holds true next week, I think we’ll see lots of tanks filling up with shiners.
For the most part fatheads and rainbow chubs are already stocked to most of the bait dealers’ tanks. One caveat, the size of fatheads varies from store to store, so if you’re particular about size, don’t make any assumptions, ask to see them before buying them.
For the next couple of days, I’m basically just a tourist, hoping to figure out where the walleyes are. But there are a few tricks that help me locate them and I shared a couple of them with you last Wednesday. The timing of shiners going into spawning mode ties into a very good reader comment regarding those fishing tips I offered on Wednesday. I offered, “Lots of you already know about the sort of places walleyes like. Rocks, fist size and smaller rocks located on patches of shoreline with current flow from streams or exposure to wind would be my first choice.” Our reader offered, “Don’t forget about shallow sand flats in 5 to 19 feet of water.”
That’s a really good point, particularly if the lake you’re fishing this weekend has strong populations of shiners or perch, or both. In spawning mode, walleye locations will be influenced by where the shiners are at any given time. On sunny, calm days, minnows push toward the shoreline as the water warms. So, my rule of thumb would be to push shallower in anticipation of catching schools of walleye in the act of chasing the swarms of baitfish.
On cooler, cloudier, or breezy days, minnows may fall back onto the weed flats. On days like that, my rule of thumb is to scan the flats for signs of short, stubby weed growth on the bottom. Look close at the image to the right, that bit of short grass might not look like a great habitat, but patches of 2-to 4-inch-tall vegetation provide more than enough cover to hold minnows.
On many of my favorite lakes, I can locate the right cover by simply remembering places where weed growth gets super heavy during summer. Flats that are hard to fish during summer because they get choked with vegetation like northern milfoil, will be easy to fish during early spring. Milfoils makes an easy example, but any newly emerging grasses would serve the same purpose. Watch your graph, when you see ‘fuzzy stuff” close to the bottom, you’re onto something.
If the wind happens to blow hard this weekend, then the steeper breaklines and points located adjacent to the grassy flats might be a better choice. Strong currents tend to push baitfish off the flats and onto edges, points or structures that offer easier swimming. Examples occur everywhere in our region, and you probably already know about some of them. Sandy, grassy flats of 6 to 12 feet located close to a steep 12-to-20-foot breakline might work. The system can work in reverse, with fish moving shallower, instead of deeper. Sandy, grassy flats in 6 to 12 feet of water, located close to a steep 4 to 6 breakline might work equally well.
Down to the wire, it’s time for me to wrap up a few last-minute rigging chores and get ready for tomorrow. After that, I plan on going into full scale “Relax-O-Mode” for the opener. I probably won’t see any emails today, so if you have a last minute question, or want to share a bait supply update, please do me a favor and text the FishRapper cell line.
Be courteous, drive straight and be safe and Good Luck out there this weekend! — Jeff Sundin 218-245-9858 or EMAIL
"Wired2fish’s McKeon Roberts showcases how to jig fish for finicky walleyes from a kayak. A tough bite forces Roberts to pivot from snap jigging walleye with jigs and plastics to real shiner minnows. He provides detailed instructions on effectively hooking shiner minnows to combat short strikes. This tutorial is helpful whether you fish for walleyes from the shore, a boat, or fishing from a kayak.
In this video, Roberts navigates the unique rocky bottom of Manitoba’s pristine Family Lake at Shining Falls Lodge, a classic Canadian Shield lake. While there is no best fishing kayak for all situations, Old Town’s Sportsman PDL works excellently to maintain precise boat control. Roberts uses the kayak’s pedal system to control speed and" ... View Video to Learn More >> Jig Fishing Walleyes from a Kayak | Deadsticking
“That man is a gentle soul”, the Hippie Chick said, “He’s kind and considerate and loves people.” That first impression of Greg Clusiau was an important one to me because the Hippie Chick, AKA my wife, Susan, has an uncanny knack for dialing in a first-rate assessment of a human being’s “goodness” or occasionally, lack thereof.
Greg and I have known each other for a long time, 35 years, in my recollection, but we’ve existed on parallel planes. We’ve worked together on group fishing trips, collaborated on writing projects and other “work” functions numerous times. Yesterday though was the first time we ever got to fish together, and the beauty of the experience was that neither one of us had to be “the guide”.
Lorin Lemire, owner operator of “Fish of the Gitch” charter service is a friend of Greg’s. Lemire, brought to my attention years ago in one of Clusiau’s syndicated fishing articles that chronicled some of their adventures. My interest, piqued by those stories, led me to contact Lemire about fishing together, he agreed and yesterday we finally got to do it.
The original timing of our trip would have put us on the big lake last week, but the MN-FISH summit meeting, scheduled for the same day, forced a change in that plan. Yesterday, cold air temperatures, rain, and the prediction of a breezy day ahead almost forced us into dropping the plan again. Luckily though, we waited around for a while and around 10:00 AM, the rain stopped. The lake was calm too, so the trip status switched back to green, for GO! We were loaded up and, on the water, sometime around noon.
On the way out, Lorin explained the game plan and pointed to the area he was planning to fish. “Schools of smelt are running hot and heavy, so lots of fish are up on the shoreline;” Lemire Said. “We’ll motor up the shoreline 4 to 5 miles and then fish close, that’s where I caught them last week,” he added. I’ll swing the story back around to the original plan later, but there was change when Lorin spotted something he liked better along our path. A mud line, formed where the lakes clear, cold water met with warmer, murky water draining from the river and into the lake. It's the sort of structue Lemire likes to fish and he couldn't pass by without giving it a try.
Setting the lines out was a straightforward process. Ten rods were used, some of them rigged with crankbaits, some with spoons and a couple were set up with “secret weapons”, known only to our captain. On this trip, there were no lures running deeper than about 10 feet, so downriggers were not used. Planer boards were deployed both to keep the lures out and away from the boat, and to maintain space between the lines. Once all the lines were out, straddling the line between cold, clear and warm, murky water at a moderately slow speed became the new master plan.
Whenever you get fishing guides together, stories are gonna get told. Add the Hippie Chick into the mix and the conversation expands exponentially. So, there was no shortage of something to talk about as we trolled along, anticipating our first strike. The shout, “there’s one”, interrupted the free-flowing guide chatter, and the boat went quiet as Susan was directed to take the first fish.
The whole point of the trip was to get into cohos, so last thing we expected to see was any really big fish. But the power of the fish Susan was reeling in was too strong to be a coho. “Maybe it’s a big lake trout? No, look it’s a nice king salmon!” Lorin said. When the Hippie Chick reels in most fish, she’s usually giggling and bubbly, but she turned a little more serious when she realized that she was working on something special. She did a good job of following our captain’s advice though and somehow, I and Greg managed to keep our traps shut so as not to complicate the coaching. Fish in the net, camera’s clicking and smiles everywhere, the trip was a success. Truthfully, we could have just rolled everything up and left the lake right then and there.
A blessing to be sure, that nice fat king salmon was a bonus, but it also changed our attitudes about Lorin's original game plan. Maybe trolling that mudline was the way to go? It wasn’t too long before we did catch a coho too, and that added fuel to the fire, so understandably, instead moving back to the original shoreline fishing plan, we stuck with the alternate plan. As it happens, those two fish constituted our catch for the day.
When we returned to the landing, there were a couple of guys cleaning fish. A mix of cohos and brown trout that they caught in the area that Lemire had originally planned to fish. I could see that he was somewhat disappointed that we stuck with the alternate plan instead of going with plan A. I don’t care, I know for a fact that catching the king salmon made my wife’s entire summer and there’s no number of smaller cohos that could have changed that. As guides, I and Greg agreed, we’ve second guessed ourselves plenty of times, but today we were as happy as anyone could be.
Frequesnt readers already know that I don’t just pass out haphazard or un-earned endorsements, so I hope this one means something special to you.
For me, yesterday’s fishing trip was nothing short of pure joy. Lorin is a fabulous charter captain, he’s got all the right gear, a great boat and most impressive, he's got a “people-oriented” personality. That's crucial because fishing for a living, believe it or not, is not about who catches the most fish. It is about creating the most happiness for your guests and if you ask me, our captain really has that dialed in.
Like most of the better fishing operators, Loren doesn’t have a ton of openings for the summer. But he does have a few, so if Lake Superior charter fishing has piqued your curiosity, I’d definitely make the call, sooner, not later. Facebook users can use this link to >> Contact “Fish of the Gitch” the rest of you can contact him via cell phone 218-260-6404
Back in the office, it's time to start checking in with still tight-lipped bait dealers. I'll get you some updates as they become available. — Jeff Sundin 218-245-9858 or EMAIL
"Open water on Lake of the Woods, just before the MN Fishing Opener on Saturday, May 13, 2023 is good timing on Mother Nature's part. A combination of hot sun, rain and a strong north wind was too much for the rotten ice to handle. Now there's open water as far as the eye can see and it is a welcome sight.
The prediction is for some great walleye and sauger action. Most anglers will be going after the walleyes anchored up and vertically jigging with a jig and minnow along the south shore of Lake of the Woods.
Jig colors like gold, orange, chartreuse, pink or a combination of these colors in the stained waters of LOW will be the ticket. Plenty of bait for the opener. Some anglers will go with live minnows, some frozen emerald shiners.
Once again, it is a combined limit of 6 walleyes and saugers on the Minnesota side of Lake of the Woods. Of those 6 fish, up to 4 can be walleyes. All walleyes 19.5 - 28 inches must be released. One fish is allowed in posession over 28 inches.
Walleyes will certainly get the attention this coming weekend, but don't forget about some wild pike action. The pike fishing this past week has been excellent. Good numbers of big pike are coming from various bays.
Dead bait, either under a bobber on a quick strike rig, or simply laying on the bottom, has been the goto bait. As the waters continue to warm, lures such as inline spinners, spinnerbaits and crankbaits will start to produce more fish.
On the Rainy River, it was a great week of sturgeon fishing. Hundreds of fish caught this past weekend with some absolute giants over 70 inches, with weights estimated at over 100 lbs. The sturgeon season continues through May 15th, and reopens again on July 1st.
Walleye anglers are excited to hit the Rainy River for the opener. With a late spring, there will be good numbers of walleyes still in the river and in Four Mile Bay. There are 42 miles of navigable Rainy River from Wheeler's Point to Birchdale with a number of boat landings in between. Perfect for smaller boats.
Up at the Northwest Angle, there is open water, along with some lingering ice that is anticipated to disappear by week's end. The excitement is building for the fishing opener with lots of walleyes around during the late ice period lending promise of good fishing come Saturday.
Points, neck down areas and shoreline rubble will be areas to pay attention to with the cold water. Pike anglers will be working shallow bays and neck down areas. Expect a mixed bag of fish if casting bays and shorelines this time of year." — Lake of the Woods Tourism, (800) 382-FISH
The Lake of the Woods report today offers optimistic guidance, “There's open water as far as the eye can see and it is a welcome sight.” Well, it’s been a few days since anyone could see a satellite image of northern Minnesota lakes. Cloud cover blocks the view of almost every lake we’re interested in seeing except one. Lake of the Woods happened to land in a clear spot yesterday, and the satellite caught an image. What the image suggests to me is that if the winds don’t blow from the northwest, folks on the south side should be fine. I doubt that it will happen, but theoretically, there’s still ice to cause trouble if the winds were to shift and blow in from that direction.
Closer to home, most lakes are wide open and most of us have assumed that Red Lake, Winnie, Leech and most of the other large lakes are wide open too. But my friend Larry Daigle was in the airplane yesterday and flew over Winnie. Larry sent over this email yesterday, “I flew over the area lakes last evening and the only ice I found was on Winnie. It was about 60% open, ice is pushed up to the west shore.”
By this weekend most of that ice will probably be gone but can recall one fishing season when there was still a lot of ice piled up on the west shore. At the time, we joked about catching our fish “up by the iceberg”. What I recall about fishing that spring was that walleyes were grouped tightly, in large schools, but only in a limited number of spots. It is possible that the water could be cold enough, and the spawning runs late enough for that to happen again this opener.
There’s likely been enough time for many of the female, larger size walleyes to have completed spawning already. But I think that on opening day, we should all be able to find some males, still in spawning mode and hoping for a late running female to wonder by. Shallow patches of gravel and the areas adjacent to them should produce some action for anglers who locate and then fish them correctly.
Lots of you already know about the sort of places walleyes like, rocks, fist size and smaller rocks located on patches of shoreline with current flow from streams or exposure to wind would be my first choice. If your timing is good, small rivers and flowages are also good, but the walleyes move in and out of them fast, so they are not as reliable.
One trick about fishing these spots is to stay away from the structure and “pitch” your jig and minnow combo toward them. Side imaging, if you have it, will come in really handy for finding spots like these. At times, side imaging does reveal fish, but don’t get too hung up on that. During early spring, all you need to see on the screen is the structure and rock or gravel patches show up great. If you have it, but don’t use yours a lot, this video will help. It’s an older one, and filmed in deeper water, but still very useful in terms of spotting the types of structure I’m talking about. Just move your boat into shallow water and scan the shorelines; it won’t take long before you start finding some interesting stuff, even schools of fish.
Once located, stop your boat within casting range and pitch lightweight jigs tipped with minnows onto the structure. Work your lure back to the boat using a “hop-drop-hop-drop” motion. In cold water, the object is to move the lure enough to get the fish’s attention, but not fast enough to force them into chasing it. When you feel a strike, allow lots of extra time for the fish to inhale the bait. In my experience, setting the hook too soon is the #1 reason that folks miss their fish.
I’m confident that folks will be tipping their jigs with minnows this weekend; I just don’t know what kind of minnows. Trappers and bait dealers in the north central region are not giving up much information right now. Like I said yesterday, some are optimistic, but many remain frustrated by cold weather, cloudy days and the like.
I live in northern Minnesota and if it is up to me, I’d ask you to support the businesses in my region. That said, supplies will be limited this weekend and the lines will be long. So, if you’re located in southern or western areas of Minnesota and heading north to fish this weekend, I think it would be smart to check with your local bait shops and maybe pack a handful of their bait for the trip north. Then you can re-supply up here, after the longest lines and tightest squeeze on supplies have passed.
Today, the Hippie Chick and I scheduled to be on a field trip to Lake Superior. We’ve had the trip planned for a while, but it has already been re-schedule dur to schedule conflicts. It’s raining right now, and that is not helping the prospects for today, but we’re still cautiously optimistic that we will make it happen. If we do, then I’ll let you know how it goes tomorrow, if not, I’ll share a few more tips about here to look for walleyes on the opener. — Jeff Sundin 218-245-9858 or EMAIL
My little update about getting ready for the fishing opener yesterday included a photo of my Alaskan, during the rigging process. Tools everywhere, unopened electronics boxes, no accessories and so on. Well, I did get the job finished and the boat looks a little better today than it did yesterday morning, don’t you think?
Yesterday’s image piqued the curiosity of a reader, Bob, who emailed with a question. “Hey Jeff, I saw your report today and wondered why you pulled the floor on the new Alaskan? Bob, the easy answer is that I was installing a couple of extra seat bases. The reason I do that, I think merits a little bit of extra discussion.
The Alaskan already comes with plenty of seat bases, but in my line of work, I need to get customers positioned a little differently. I prefer to line up all my fishing customers right up the middle of the boat. That way, they can fish just as conveniently from either the starboard or port sides. So, no matter if we’re trolling forward, backward or drifting, the seating position in always perfect.
Before installing the bases, I pull the floor to locate safe spots for them. Because the gas tank is located below the center panel of the boat, I can’t just start drilling and cutting. Great care must be taken to avoid adding the seat bases anyplace where they could contact the gas tank. So, before I do anything, I look for “safe” spots for the bases, and then measure the distances for drilling. After I have the pattern figured out, I can drill the needed holes for installation.
The installation is completed using “bolt-through” hardware, stainless steel machine screws, large stainless steel fender washers and stainless-steel locking nuts. Red arrows in the accompanying image show the bases installed and floor back in position; now we’re ready to start fishing.
Finishing the boat rigging was easier than getting answers about minnows, and their availability yesterday. On a short tour, I stopped at several bait stores and found that except for one of them, nobody had any minnows in stock yesterday. The one store that did have minnows, was holding small to medium size fatheads.
I may have scheduled my tour one day too early though, because most folks were expecting to hear from their preferred minnow trappers and wholesalers today. Some of the trappers fishing for rainbows, fatheads and other pond minnows have had their gear set in small waters for a few days already and were out in the field checking them yesterday. Shiner trappers, depending on large lakes for their supplies, were out in the field placing traps for the first time yesterday. So, the situation could change fast over the next couple of days.
The range of attitudes was wide, at one of the stores, I was told with absolute certainty that there would be plenty of bait on hand for the weekend. At another one, the story was full scale gloom and doom, “nobody’s got anything and that’s the way it’s gonna stay all summer”, that operator predicts. Between the two extremes, were folks hoping for good news but preparing for the bad, if it comes. On a scale of 1 to 10, overall optimism ranked about 6 I’d say.
Do you remember how the scenario played out last spring? The season opened with the supply of shiners at almost zero. Then, during the first few days of the season, shiner supplies trickled into bait shops and controlled by strict rationing, (See Fishing Report May 11, 2022) we were allowed to buy them in small quantities.
Then on May 25, 2022, all hell broke loose! The next morning, I wrote, “Starting right now, north central Minnesota walleye anglers will notice a dramatic easing of the previously restricted Spottail Shiners supply. Just in time for the Memorial Day Holiday, bait trappers found their traps teaming with the silvery bait fish on Wednesday morning.” I’d highly suggest reading that May 26, 2022, report because in it, MN-FISH’s role in securing the shiner trapping date extension was first mentioned. If shiner trappers had been required to shut down operations on the originally scheduled date, folks suffering from the great shiner shortage of 2022 would never have seen any relief.
This spring, the weather and water conditions have been progressing slowly, but not as slowly as last year. If Mother Nature keeps on the current trajectory, everything that happened last spring will happen again, only 5 to 6 days earlier. I checked the weather forecast for both Northome and Baudette, the region including Upper Red Lake, a spottail shiner hotspot. Daytime air temperatures are predicted to be warm and today, winds should be calm. This could be good news, the dark water up there warms quickly, that will help speed up progress.
For now, there’s not much we can do except wait and see how the story plays out. Over the next few days, I’ll be looking into securing the best interest rates on financing my minnow supplies for the early season. After that, I can start checking with as many of the bait operators as I can.
“Good manners are the grease that helps lubricate society.” That quote, borrowed from the late Barry Farber, is a good one to remember this week. All the bait dealers I know are trying as hard as they possibly can to get their minnow tanks filled up. If you could please be patient and understanding, the early season shortage will be a lot easier to get through. If the Farber quote is too hard to remember, maybe another famous quote will be easier, “Do unto to others as ….” — Jeff Sundin 218-245-9858 or EMAIL
Preparing the Prepare-Able, for me, means putting the finishing touches on the new Alaskan before the weekend. But you can bet that everybody with an interest in the fishing opener, no matter who, is doing the same thing today.
The cloudy weather prevents showing you a satellite image of north central Minnesota lakes. But this satellite image from last Thursday (May 5), the last clear day we’ve enjoyed, shows that most of the smallest lakes, some of medium ones, and even a few of the big ones were already open. Over the weekend, resorters, bait trappers and lakeshore owners were reporting on open water everywhere in the region. So today, most of the people I want to talk to will be wearing chest waders and standing In the water on one of the newly opened lakes.
Because finding out who will have minnows for the opener is my top priority today, I’ll have to go and find folks wherever they’re working. So, between spurts of accessories installation on the boat, I’ll make a field trip to learn what I can about bait supplies.
I don’t expect to hear that many of the bait trappers hit the motherlode, but I am hoping that with all the open water in the region, minnows will begin to trickle into the traps, and from there, into bait tanks this week. There should be some updates about that on Tuesday morning.
Still unfinished from last week, reports about walleye stocking, productivity, and survival rates. Topics that have now moved lower on the priority scale but will be sprinkled in as updates become available. Also, reader questions are stacking up a little bit, and I’ll spend some time working on that tomorrow too. — Jeff Sundin 218-245-9858 or EMAIL
The 2nd Annual MN-FISH Spring Summit took place on Wednesday May 3, 2023. In attendance, interested anglers from every walk of life including me, the smallest of all small businesses, all the way up the Governor of Minnesota himself. The agenda included discussions about MN DNR funding, Barotrauma, public fishing areas, the impact of Zebra Mussels on walleye populations and more. But for me, and maybe for you too, the #1 issue of the day was Minnesota’s minnow supply, or the lack of it.
MN-FISH board member Tom Neustrom, tasked with assembling a group of minnow dealers and trappers, did an excellent job of presenting attendees with testimony highlighting not only the problems, but also in offering up some potential solutions.
Good news first, Neustrom announced the relaxation of trapping deadlines for Spottail Shiners. Bait trappers will now be allowed to continue trapping shiners until June 1st in lakes infested with zebra mussels. In recent years, trappers were forced into a tight squeeze during spring by being forced to remove traps from infested waters based on an historic average water temperature. Often, arbitrary closure has occurred at a time when spottails were in the earliest stages of moving into water shallow enough to be caught in their traps. So, just as the supply started to flow, it was shunted because of the regulation.
The extension to June 1st will help trappers meet anglers’ demands through the peak of walleye fishing traffic, including the Memorial Day weekend. Admittedly, the extension won’t help much during the earliest portion of the season. So, years that feature a late ice out, like this one, will still be problematic. But nobody can control when the ice goes out, or when the shiners will begin their spawning runs and anglers will simply have to be patient with shortages during times like these.
Now, the bad news. Alternative minnow varieties like large fatheads, are getting harder to find.
I learned something new about the supply crunch when Marshall Koep, owner of Urbank Bait testified that the US Fish and Wildlife Service, in the interest of providing waterfowl habitat, has been buying parcels of land that have some of the best ponds for trapping fatheads. Once the lands become part of the USFWS system, they become off-limits to any commercial operations. As many of their best ponds are taken out of production, finding new sources of supply becomes increasingly difficult.
John Ferris, Full Stringer Bait, Frank Dusenka, Frankie’s Bait and Marine, along with others testified that regulations banning the importation of live minnows from other states are adding fuel to the supply shortage fire. Bait dealer’s appeal to the DNR for relaxed restrictions on imports were echoed through the room, but not well received. MN DNR Fisheries Section Manager Brad Parsons spoke to the point. “VHS and preventing the spread of it is our #1 priority”, Parson’s said.
Parson’s reluctance to imports from out of state is understandable because VHS (Viral Hemorrhagic Septicemia) is extremely nasty. VHS is a virus and an invasive species that is deadly to fish. The condition already threatens Wisconsin's fish, and it is the last thing anybody wants to see brought here, to Minnesota.
I don’t want to put words in anyone’s mouth, but as an observer, I got the impression that DNR biologists would prefer finding ways to increase local supplies. Minnow production in private ponds or maybe improving access to public waters? How exactly increasing “local supplies” can be accomplished in unclear, but there was clearly a sense of urgency. I do believe there’s enough momentum that progress can be expected.
Like I said, the minnow supply is particularly interesting to me, so that’s where I started. But there’s a lot more to report about the MN-FISH summit and I’ll get to that in the days ahead.
Today, I want to close with a plug for MN-FISH. In a previous report I wrote, “The reason I decided to give MN-FISH a whirl, was because I noticed something “bigger and better” happening with them. The coalition was big, and the list of board members was impressive, this group has a great chance to succeed. So, I chose to pony up $250 of my hard-earned cash and join it as a life member.”
After yesterday’s summit, I’m impressed again by how broad the cross-section of interested anglers this group has assembled. In his comments yesterday, Governor Tim Walz said; “Fishing has always been important in Minnesota and the issues we’re discussing have always needed to be addressed. But anglers have never had a group to push them forward and now you do.”
He’s right, MN-FISH has gained momentum and has influenced people in high places. If you’re like me and want to be part of a cooperative voice that promotes angling in Minnesota in a positive way, then maybe you should join us. Follow this link to >> learn more about MN-FISH and decide for yourself. — Jeff Sundin 218-245-9858 or EMAIL
Q) ON May 2, 2023 Kurt Stevenson wrote; “Hey Jeff, I was reading your article (May 1, 2023) and noticed the part about stripping walleye eggs at Cutfoot. If you ask me, they should leave the fish there alone instead of taking all the spawn out of the lake. I’ll bet Winnibigosh has a lot better track record in the years when there’s nobody stealing all our walleye eggs. You should into that.” Kurt Stevenson
A) Thank you for the note, Kurt, and for the invitation for me to roll up my sleeves and get to work on this update in response.
As it happens, your comments are representative of other comments that I, and some of the resort owners on Winnie receive from folks every spring. Over the years, those of us who attend annual meetings with DNR Fisheries Staff have heard the simple answer repeated often, but to my knowledge, nobody has ..." Read >> Hey, Get Your Hands Off My Eggs! May 3, 2023
"Rain, sun and wind are all putting a beating on the ice at Lake of the Woods. Open water progress is being made, ice is getting darker, things are progressing. The open water so far on the basin continues through the Lighthouse Gap, Morris Point Gap and amongst various bays.
Pike season is open year round on Lake of the Woods providing anglers with a unique chance to fish pike before the MN Fishing Opener. Now, there are various reports of pike in the bays. Most bays are now open or almost open for open water pike anglers.Big numbers of trophy pike over 40 inches are available to anglers. Try a live minnow under a bobber, dead minnow laying on the bottom, slow moving spoons, spinner baits and crankbaits. With the cold water, work these baits slowly.
This week was a great week for sturgeon fishing on the Rainy River. With the weather forecast ahead showing warm temps, fishing will only get better. Boat ramps are open up and down the Rainy River including the mouth of the river at Wheeler's Point.
Most anglers are using a sturgeon rig with a no roll sinker. Basically, a 4/0 circle hook loaded with crawlers and/or frozen emerald shiners on a 18 inch length of 60 pound test leader material or line teamed up with a 4 to 6 ounce no roll sinker.
Four Mile Bay (the bay that separates the mouth of the Rainy River and the big lake) continues to produce good numbers of sturgeon. In addition, nice sturgeon are being caught at various spots up and down the river. Most anglers are targeting holes or flats adjacent to the deeper water in that particular stretch of the river.
The sturgeon harvest season runs from April 24th, 2023 thru May 7th, 2023. Again from July 1, 2023 thru September 30, 2023. The catch and release season runs May 8, 2023 thru May 15, 2023 and October 1, 2023 thru April 23, 2024.
If you fish during the harvest season, purchase a sturgeon tag ahead of time for $5. One sturgeon per calendar year 45 to 50 inches or over 75 inches may be kept per angler during the harvest season. The sturgeon must be tagged immediately and registered within 48 hours.
Up at the NW Angle, open water areas continue to grow and the remaining ice is getting very dark. Areas with current are opened up as are many bays and marinas. Resorts continue to prepare for the MN Fishing Opener on Saturday, May 13, 2023 Based on late ice fishing success, the jig bite for walleyes should be excellent.
Crossing the border as you pass through Canada to reach the Angle is back to normal, or, pre-COVID status once again. There are many different ways to travel to the Angle.
It’s not a lot of fun getting blown around by strong winds; if you want proof of that, just ask the ice! In a single day, under the force howling northwest winds, ice conditions on north central Minnesota lakes began a major transition from winter to spring. Now, if there ever was any doubt about ice-out occurring in time for the Minnesota fishing opener on May 13, 2023, they can be laid to rest.
Anxious to see “something new” in terms of spring breakup, we watched every lake and puddle we could see along the route between Grand Rapids and Fertile, MN on Friday. There were a few small puddles open, but mostly, we saw only ice-covered lakes.
On our way home Sunday morning, the view changed a little, but was not all that much different. We saw small patches of open water along shorelines and some fully open water on some of the larger ponds, But the larger lakes like Bemidji, Cass and Winnie were still mostly ice covered. That was the view before 11:00 AM when we arrived home.
Between noon and 8:00 PM, friends began sharing images of ice breaking up. On Mille Lacs, there were piles of ice pushing up onto the beaches at a variety of locations. I shared some of the more dramatic images here on the >> Fishing Reports Minnesota Facebook page. From Brainerd heading south, friends reported that there was a new lake opening every couple of hours. On Lake Winnibigoshish, the blustery wind was shifting the lake’s main ice sheet south, causing cracks and fissures everyplace.
I borrowed one image from Evan and Tallie at High Banks Resort because of its correlation to a photo I published last spring. Compare yesterday’s April 30, 2023, image, with the one I snapped last spring on May 6, 2022. You can see that there’s more open water now than there was nearly a week later last spring. The wind never stopped blowing overnight, so I’m sure there’s been even more movement since. Cutfoot Sioux, this morning, still has ice on it, but now there are large swaths of open water along the shorelines. I don’t think the ice there can hold up for more than a few more days.
Meanwhile, only 50 miles southwest of our house, the Boy River walleye egg take near Woman Lake is underway. On Sunday, the nets were full and the walleye eggs, some of them at least, were ripe enough to begin stripping. The strength of the walleye run at this and other DNR egg take sites will determine how long the operation goes on.
There’s still a chance that the Cutfoot Sioux egg take could happen, but despite the fast-improving odds of ice-out occurring soon, Little Cutfoot is not ice free yet. So, even if the lake were to open today, it would be at least 4 days before anything would happen. The determining factor will be cost-effectiveness, it’s doubtful that the Grand Rapids crew would set up unless they needed to harvest a fairly large number of eggs; more on that later.
Last week I suggested preparing for shortages of minnows, especially shiners, for the walleye opener. That triggered an email exchange about bait supplies with a friend who has fished in my region a lot. He brought my attention to some articles about the non-weather-related bait shortages in Minnesota. Regulations brought about by government agencies attempting to “protect” our lakes from invasive species, force restrictions on how, when, and where, bait dealers are allowed to obtain minnows. In recent years, the worsening supply shortages have triggered discussions between dealers, angling groups, and government agencies.
One of those angler groups called MN-FISH has their 2nd annual spring summit meeting scheduled for Wednesday May 3, 2023. Minnesota’s bait restrictions and supply shortages is one of the key agenda items for this meeting. The meeting is important because MN-FISH has proven their ability to bring together a wide cross section of folks with interests in all virtually things, fishing.
I mentioned to my emailing fishing buddy that the issue of bait supply shortages and restrictions will be taken up this week by several high-ranking DNR fisheries staff, politicians and affected business owners. His reply was a common one, “I don’t have much faith in politicians and the DNR solving this. I think you can bank on a shortage, and if any (minnows) are available they will be so expensive no one can afford them!”
I’m the first to admit that having faith can be tough, especially when you’re in a hurry to see results. But these are the folks that we have elected to represent us and if we want to influence the system, we have to at least stand up and let them know what we need. So, that’s why I gonna drag my sorry butt into the car and drive down to the MN-FISH summit meeting this Wednesday. I’ll let you know the conversation plays out on Thursday and hopefully, at least part of the news will be good.
In the meantime, ice out is coming and warm temperatures, combined with sunshine this week is surely good news for area bait trappers and dealers. There may not be enough time to get a good head start on opening day minnow demands, but this could help them gather at least a few minnows. So, let’s all wish them good fortune as they toil to satisfy our demand for live bait. One thing I know for sure is that they’ll be doing their level best; they always do. — Jeff Sundin 218-245-9858 or EMAIL
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.