Good things expected for fishing opener
The cool April that followed some 70 degree days in March likely turned out to be a blessing for anglers as many predict good things for fishermen who take to the lakes for the Minnesota walleye and northern pike opener on Saturday.
The early ice out was a cause for concern, as anglers feared that the water temperatures would push fish out into deeper water before the season even opened. A cold April made sure that didn't happen as water temps remain right around average for this time of year heading into Saturday.
"I was thinking we were going to miss most of the best month of the season," Alexandria area and Mille Lacs Lake fishing guide Joe Scegura said on Tuesday. "The cold temperatures have held the water temps down. Crappies are just starting to spawn, usually that's Memorial Day weekend probably, so we're maybe a little ahead of schedule, but we'll still be in some of the best fishing. We didn't miss too much."
Both Scegura and Glenwood Area Fisheries Supervisor Dean Beck predicted a very strong opener if the forecast of sun and mid-60 degree temperatures holds up.
Beck said the walleye population on many area lakes this year looks really good. Back-to-back productive spawning classes for walleye on the lakes that support natural reproduction, coupled with the stocking efforts by the Department of Natural Resources and area sportsmen's groups have made for a healthy population in many lakes across the county.
"I think the fish are certainly there," Beck said. "It's a matter of finding them."
Anglers should be able to find them in the shallows where they normally do this time of year. Scegura said fishing over sand and gravel in 7-15 feet of water is the place to be.
He generally sticks to a jig or a Lindy Rig tipped with a minnow this early in the season. After that, it's all about controlling speed.
"Slow is the key," Scegura said. "The slower the better. That's what I mean by your trolling speeds. Your average person out there is going way too fast, and if they'd slow it down, they'd catch a lot more fish."
The Alexandria area features a number of both deep and shallow bodies of water for anglers to choose from. The shallow lakes warm faster, which usually leads to a better bite early in the season.
"This year, with the water being a little ahead of schedule, it's going to make it a little more even keel," Scegura said. "Meaning that some of the deeper lakes are going to produce as well. It's going to be a good opener overall, and the walleyes should be going on most of the lakes in the area."
Beck said the average water temperatures were in the mid-50s earlier this week. The walleye and northern are done spawning but likely still hanging out in the shallows to feed.
"There's just not that much need to go deeper than maybe 20 feet," Scegura said. "For the most part, your populations of fish are going to be in that 7-15 foot range. Minnows would probably be your bait of choice, but because we're a little ahead, leeches and crawlers might work too."
Anglers generally take to the waters optimistic heading into the opener. This year, the elements seem to be in their favor.