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Updated: Cool water temps make for a tough walleye bite on opener

Anglers fish not far from the north public boat access on Lake Mary near Alexandria on Saturday's fishing opener. Many anglers coming off the lake had reports of a slow bite. (Eric Morken / Echo Press)1 / 2
Trucks and boat trailers line the parking area on the north Lake Mary public access. (Eric Morken / Echo Press)2 / 2

In terms of weather conditions, anglers who set out on Minnesota’s pike and walleye opener on Saturday morning could not complain much in the Alexandria area.

It was cool. Those who launched their boats at midnight did so with temperatures in the low 40s, but rains stayed away and wind was almost nonexistent with the sun peeking through the clouds as the day got closer to noon.

As for the bite, that was almost as cool as the early-morning temperatures for many of the anglers coming off of area lakes.

“The walleye fishing started out a little slow,” Dana Freese of Christopherson Bait said on Monday morning. “There were some guys who caught fish in the creeks and current areas. I think that was pretty good this year because it hasn’t been a long time since the ice went out.”

Andy Lund of Moorhead has a cabin in the area and was fishing on Lake Mary for the opener. He generally can find a few walleyes to take home on Mary, but ran into tougher luck on Saturday, boating just one northern.

“Guys around me were finding fish, but I wasn’t finding anything,” Lund said. “Guys with little walleyes. One 21-incher I saw someone caught, but that was it.”

Lund was targeting walleyes in areas he normally does on opener - 17-20 feet of water and going after them with a jig and a minnow. He saw some fish on the depth finder, but not as many as last year, he said.

Bob Booth of Carlos and Tim Olson of Alexandria were on Lake Mary before 7 and had a couple of small walleyes to show for their efforts that they threw back.   

“We went a little shallower. We ended up with two in probably 13-16 feet of water,” Olson said. “Warmer years we’ve caught them out in 20-22 feet of water on opener out here. It’s just a different year. Thirty days behind on a lot of stuff.”

The late ice out this year has meant cool water temperatures. Lake Mary was about 52 degrees Saturday morning.

“If it would have stayed warm, I think we probably would have had a little bit of a bite,” Freese said. “I think we’re really close. Normally, that good spring bite starts at about 55 degrees (water temperature) and goes to about 65.”

Booth and Olson have fished Lake Mary on opener for many years and did not see the kind of boat traffic they often see on the lake.

“We like to go out for the opener, even though it can be crazy,” Booth said. “There weren’t as many boats out this year. It’s definitely slowed it down. I think people just said we’ll wait until the water warms up a little more.”

Booth’s strategy is to make the best of the situation and go after crappies as the bays continue to warm up over the next week. That was the plan for many of the anglers coming off of Mary, including Jeff Dewanz of Alexandria.

Dewanz was on Lake Oscar early in the morning on opener and caught nothing. Another angler putting his boat in on Mary had a similar report after spending the early morning on Oscar.

Dewanz’s boat caught a few fish on Mary, but things were slow.

“It’s kind of what I thought it was going to be, though,” Dewanz said.

Freese said the anglers he talked to who did focus on panfish this past weekend had much better success than those who targeted walleyes.

“My customers that were crappie fishing are catching fish,” he said. “The bluegills are moving in. The bass fishermen did good. There’s lots of options.”

Walleye anglers might have to just be a little more patient. With air temperatures expected to be near 80 degrees this week, it likely won’t be long before water temps help heat things up.

“I expect that overall the walleye fishing is going to improve like every other year as we head toward Memorial Day Weekend,” Freese said. “We’re going to catch up with this warm weather.”

Eric Morken

Eric Morken is the sports and outdoor editor at the Echo Press and Osakis Review newspapers in Douglas County, MN. Follow him on Twitter at echo_sports.

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