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Water temps warming as anglers ready for opener

Alexandria's Drake Herd with a big walleye. Herd, who fishes on the Cabela's and Bass Pro Shops National Walleye Tour, was expecting a good opener if some warmer weather continued this week to get water temperatures into ideal conditions for this time of year. (Submitted photo)

There was a period of time early this spring where anglers excited about the May 11 fishing opener in Minnesota might have been a little nervous.

A May 4 ice out last spring led to cooler water temperatures on the opener and a slower walleye bite for some in the area.

It seemed like things were headed that direction again. Instead, rain and enough warm weather came throughout this spring that led to an April 23 ice out on Lake L'Homme Dieu in Alexandria. That was within a week of the historical average, and it has those water temperatures moving in the right direction for anglers who are ready to go after walleyes this weekend.

"As long as we have a fairly decent warming trend this week, I think the opener should definitely be good," Alexandria's Drake Herd said on Monday morning. "Water temps are anywhere from 48 to a little over 50 degrees right now, and usually once you get into the 50s, the walleyes really start snapping."

Herd fishes the Cabela's and Bass Pro Shops National Walleye Tour. He just got back from a tournament on Lake Winnebago in Wisconsin where he finished 12th out of 166 boats. He will be back in Minnesota this weekend for the opener as he anticipates getting out on some of the local waters that he has grown to know well over the years.

"It's definitely a tradition for my family," Herd said of the Minnesota opener. "We have relatives come up, and we're going to go out regardless, whether it's storming or anything else. It's always a great tradition in Minnesota and the Alexandria Lakes Area is a great area for people to catch a lot of walleyes the first weekend of the year."

Herd has a pretty defined gameplan when it comes to fishing the opener. Like a lot of anglers, he is targeting those shallower lakes that might have a little warmer water temperatures this early in the season. That can mean some of the many smaller lakes in the area, but depth is the key factor he is looking at when it comes to determining whether he will fish one of the more popular bigger bodies of water on opener.

"I consider Reno a shallower lake," he said. "When it comes down to it, Ida, Carlos, Miltona are deep, clear lakes, so I tend to stay away from those. Reno, Osakis, Mary, they're not nearly as deep. They only get 30-some feet for the most part, if that."

Herd called this part of the season his favorite time of year as he targets walleyes in shallow water.

"Basically, I go to a shoreline and I'm looking for that first break," Herd said. "Whether it's a 3-to 6-foot drop or from 7 to 9 feet. Generally speaking, I'm not going to be deeper than 10 feet at this time of year. Most of those fish are done spawning, and they're really active. The shiners are going to start moving up shallow, and that's where they're going to be so they can feed the most."

A jig and minnow approach is the most popular tactic for boating walleyes this time of year. Herd will also use a Lindy Rig tipped with a minnow, and getting that bait away from the boat can be key. That's especially true at this time of year when fishing those shallow depths.

"The water is cooler, we haven't had any algae bloom, so it's going to be crystal clear," Herd said of area lakes. "The further you can get your line out away from the boat, the better off you're going to be. A lot of times, we'll either pitch jigs, or I'll actually throw it behind the boat and troll at like .81 mile-per hour along those breaks until we locate fish, and then we'll kind of back off and cast to them."

Any weed growth off those shallow breaks is ideal for holding fish, as well.

"That's what you're looking for, any kind of weed—cabbage, coontail, and also rocks," Herd said. "Any little rock piles, that's where that warm water is going to be. They're going to hug tight to that stuff so they can ambush anything that might be up there."

Send us your photos from opener

The Echo Press would like to publish your photos and stories from fishing opener.

Send photos and details of your catch to emorken@echopress.com. Please include names and hometowns of anyone in the photo, along with the county or lake that the fish were caught in. Photos must be submitted by Monday morning at 9 a.m. to have a chance to be printed in the May 15 outdoor section of the paper.

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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