Anglers take advantage of bluebird conditions
Summer arrived just in time for the 2010 Minnesota fishing opener. The warm weather brought out anglers in droves and has kept the lakes busy the first week of the season.
Bluebird skies and calm winds are not exactly the best recipe for walleye fishing, which is usually better with cloudy skies and a little "walleye chop" on the water, but most anglers have found it hard to complain.
Many bass, crappies and sunfish had backed out of the shallows prior to the walleye opener, during an extended cold front.
The sudden increase in water temperatures this past week moved most of the bass, crappies and sunfish back into the shallows, where they are getting ready to spawn.
The muskie is another late-spawning species. They are also getting ready to spawn, as surface water temperatures exceed 60 degrees in most lakes.
Muskies are at a competitive disadvantage when spawning in the same lakes as northern pike. Northern pike spawn before all the ice is off the lakes, so they have more than a month head start on the muskies.
This years' hatch of northern pike are already large enough to eat the small muskies, almost as fast as they hatch. Competition from northern pike severely limits natural reproduction for muskies.
The bass and muskie openers are delayed to give them more time to spawn. Bass season opens on May 29 and muskie season opens on June 5.
The warm temperatures have also brought the spot-tail shiners into the shallows to spawn in lakes like Bemidji, Cass, Winnibigoshish, Leech and Upper Red. Many walleyes in those lakes will stay in shallow water feeding on the spawning shiners until they finish spawning and move back into deep water.
The insect hatches have begun in most lakes with midges and gnats among the first to hatch. There was also a heavy mosquito hatch in many areas recently. The larger varieties of mayflies and dragonflies hatch towards the end of the spring bug hatches.
The baitfish and other small fish are moving to deep water where they can feed on insects hatching out of the mud. Larger predator species follow the baitfish into deep water, where they feed on both minnows and insects.
Anglers have been finding walleyes in shallow water in most lakes with good shiner minnow populations. Most walleyes have been on shoreline structure in six to 10 feet of water in areas with emergent cabbage weeds or rocks.
Walleyes using deep water are already on mid-lake structure in many lakes, with more fish moving deep as the water temperatures increase and the insect hatches intensify.
Anglers have been using jigs and shiner minnows for shallow walleyes in most lakes. Most anglers fishing walleyes in deep water have switched to live bait rigs with leeches, night crawlers or larger minnows. Jigs and minnows can also be used for the deep walleyes, if anglers have a good feel for finesse jigging.
Leech Lake has been good for walleyes since the opener, with some anglers claiming there were more boats on Leech Lake this opener than on any opener in memory. Most of the walleyes in Leech Lake have been biting in 10 to 14 feet of water.
Anglers on Lake Winnibigoshish have been catching walleyes on jigs and minnows on most of the shoreline points in seven to 10 feet of water.
Upper Red Lake has been good for walleyes, but anglers have had to spread out to find fish. Most walleyes are being caught in six to 10 feet of water on several different presentations.
Blackduck Lake has been good, but it has also been very busy with anglers. Most of the walleyes are being caught in 10 to 18 feet of water.
Cass Lake and Lake Bemidji have been slower for walleyes, with anglers finding walleyes in both shallow and deep water.
The Bemidji Eagles Club is holding the Gary Newell Memorial Walleye Tournament this Saturday on Lake Bemidji and Lake Irving. Anglers will be able to register up until the rules meeting on Friday night, so interested anglers should go directly to the Eagles Club to register.
Paul A. Nelson runs the Bemidji Area Lakes Guide Service. He can be e-mailed at firstname.lastname@example.org.