Minnesota muskie fishing season opens Saturday
Bass season opened much like the walleye season with cold temperatures, wind and plenty of rain. The last fishing opener of the spring is this Saturday when the muskie season opens in Minnesota.
Anglers will be able to fish for whatever species they want once the muskie season opens. Many anglers like to stick with walleye fishing as long as the bite is good and won't fish for other species until the walleye bite slows.
There are some anglers who like to fish for the same species of fish nearly every time they are on the water, whether they fish for bass, walleyes or muskies. Many of the one-species anglers are either tournament anglers or one-species fishing guides.
Muskie anglers like the physical nature of the sport and most enjoy the whole process of casting big baits for big fish. They don't expect to catch a lot of fish, they just want to catch big fish and they are willing to work hard to do so.
Muskie anglers carry cameras and long rulers so they can catch, measure, photo and release their fish. If they take fish home to eat, it is usually a northern pike or larger walleye they catch by accident while casting for muskies.
Muskie fishing is mostly for younger anglers with good backs. Casting muskie baits all day long is much harder than it looks. There is a saying that all old muskie anglers eventually turn into trollers or they give up the sport and go back to catching "smaller" fish.
One of the best tactics for early-season muskies is called "burning a bucktail". The cabbage weed are not fully developed and haven't reached the surface yet so anglers are able to work baits over the tops of the weeds.
Burning a bucktail simply means making long casts and reeling in an in-line bucktail spinner fast enough to stay out of the weeds but not so fast that the lure breaks the surface of the water.
This presentation quickly covers a maximum amount of water. It also moves fast enough that muskies can't get a good look at the bait, so they have to chase the bait and, hopefully, bite it to get a better look at it.
Bass anglers also like to cast but instead of making numerous casts for one or two fish like muskie anglers do, most bass anglers prefer action and bass are usually willing to bite.
Bass and other members of the sunfish family are waiting for the surface water temperatures to rise into the 60s so they can move onto their beds and spawn.
Water temperatures have been stalled in the mid-50s in most lakes, which has delayed the progress of the spawn for bass, as well as crappies and sunfish.
The cold water temperatures and high water levels have stunted weed growth in most lakes, with the cabbage and coontail weeds just starting to grow. Most of the new reed beds and bull rushes are also behind schedule and have not yet broken through the surface of the water.
The insect hatches also started this past week. The midges are the first "fish flies" to hatch in the spring, with the dragonfly and mayfly hatches to follow soon.
Most walleye anglers have been catching their walleyes along shoreline structure by casting or dragging jigs and shiner minnows. The best cover has been the emerging cabbage weed beds or areas with gravel and rocks on the bottom.
Walleyes in most of the larger lakes will stay on shoreline structure as long as the spot-tail shiner minnows are spawning. Once the spot-tail shiner minnows are done spawning the insect hatches in deep water will begin to attract many of the baitfish and walleyes.
Many walleye anglers will switch to live-bait rigs tipped with leeches or larger minnows when the walleyes start to move off the shoreline into deeper water.
Paul A. Nelson runs the Bemidji Area Lakes Guide Service. He can be e-mailed at firstname.lastname@example.org.