Pieces are in place for a great opener
Only one week remains before the 2010 fishing opener in Minnesota. The season for walleyes, northern pike and trout living in lakes opens next Saturday, May 15.
Many lakes in the Bemidji area set records for early ice-out dates this spring. Most lakes will have been ice-free for more than one month when the walleye season opens.
Surface water temperatures have actually dropped several degrees in the past couple of weeks, after many days with cold temperatures, high winds and rain.
There is the possibility of snow in the forecast for today, with a slow warming trend expected leading into the fishing opener.
It looks like the pieces are in place for a good walleye opener.
Most years, anglers have had to look for the warmest water in the warmest lakes to find active walleyes early in the season. Most of the fish caught are smaller male walleyes on a normal opener, with female walleyes still recovering from the spawn.
This year should be different. The opener might be great if the weather doesn't mess things up. The female walleyes have had plenty of time to recover from the spawn, so they should be ready to bite along with the male walleyes when the season opens.
There may still be a few post spawn walleyes feeding their way back into their home lakes in chains of lakes. Most walleyes should already be back in their home lake.
The big perch have been back in the shallows for a couple of weeks, feeding on minnows, crayfish and smaller perch. Anglers should catch more bonus perch than usual on the opener this year.
The weed beds in the lakes are also more advanced than usual this spring. The reed beds have already spouted new shoots and the cabbage weeds are taller than a foot in many lakes.
The insect hatches (midges) had already started in mid-April, before cold temperatures shut things down. Everything in the lakes has been in a holding pattern while the water temperatures dropped.
Crappies and sunfish had moved into the shallows in many lakes, but they may have moved back into slightly deeper water during the cold weather, only making brief feeding movements into the shallows as conditions allow.
Warm weather should give everything in the lakes a jump start back into the shallows. Crappies and sunfish should move back into the shallows very quickly as soon as the weather turns warmer.
If anglers had crappies located this spring, they should still be close to the same areas, only in slightly deeper water holding tight to the bottom.
Crappies will bite if anglers can locate where they go when they pull out of the feeding areas. Anglers can try dragging a small jig with plastics or a minnow along the bottom or slowly cast and retrieve the jigs.
Once crappies are located, anglers can anchor up wind of the fish and cast jigs or let slip-bobber rigs sit over the fish.
Crappies usually move to the closest deep water when they move out of a feeding area. In shallow bays and necked down areas, they may move into a small depression that is only slightly deeper than where they were feeding.
Crappies may move further out of feeding areas during extended periods of cold weather or during big winds, but they usually only move as far as they need to in order to feel safe.
Anglers with some big crappies located may want to try their luck in the Bluewater spring crappie tournament this Saturday. The tournament hours are from midnight to 3 p.m. with all fish needing to be presented to the scales before 4 p.m.
Anglers are allowed to fish any lake open to public fishing. There will be two-person teams, with an entry fee of $25 per person. Prizes will be awarded for the largest three stringers of 10 crappies and for the largest individual crappie.
Registrations will be accepted through today at Bluewater Outdoors. For more information, contact Bluewater Outdoors at 218-444-2248.
Paul A. Nelson runs the Bemidji Area Lakes Guide Service. He can be e-mailed at firstname.lastname@example.org.