Walleye action better than expected on cold opener
The ice is finally gone from the lakes in the Bemidji area. A strong southerly wind was able to break up the last of the ice and blow it off the lakes.
Workers were busy putting in docks and fixing boat ramps at many of the local public accesses this week, trying to make up for lost time. Most of the docks should be in the water by this weekend.
Many anglers stayed further south on the fishing opener, presumably waiting until later in the season before heading north to fish.
It was well publicized in all of Minnesota that some of the northern lakes still had ice, so that likely contributed to the smaller turn-out on the opener in the Bemidji area.
Everything in the outdoors is at least two weeks behind this spring.
Spawning was delayed for many species of fish because of the cold water.
The effects of the cold spring can also be seen on land. Lilac bushes have barely started to bud, when they are normally in full bloom on Memorial Day weekend.
Morel mushrooms are just starting to pop up in the woods, when they normally peak around the first of May.
Fortunately, fishing was better than expected on many lakes on the opener, despite the poor weather conditions. Many anglers found plenty of male walleyes that were ready to bite.
The best areas were usually close to the spawning sites. Many anglers fished smaller lakes, where water temperatures are warmer.
Water temperatures in some of the larger walleye lakes are still in the low 40s, so there could be spawning walleyes in some areas. Walleyes normally spawn between 42 and 46 degrees.
Lakes with stained shallow water will warm up much more quickly than lakes with deep clear water, so they are further ahead in the progression of the spawn.
The late spring means anglers are starting to fish at an earlier point in the spawn than in a normal year.
Anglers will be able to stay on a hot walleye bite longer this spring by starting on shallow stained lakes and then switching to the deep clear lakes, following each type of lake through the same temperature range.
Anglers often miss some of the peak walleye bite on the smaller lakes, waiting for the season to open. Anglers don't have to miss anything this year.
Some of the best walleye lakes the first week of the season included Andrusia, Kitchi, Big Wolf and Rice Lake on the Cass Lake chain.
Lake Winnibigoshish was hot on the opener, with connecting waters like the Cutfoot Sioux, Third River Flowage and Sugar Lake are all producing some walleyes.
Lake Irving was good for walleyes on the opener, while Lake Bemidji still had ice. Upper Red Lake was one of the hottest lakes in the state for walleyes in the first week of the season. Anglers are catching good numbers of walleyes along most of the east and south shores in 4-6 feet of water.
Most anglers have been using either a bobber rig or a jig and minnow along the shoreline break for the walleyes. There have also been some good reports for crappies in Upper Red Lake, with most of the crappies coming from areas with either rock or mud bottom.
Anglers have also been catching crappies in the shallows of some other area lakes. The best areas for crappies are often protected from the wind and have surface water temperatures above 50 degrees.
Crappies want some type of cover when they are in shallow water, whether it is weeds, rocks or wood. Crappie fishing should just get better in the next couple of weeks.
There are still a few openings for the Kraus/Anderson Walleye Classic to be held June 14 on Lake Bemidji and Lake Irving. Interested anglers can contact Bob Fitzgerald at 218-759-0596 or visit the main office at 206 Beltrami Ave. N.W.
The Eagles Club walleye tournament scheduled for this Saturday on Lake Bemidji and Lake Irving has a full field of 75 boats, so the registration has been closed.
Paul A. Nelson runs the Bemidji Area Lakes Guide Service. He can be contacted by calling 218-759-2235.