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Fishing opener: Beautiful day brings out anglers

From left, Ian Thomas of Seattle, Wash., watches as his friend, April Gustaphson of Bemidji, fishes Lake Bemidji off a dock at Diamond Point Park in Bemidji. Gustaphson hadn't caught anything by mid-morning but was looking forward to getting out on the lake by boat later in the afternoon. Pioneer Photo/Anne Williams

Saturday's weather was so nice many anglers didn't seem to care whether or not they caught fish on opener.

"My biggest impression was everyone was out fishing because it was such a beautiful day," said Ron Bostic, owner of Taber's Bait in Bemidji.

Bostic said he had heard mixed reports from fishermen throughout the day. The common trend among anglers was fishing the shallows in the morning and deeper water at (about 28 feet) towards mid-day.

A spot-tail shiner on a chartreuse hair jig was a popular choice for many anglers on Saturday, Bostic said. He said the largest fish he heard caught was a 26-inch walleye caught before mid-day.

"A lot of people have been catching pike. The perch fishing has been good in the shallows, as well," Bostic said.

Rob Ek, store manager at Gander Mountain, said the bait shop was busy all day Saturday.

"We sold out of leaches right away because of the later and warmer weather," Ek said.

By about 1 p.m. Ek said he hadn't heard from many fishermen yet, but he did talk to some anglers who had some success in the morning.

Ek said anglers kept it simple on opener, as far as their choice of hook and bait. Bare hooks with beads and chartreuse-colored jigs were popular choices.

Anglers who braved the crowds on Blackduck Lake were rewarded with plenty of action, according to Jon Ross of Timberline Sport N' Convenience.

"The walleyes were concentrated in the shallow bays," Ross said. "The bite was very good, almost too good. Everybody who stayed in the pack caught walleyes."

The preferred depth was nine to 14 feet and a jig tipped with a minnow was the best presentation.

"There was nothing complicated about catching walleyes on Blackduck Lake Saturday," Ross said. "All you needed to do was put a minnow on a green or white jig."

Blackduck Lake, according to Ross, is not conducive to natural reproduction but Department of Natural Resources officials stock the lake every two years.

"And the lake is full of walleyes right now," Ross said, adding that walleyes 16 to 17 inches are common.

On Saturday those fish were hungry.

"Many fishermen caught limits," Ross said. "We knew it was going to be a good opener because fishermen who went after crappies this week caught many walleyes.

"And, as long as the sun stays out, fishing should be good."

Cass Lake also yielded its share of walleyes Saturday, according to Dean Phillips of Froggy's Sports in Cass Lake.

"The jig and shiner worked in 15 feet was the best but there also was a decent leech and crawler bite," Phillips said. "The walleyes and the lake were in their early June patterns."

Knowing what those patterns are and how best to utilize them were the keys to catching walleyes on Cass Lake on opening day.

"The locals did very well because they know the patterns and knew where to find the fish," Phillips said. "It was important to adapt and be versatile. You needed to figure out where the fish were and what to throw at them."

Winnie also produced walleyes on Saturday, according to Phillips, and fishermen found some huge sunfish and crappies on Leech Lake.

Phillips did notice a common theme from everyone who came to his store on Saturday, even those who couldn't find the fish.

"Everybody was in a great mood because of the weather," he said. "Even if they didn't catch fish, they did soak in the sunshine and that made their day."