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PAUL NELSON COLUMN: Warm-up helps spawn, walleyes should be ready for opener

Only three more weeks until the 2017 Minnesota Walleye Opener on May 13. Anglers will be looking at a combination of an early spring and a late opener, which means the walleyes should be fully recovered from the spawn and ready to bite when the season opens.

If the warm-up continues ahead of schedule without a prolonged cold snap, walleyes will be much more advanced in their post-spawn movements this year when the season opens.

Walleyes were in full spawn this past week in many lakes, with surface water temperatures reaching the upper 40s.

The Cutfoot Sioux/Williams Narrows walleye egg stripping station was extremely busy this past week, with migrating walleyes filling up the DNR holding nets.

The walleye stripping station is located just off of Hwy 46 north of Deer River and is a popular destination for many visitors wanting to see the big walleyes and watch how the operation works.

DNR workers strip the spawn from both male and female walleyes, mixing them together in big bowls. The mixture is stirred with a feather while adding a specific type of mud, to help the fertilization process and harden the eggs.

The walleye eggs are then put into incubators that provide the perfect conditions for the walleye eggs to hatch. The incubators usually achieve an 80 to 90 percent success rate, while allowing the walleyes to spawn in Little Cutfoot would result in a success rate close to zero.

Little Cutfoot is heavily silted and has a slow current, so there isn't enough of the right type of habitat for a successful walleye spawn. The walleyes would try to spawn anyway and the eggs would likely have an extremely low survival rate.

Instead, the walleye eggs are harvested and hatched in incubators, using the walleye fry to stock into many different lakes. Some of the walleye fry are planted into shallow ponds, where they grow until fall and then netted back out of the ponds to be stocked as fingerlings.

Lakes with high populations of crappies and sunfish don't usually respond well to walleye fry stocking. The panfish eat too many of the fry, so stocking fingerlings is much more successful because fingerlings are too big to be eaten by the panfish.

Anglers that haven't purchased their 2017 Minnesota Fishing Licenses are encouraged to purchase the optional walleye stamp when they get their license.

Proceeds from the walleye stamps are strictly earmarked for walleye stocking, which gives walleye anglers the opportunity to help make walleye fishing better.

The walleye stamps are also collectable, so non-anglers may want to purchase a walleye stamp as part of their stamp collection.

Some anglers waiting for the walleye season to open have been out on the lakes trying to find some crappies and sunfish. Anglers should be seeing increasing numbers of panfish moving into the shallows as water temperatures exceed 50 degrees.

There is usually a sporadic bite for panfish during the day, with a better flurry of activity late in the afternoon, when water temperatures are near their peak for the day.

Mud bottomed bays and necked down areas that warm-up faster than the main lake are usually the areas where crappies and sunfish show up first in the spring, looking for insects and minnows.

Most anglers like to use bobber rigs with small jigs, with small fathead minnows working better for crappies and wax worms working better for sunfish.

Most of the docks at the public accesses are still out of the water, so anglers need to be ready to launch their boats without the aid of a dock.

Many different entities are responsible for putting the docks into the public accesses, depending on where the accesses are located.

The scheduling for placement of docks are usually set ahead of time, based on average ice-out dates, with little room for adjusting the schedule during an early spring.

The docks will start going into the public access in some lakes this week, with most of the docks likely to be in place by May 1.

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