PAUL NELSON FISHING: Post-spawning pods a key to locating those walleyes
Happy Mothers Day!
The 2018 Fishing Season is open across Minnesota. Many anglers that were on the water Saturday will be staying home today or taking their "mom" fishing.
Water temperatures are still pretty cold as far as openers go, with surface water temperatures in the mid-40s in most of the local lakes.
There were still ice chunks on a few lakes like Lake of the Woods and Leech Lake when the season opened, but anglers were able to find plenty places to go fishing.
The key to catching walleyes during a late spring is to locate the post spawn pods of male walleyes that recover much faster than the larger female walleyes.
Anglers can picture any large group of people dispersing after some event and looking for a place to eat as they head back home. Walleyes will be doing the same thing after they are done spawning.
Some walleyes may be hungrier than others and will head for the closest place to eat. Others may have a particular destination in mind to eat, while others may want to go straight home and worry about eating later.
Male and female walleyes often separate after they spawn with different destinations in mind. There will still be high traffic areas with both female and male walleyes passing through after they spawn.
River spawning walleyes re-enter the lakes through inlets, with some fish traveling through several lakes to make it back home.
Most walleyes living in a chain of lakes will spend their summer in the largest lake in the chain because it usually has the most deep water, the most structure and presumably the most food.
Some walleyes will choose to live in smaller lakes in the chain for whatever reason, so all of the lakes will end up with a resident population of walleyes.
Anglers need to find the closest concentrations of baitfish near the spawning sites when they start looking for fish. The inlets and outlets on chains of lakes will be high traffic areas as long as some walleyes are still migrating through the system.
The perfect example of a high traffic area on the opener was near the mouth of the Rainy River where it empties back into Lake of the Woods through Four Mile Bay.
Four Mile Bay and the lower portion of the Rainy River was a popular destination for anglers on the opener as many walleyes were heading out of the Rainy River and back into Lake of the Woods.
Other similar areas on the opener included the mouth of the Tamarac River and Stony Brook on Upper Red Lake and the Cutfoot Sioux and the mouth of the Mississippi River on Lake Winnibigoshish.
Leech Lake has the Boy River, Cass Lake has both the Mississippi River and the Turtle River. Blackduck has the Blackduck River and Lake Bemidji has the Mississippi River. Many smaller lakes also have their own spawning rivers and streams.
Some rivers remain closed to anglers and are posted on the DNR website. Anglers are still allowed to fish areas in the lakes that are adjacent to where the rivers enter or exit the lakes.
The types of areas the walleyes are looking for early in the season are the larger food shelves the walleyes will swim by on their way back to their home lake. (A food shelf is any area where the shallow water extends further from shore before it drops into deeper water).
The key areas on food shelves can be anywhere with new weed growth, rocks, gravel or some type of cover capable of holding schools of baitfish.
Anglers can use a lake map to find the food shelves closest to the spawning areas and check any turn or points or other interesting features looking for schools of baitfish or schools of walleyes with their electronics.
The fish are usually very spooky in clear shallow water, so anglers should avoid driving over the fish as much as possible. This includes when going around a group of anglers on the deep side instead of on the shallow side.
Paul A. Nelson runs the Bemidji Area Lakes Guide Service. Guided trips for 2018 can be booked at firstname.lastname@example.org.