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2018 FISHING OPENER: On the move in the Cass Lake Chain

Spectators watch as boats come in from a fishing tournament on Cass Lake. (Pioneer file photo)

CASS LAKE—The walleyes in the Cass Lake Chain are constantly on the move and when the 2018 fishing season opens May 12, the anglers can use the wanderings of the walleyes to their advantage.

"In the spring, the Cass Lake walleyes will travel all the way to the Power Dam on the Mississippi River and we know that they go as far as Turtle River Lake through the Turtle River," said Tony Kennedy, the Bemidji Area Fisheries large lake specialist. "We know that the Cass Lake walleyes can migrate a long way to spawn and the rivers offer the best spawning habitat in the chain."

Because of the extended winter, the walleyes spawned later than usual this spring, and many of the fish will still be in the rivers when the fishing season begins. Those spawners are very vulnerable to fishing pressure and, in an effort to protect them, the stretch of the Mississippi River from the Power Dam to Wolf Lake will be off limits to anglers until May 19.

But there are many other locations on Cass Lake for the opening-weekend fisherman to find and catch those migrating walleyes.

"During the early season fishermen should concentrate on the shoreline breaks and where the rivers enter the lake," Kennedy said. "Those are very effective places to catch the early-season walleyes, but they can also be very crowded."

Fortunately, there are enough walleyes swimming in Cass Lake to satisfy all of the anglers.

"The good times for fishing on Cass Lake are now," Kennedy said. "The walleyes from the 2013 year class are off the chart. They are 16 inches now and they drove the catch rates last year."

Those fish also were prominent in last year's lake assessment.

"Our catch rate was 10.8 walleyes per gill net last year and over half of the walleyes we sampled were from the 2013 class," Kennedy said. "These fish are ideal for the frying pan and should provide anglers with good harvest opportunities (this summer).

"We also sampled fish in the 24 to 28-inch range and there are guys who are tuned into catching those fish and who know how to do it."

Catching those fish usually means a slow presentation in deep water. And finding deep water in Cass Lake is not a challenge.

"On Cass Lake you can anchor in 4 feet of water and have the back of the boat in 40 feet," Kennedy said. "There are a series of sand bars in shallow water that are adjacent to very deep water. Cass Lake can be an intimidating lake to fish because it is a big lake with deep water but it also does have plenty of humps, bars, drop offs, points and inlets."

Cass Lake also is dominated by clear water and many anglers prefer to fish during the low-light periods.

"From an angling standpoint, Cass Lake has increasingly become a night fishery because of its clear water," Kennedy said. "People have figured out that trolling crankbaits along the bars in the dark is very effective, especially in mid to late summer."

There will be many walleyes caught on Cass Lake early in the season but the fishing usually improves closer to Memorial Day. And quality fishing should continue all summer.

"During a normal spring, late May is the best time to fish Cass Lake but in a year with a late spring, like this one, June usually is the best month," Kennedy said. "Last summer we heard of many good reports from the walleye fishermen and I expect that we will hear those reports again this season."