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PAUL NELSON FISHING: Rainy River keeps reeling in the anglers

The walleye and sauger season closes today on Lake of the Woods. The spring walleye season also closes on the Rainy River on April 14.

Northern pike fishing is open continuously on Lake of the Woods, so anglers still have the opportunity to fish for big pike in the spring while they wait for the walleye season to reopen on May 11.

The "catch and keep" season for sturgeon on the Rainy River opens April 24 and lasts until May 7. Anglers are allowed to keep one sturgeon between 45 and 50 inches or one sturgeon longer than 75 inches per year, using a tagging system similar to deer hunting.

Anglers planning to keep a sturgeon need to look at the regulations before they get on the water. The resource is too precious to mess around with not knowing the rules when you have a sturgeon in the boat.

Most anglers are satisfied with releasing all the sturgeon they catch after measuring and taking a couple of photos of the fish. Most anglers don't know how to clean a sturgeon and have no interest in eating something that old.

Sturgeon have an exoskeleton and are tricky to clean. Anglers thinking about keeping a sturgeon may want to check out a "how to" video online to see what is involved in cleaning a sturgeon, to see if that's something they want to attempt.

Most anglers will have their sturgeon smoked. Because of the exoskeleton, sturgeon have no bones, although the long spinal cord has to be removed before cooking or smoking the meat. The easiest answer is to let them go and eat something else.

Anglers wondering if the boat traffic on the Rainy River would be any less this spring because of the "catch and release only" regulations, found out there are plenty of anglers willing to let all the walleyes go to have a chance at catching some big fish.

Most of the walleyes in the Rainy River top out at just over 28 inches, but there are always a few fish longer than 30 inches caught every year.

The spring season on the Rainy River is definitely one of the best chances of the year for anglers to catch their "personal best" walleyes, which is enough for most anglers to skip the fillets and make the drive to the border to fish the Rainy.

There were as many boats on the Rainy River this spring as there has been in any year in recent memory. All of the accesses were full of vehicles during the short season, with overflow parking along the roads for more than a mile at some of the accesses, even on weekdays.

The weather continues to play games with the people in MInnesota. Major snowstorms in April seem like a bad joke, especially after a long cold winter with near record amounts of snow.

The snowstorm this past week and this most recent storm effectively put an end to the ice fishing season in the Bemidji area. The mixture of melting ice with another big dose of snow on top of the ice was enough to turn the surface of the lakes to mush.

Anglers are now in waiting mode for the lakes to open before they can resume fishing out of their boats. Ice out may be a little later than average this year, with the lakes needing more time to melt the rest of the snow and ice.

Anglers with older boats are always thinking about upgrades to the electronics or adding some new features to their boats to help them catch more fish.

Anglers should check the trailer lights to be sure they all work, the wheel bearings on the trailer need to be greased and also the grease zerks on the motor.

The lower unit grease on the outboard needs to be replaced every spring, props need to be checked for fishing line and a new set of spark plugs helps keep the outboard running good for another season.

Paul A. Nelson runs the Bemidji Area Lakes Guide Service. Guided trips for 2019 can be booked by calling or texting 218-760-7751 or by email at