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Walleyes still spawning in rivers as 2013 fishing season approaches

Good fishermen, like good detectives, are always looking for clues about where to find the fish. That is why they would be interested to hear what Jim Wolters of the Department of Natural Resources had to report Tuesday.

Wolters is the Fergus Falls Area Fisheries Supervisor and one of his jobs is overseeing the trapping and stripping the eggs from female walleyes that venture up the Dead River from Walker Lake, a small lake that is connected to one of Minnesota’s best walleye holes - Otter Tail Lake.

“We started taking walleye eggs on Sunday,” Wolters said. “It’ll be a short, intense run this year.”

What is significant about Wolters’ comment is the clue it provides anglers who will be venturing out Saturday for the first full day of the 2013 fishing season.  Fishermen who check their calendars will find the spawning run is around 2 ½ weeks late in Otter Tail County.

In a normal year, the DNR begins trapping operations at their hatchery on the Dead River in mid-April.  By the time the fishing season begins, the spawning fish have returned to the lakes. The walleyes are usually chasing lake shiners in the shallows when the season starts. This year, it is a good bet that many of them will still be in the rivers.

Wolters has noted the ice cover on many big lakes is retreating from the shore lines but ice-free lake conditions are not in the cards.

Despite the unusual conditions, Wolters expects to see plenty of people out fishing on the first week end. What he does not expect to see are anglers bobbing around on the big lakes in Otter Tail County. Otter Tail Lake and many of Otter Tail Counties’ larger fishing lakes were still covered by ice during the first full week of May. Where the boats will be found will be the smaller lakes. Wolters noted that west Otter Tail County lakes like Norway, Anna and West Lost are ice-free. 

Wolters expects to see anglers on the Otter Tail River below Rush Lake, which flows into Otter Tail, and below Otter Tail Lake, as it works its way toward Deer Lake. He also expects to see more people fishing from shore.

Wolters pointed out that walleye anglers fishing inland waters will be allowed one fish over 20 inches. The daily limit walleye limit is six. For Minnesota anglers who may be disappointed with unusual fishing conditions this weekend, the good news is that beginning Saturday, inland waters will be open to fishing for the next 288 days.