Time to drop the lines
Spring break ends for walleyes and northern pike Saturday as Minnesota's fishing season expands to include two terrific and tasty fighters.
The walleye-northern pike fishing season is always good for a huge exodus from cities and towns to Minnesota's greatest treasure - our thousands and thousands of lakes.
Wadena and the surrounding communities will watch this mass migration to the lakes like spectators at a parade.
One outdoorsman who joins this parade is Wadena-Deer Creek Activities Director/Dean of Students/Co-Head Wrestling Coach Norm Gallant. What is a hobby for many is a passion for Gallant. Asked to point Pioneer Journal readers at some good opening weekend lakes within 30 miles of Wadena, the veteran angler gave this advice:
Gallant's Top Five for the Opener
1. Rush Lake - Rush is always good early. In addition to fantastic walleye fishing, the crappies should be up shallow, and a guy can pick through Northerns all day and come home with a some if one so chooses.
2. Big Pine (1A to be truthful) - One of my absolute favorites early (and always). See the description above for Rush. Fantastic Walleye fishing, probably nicer pike in general and beautiful crappies.
3. Otter Tail - Shallow and on the first break. Fantastic walleye fishing, but for the multispecies guys, a bit tougher, that's the only reason it's not higher.
4. Marion - Another great lake for the multi-species angler. Good walleye lake, nice crappies, boat loads of pike to keep everyone busy.
5. Any of the Leafs - I like these lakes because many times they are a little quieter than everything else. You can fish them easily in the wind, and they are each fantastic fisheries in their own right. They all fish just a little different, but a guy can pick up quality walleyes, beautiful panfish, and piles of pike. The pike seem to have become smaller over the 20 years I've been fishing them, but a guy can still pick up a nice one once in awhile.
Don't overlook the rivers early. I love the Crow Wing especially. Totally an underutilized resource that is full of quality fish.
Hagemeister sees signs of a good opener
Ross Hagemeister runs Meister Guide Service, and he knows the waters of Otter Tail Lake like few others do. He is no stranger to other Otter Tail lakes, either.
Hagemeister feels the signs are all there for a good opener.
"The water temperatures are kind of equivalent to Memorial Day weekend temperatures." Hagemeister said. "It's going to be pretty exciting on just a lot of different lakes. It's about as good as it can be I think."
In addition to water temperatures, a clue to where walleye may be feeding is in the lake shiner run. Are they running?
"There are doing it, they are running right now on different lakes, so that is a big key. They will draw walleyes into the shorelines."
Hagemeister regards the location of shiners on certain lakes to be the one difficult hurdle to get over.
"The bigger lakes seem to have a mix where a bunch of the shiners can be along the shores and the walleyes will be right with them and the northern pike and the rock bass. But in the small lakes it might be like 95 percent of the population, so it brings all of the fish species right to shore, so river mouth fishing can be very strong right now."
Hagemeister has noted that good fishing action from shore does not necessarily mean good fishing from boats.
"A lot of us are inclined to fish on a drop-off, which is nowhere near where the shiners are, which is nowhere near where the fish are," said Hagemeister. "That can be a problem for boat anglers. You are out on the main lake and walleyes are right on the shoreline. The guys that are standing in waders are actually doing better than the guys in the boats."
For as long as Hagemeister has been guiding, you might think it would be awfully hard to surprise him.
"All the time," Hagemeister laughed. "You can never know everything about fishing; you can never know too much about fishing. There is always something to learn."
Hagemeister is a solid proponent of moving when a lake does not pan out.
"You are being surprised in all directions often," Hagemeister said. "I go through that where I get on a lake and go 'oh boy, this is going to be tough, the weather just went to complete heck and it just doesn't feel good and then they are just biting like crazy.' The other way happens too where you are like 'wow this just feels really good and this is going to be a good day and it's as tough as can be.'"
The weather, which has many times played havoc with the opening weekend crowd, is predicted to be in the high 60s with sunny skies Saturday, morning showers on Sunday and partly cloudy skies Sunday afternoon.