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Conditions ripe for opener

Gary Peterson checks his stock of shiner minnows Thursday morning at Ken's Tackle on the southwest side of Otter Tail Lake. Peterson, the owner of the bait shop, sees a good opener ahead for anglers. The walleye-northern fishing season officially began at midnight Friday. Otter Tail, which is located 20 miles west of Wadena, is one of the state's top walleye lakes.1 / 2
Shiner minnows are traditionally a hot item with walleye anglers on the fishing opener.2 / 2

Fishermen anxious to fill their live wells with those slippery green walleyes may be in for a pleasant surprise this spring.

The wet weather period was due to end by Friday and a week of sunny weather and warmer temperatures is being forecast.

Already a bit euphoric over the early ice-out and a pleasant April, Minnesota anglers will be dropping their boats into thousands of northern Minnesota lakes this weekend for the 2010 walleye-northern opener.

The cool, wet weather that arrived April 24 and settled in for a three-week stay is supposed to be departing and some very decent spring temperatures are forecast.

"I think it is still going to be real good," Ken's Tackle owner Gary Peterson said. "They are going to be scattered out on the lake. The water temp has dropped about 10 degrees from what it was so they may come back into the shallows.

"I still think it's going to be fishing with a minnow and a jig because of the water temp. The water temp right now is around 50 and we were pushing 60 here a couple of weeks ago. I look for a pretty good opener."

Peterson recalled that last year's opening weekend saw weather temps in the low 40s, with wind and some snow flurries. The ice had only gone off Otter Tail about 10 days earlier.

"You're still going to find some fish in the shallows but you can also be out there fishing the humps, fishing the islands. You'll probably going to be looking in that 15-20 feet," Peterson said.

Peterson still sees shiners as one of his big sellers on the opener this year but because the water temperature will be up leeches, crawlers, fatheads and suckers will also produce some decent stringers.

Peterson indicated that the walleye bite was a strong one on Otter Tail this winter and the Fergus Falls Department of Natural Resources Fisheries unit was done with their walleye egg harvest on the Dead River, just west of Otter Tail Lake, by the middle of April. The walleyes that spawn in the Dead River come up from Otter Tail and Walker Lakes.

"We had some really nice weather," DNR fisheries manager Arlin Schalekamp said. "We take close to 420-430 quarts of eggs and we didn't have any trouble this year."

Otter Tail is a logical choice for many Wadena anglers but Rush Lake also receives a lot of attention. Rush is a large lake northeast of Otter Tail. Rush has a sandy bottom and a lot of structure, just like Otter Tail, and rates as a good walleye spot.

Schalekamp does not look for the walleyes to be schooled up on area lakes as they typically are on the opening weekend.

"I wouldn't spend too much time in the shallows but it's going to be a good idea to check them out," Schalekamp said.