The long-awaited Minnesota open water walleye 2014 season is just about on us so maybe some thoughts from a not-very-serious walleye guy might be a good idea. In the past I’ve kinda poo-pooed this weekend with little if any interest but if the honest truth be spoken it might have more to do with a certain “clueless” attitude on my part but that’s about to change. Also the sole reason for the change was our trip to Border View Lodge last December on Lake of the Woods. (As an aside from these thoughts we’re heading for a return trip to Border View on May 29-June 1 and you’re invited! Go to www.borderviewlodge.com to make your reservations too! We’ll bring Thursday Fan Outdoors and Saturday Fan Outdoors live to the lodge fishing that Friday and Saturday.) What I had thought was a boring fish turned out to be a blast and by no means difficult fishing skill wise. Sure you can make it what you want the same as everything that can totally engulf you. There’s no way I could ever begin to compete knowledge or skill wise with the Pros but listening intently to them a person can glean bits of information useful on the water. Really my comfort level has always been chasing large and smallmouth bass but this presents an exciting new challenge to learn.
So it’s the Opener now what? If you’ve favorite opener spots definitely check them out with your own tried and true techniques but if they don’t produce don’t die trying with complaints along the way! We’ve just endured, I hope it’s ended an abnormally long cold winter or maybe it seems that way but the spring has been cold with high water. In most areas north of the Twin Cities the spawn isn’t over and this could be to your advantage. If it’s a new lake to you check a lake map looking for incoming water points. Also before fishing spend some idle time looking for shallower flats or gravel bottoms. My combination of Lakemaster contour chips and Humminbird 998’s make this a relatively easy task but most electronics will offer similar information. With incoming water try drifting a jig ‘n minnow combination with a slow lift ‘n drop or trolling a shallow pearl ‘n blue back shallow running crankbait. Why that color? I’m told it a shiner which in most bodies of water are now a main walleye food favorite.
Option #2 would be to head to the shallow areas doing the same things mentioned above until you get bit. No matter where you are if you catch a fish there’s a reason for it. Too many times, no matter what the species I’ve watched people boat a fish then keep right on traveling. A giant mistake! Multiple people in the boat? Experiment with different baits and colors. Do the same with jigs too! If you find a location, bait ‘n color combination that’s working fish it until it stops then move on but return in an hour or so to check it again. Often you’ve worn ‘em out but they’re still there! Just a suggestion.
OK so some time has passed and still nothing here’s a suggestion – try for crappies! Many an opener has been saved by these speckled scaly critters and it just so happens this year the time is right to catch ‘em. In most lakes they’ll be shallow not spawning yet but simply feeding and more often than not in dark bottomed shallow bays. Bring some minnows, small jigs, slip bobbers and light action spinning gear. My baits of choice here are Erie Dearie jigs from 1/80th oz to 1/16 oz. They’re inexpensive, come in 25 packs and work great. Tip them with plastics or a minnow but plastics have proven their worth in my boat this time of year. Again baits of choice are the Impulse 1” mini smelt in either the crappie color or reds or the Maki Plastics from Clam. Fish them under a bobber with a slow retrieve or simply a minnow on a plain hook, old school! Nothing wrong with that either.
Remember too that the DNR has further defined culling this year. Something we’ve known but wasn’t in writing. If a fish ends up in the basket or livewell it becomes part of your limit which is the same as possession. A smaller fish cannot be released to keep one larger.
One final thought before it’s off to the opener. Make sure your boat license is current, use your life jackets, the water’s really cold and be sure to put your drain plug in before you launch! That’s advice from a guy who on multiple occasions has forgotten to do that! It’s really a bone-chilling experience following a quick return trip to the ramp!
Have fun and Good Luck!