by Ron Anlauf
The big walleye opener is on deck and with the early ice out and warm-up, things are looking good for getting your pole bent.
There are always some fish to be caught, but when conditions are right you can do very, very well and right now the conditions are right. The big three (including Mille Lacs, Winnie and Leech) are also looking good and are carrying plenty of fish, including those that you can actually keep.
No doubt it’s fun catching and releasing larger fish but being able to keep a few for the frying pan is a big part of the deal. Last year’s opener saw my buddy Danny Erickson of Stanchfield and me on Leech, which ended up being a great place to be.
We didn’t pound the fish (pretty close) and it wasn’t that easy, but we did catch quite a few, including some nicer 25- to 26-inchers as well as our share of “keepers.”
It wasn’t easy because we did have to do some looking and make a few moves before we found some biters. They were bunched up along a sand break in Sucker Bay and we weren’t the only ones on the fish. In fact, there were quite a few boats working the break, but there was more than enough room for all of us.
The ticket was drifting slowly while dragging a Northland Vegas Jig tipped with a spot-tail shiner. There’s really nothing new about dragging a jig and minnow, at least not on Leech. It’s a standard Northern Minnesota presentation that works and I really don’t see that changing for this year, even with the warmer than normal spring.
Walleyes would grab the jig on the drop after a quick pop of the rod tip and you had to give them some time before setting the hook or you missed too many fish.
Sometimes you could feel the bite and at others you just felt some extra weight. Either way we had to wait them out a bit before sticking it to ’em.
One thing we did change up was jig color and Rocket Red was doing pretty well. Gold Nugget and Hot Chartreuse were also getting it done and it’s not a bad idea to change it up a little when things slow down, and they will.
Another thing to look for is the “hot depth” where most of the biters set up. You’ll probably mark fish up and down the break, but there is typically a particular depth where the most active fish are and that can change at the drop of a hat so be prepared to slide in or out if things cool off.
See you on the water.
Ron Anlauf is a contributing writer to the Outdoors page.