Things are looking good for the walleye opener with the early ice-out and warm-up we’ve had. Typically fish are still involved in the spawn (especially in northern Minnesota) and the fishing can be a little tough, but not this year.
We’re weeks ahead of their normal schedule which means they should be biting, including the bigger females. That doesn’t mean they’ll be biting everywhere though and you’ll still have to use your head to put a few in the boat, but it’s time to get excited.
Some of the early patterns to look for include sandy shoreline breaks like you’ll find on Mille Lacs, Winnie and Leech. The difference this year is the possibility that you might be able to find biting fish in deeper water as well as the usual shallow hot spots. The best thing about it is deeper fish holding on sandy breaks and flats are easy to see on a good graph and one can quickly cruise and scan to find the mother lode.
While cruising with my Humminbird 1198 with Side Imaging I can run parallel to a break and scan it all out to 240 feet. It’s a fast and super effective way to find fish and, where side imaging really shines and can help shorten up your time spent in the search mode, you still have to give them what they want to get your pole bent.
On Mille Lacs the bite is almost always on live bait rigs and leeches while Winnie and Leech it’s more of a jig and minnow bite. But I’d still have some leeches and a rod rigged with a live bait rig ready to go.
Minnows can be effective on Mille Lacs but it’s during the years with a late ice-out and much colder water temperatures when they can be a real game changer. Crawlers are another option and can make a difference when the leech starts to get ignored.
Live bait rigs like Northland Tackle’s Roach Rig allow for adjustable snell length and longer is usually better, like maybe six to eight feet to start with. Colored hooks (especially red) can make a difference as well as the addition of a colored bead in front of the hook. It doesn’t seem like it should matter much but it can definitely mean extra fish in the boat by the end of the day.
Changing weather conditions can have a huge effect on location and activity with steady and warm being optimum. Windy, cloudy and rainy can be awful good too, but it is more fun to fish when it’s nice out. I’m just saying.
Cold, calm and high pressure can make for the toughest conditions and when you might be better off spending most of your time in deeper water.
See you on the water.
Ron Anlauf is a contributing writer to the Outdoors page.