Outdoors column: Open water spring fishing options

As we continue to suffer with this never-ending winter, we look forward to the day of open water and the walleye fishing season.

Yes, it’s cold on the river but open water walleyes are available for the angler looking for spring time adventures. Submitted photo
Yes, it’s cold on the river but open water walleyes are available for the angler looking for spring time adventures. Submitted photo

Here in the midwest we some options where fishing believe it or not has been going on for quite some time depending on your locale.

This angler recently returned from the first open water fishing of 2013 with a nice trip to the Missouri River in South Dakota.

Here is a synopsis of what we have available in the midwest:

Rainy River, Baudette

Last year at this time we were backtrolling in 80 degree temperatures on the Rainy and enjoying a balmy spring – not this time! The river continues to be iced up and the outlook for open water fishing there is a toss up on the date. Spring fishing on the Rainy usually closes on April 15 leaving anglers a small window of opportunity. Best bet is to call ahead to the resorts and make sure the river is open. Chances are this spring the river will be open in smaller, more select places but not open throughout.

The fantastic walleye fishing there deserves the attention because it is second to none in terms of big fish and lots of them.

Mississippi River, Red Wing

This is by far the most popular spring destination in Minnesota as this stretch of river sees literally hundreds of boats on a daily basis. The fishing here is more of a sauger fisher (walleye cousin) but has a potential for dandy walleye fishing as well. This river can be very much affected by rain and snow runoff and can be excellent for travel one week and a complete mess the next. I always watch the thawing conditions week to week and monitor the precipitation and try and hit the days when the current is normal and gentle. If you just want to catch numbers this is the place.

Wonderful year classes abound with both sauger and walleye.

Missouri River, Ft. Thompson, S.D.

This is a headwaters area of the Missouri River in central South Dakota and my favorite place during the spring. The Ft. Thompson area is the home of the one of the largest and most majestic man-made dams you will ever see. Because of the dam, thousands of walleyes stop at the dam on their spawning ritual and hang out at the face. They have no place to go after hitting the dam area and they are ready and able to provide action well into May.

There is lots of deep water in the area and plenty of room to maneuver your boat and catch walleyes from 11 to 25 feet. This is a well guarded secret by the South Dakota locals and now the word is getting out from Nebraska to Iowa. My trip there recently was excellent even though the daytime temperatures were in the teens. The current at the dam face keeps the river open for about six miles below meaning no matter what the weather dishes out you can get your boat in to catch those spring walleyes.

Why wait another six weeks for the Minnesota inland opener – fish now.

Steve Carney is a contributing writer to the Outdoors page.

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