Outdoors column: Walleye opener strategies for 2014

After this unbearable winter, we have finally made it into April and we all anticipate open water and the fishing season to come. Because this winter was such a bear, you can expect some hitches in the open water dates and possibly some complications with lakes that are still ice locked.

Here are some thoughts on this year’s opener which is a few weeks away. Remember, we deserve this.

You can achieve a great opener by making some subtle changes and choosing the proper lake according to the conditions at hand.
You can achieve a great opener by making some subtle changes and choosing the proper lake according to the conditions at hand.Submitted photo

Rivers versus lakes

I have a pretty good hunch that choosing a river might be a great move on this opener, as most river systems seem to be a bit advanced in terms of water temperatures and spawning schedules.

The smaller rivers I have accessed lately seem to be right on schedule with normal current levels and very little threat of any unusual runoff.

The Mississippi River as it runs through the Cohasset area of northern Minnesota is always a great bet, as is the stretch just south of Palisade. The river tends to neck down in these areas meaning a small boat can handle these stretches with no problem. The Rainy River as it enters Lake of the Woods near Morris Point is also a great choice.

This stretch is often forgotten once the inland season opens and will still hold tons of walleyes and saugers well into late May.

The late spring this year will mean those fish could be in this river well into June.

There is a ton of room from the Morris Point area all the way down thru Clementson and Birchdale.

Lake choice – 

think shallow

This opener will be very similar to last year when we were also faced with a late spring.

Last season many of my cohorts did well on shallower lakes versus the deep, clear lakes and you can bet we will have a repeat this opener. Shallow is obviously relative, depending on the part of the state you fish.

Western Minnesota shallow lakes vary anywhere from 7-15 feet and central Minnesota lakes are typically 20-30 feet. Shallow lakes will tend to heat up faster and the sun can warm up the water quickly.

Deep, clear lakes tend to warm slower meaning some of the best fishing won’t kick in on these lakes until late May.

You can improve your fishing odds greatly by choosing shallow lakes this opener. Save the deep lakes for Memorial weekend.


Because we are again faced with a late spring, expect that the fish we do encounter will be sluggish and not particularly willing to chase any baits.

This means leaving the active crank baits, clattering and aggressive baits at home and sticking with the slow basics. Very small jigs with no dressings whatsoever and in the smaller sizes from one-thirty second ounce to no larger than one-eighth ounce or lighter jigs, combined with very light mono filament line in the 6-pound test category can work magic on early May walleyes and pike. I would even consider going down to 4-pound test line in clear water conditions.

The good news is open water is on the horizon and by adapting to the unusual spring time conditions, you can modify your presentations and lake choices and catch your fish while others struggle.

Adapt and you’ll score.

Steve Carney is a contributing writer to the Outdoors page.