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Brad Laabs: Walleye activity should be up next few weeks

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outdoors Detroit Lakes, 56501
Detroit Lakes Minnesota 511 Washington Avenue 56501

Another fishing opener weekend has come and passed.

The weather on Saturday was as nice as I can remember in years. Even though the air temperature was comfortable and we had sun, the “bluebird” day conditions were not helpful for walleye anglers on what was already going to be a challenging bite due to water temperatures.

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Most anglers around the area struggled to catch walleyes but found the northern pike and pan fish to be very active. The two patterns did seem to emerge for my boat and others that I am aware were able to catch walleyes.

The first pattern was fishing light jigs tipped with minnows in 4-8 feet of water, making sure you were away from the boat and moving was best. The shallow bite was best in areas that shiner minnows were starting to collect.

The second consistent pattern was live bait rigging deeper water out to 24 feet off large sand flats that extend into the main lake. Moving slow and feeding line to the fish for a few second was crucial to hooking up with the fish.

Fishing close to clouds of baitfish suspended off these breaks worked even if you were not graphing any fish consistently in the area.

The remainder of the week has not helped raise water temperatures with the cold nights, cool days, cloud cover and rain. Water temperatures were still in the mid- to high-40 degree range through the middle of the week.

Several of the male walleyes caught in my boat were still milking, an indication we are just coming to an end of their spawning activities. The walleye bite will improve as we transition into post spawn and water temperatures warm.

I would anticipate a good walleye bite activity for our area lakes for the next several weeks. The bite should just keep getting better.

The rain has helped bring lake levels up to desirable levels. Lake accesses in our area are in good shape for launching and landing boats. Docks are in at almost all public accesses. 

Northern pike will continue their ferocious feeding this next week as they spawn earlier than the walleyes and are already wanting to put the feedbag on for recovering energy spent doing their thing. The crappie and sunfish bite has been good in our area for a couple weeks now and will also continue to improve.

When water temperatures get into the mid-50 degree range we will have an even better shallow water pan fish bite than we already have. With the up and down temperatures, cloud cover and cold front of the last week, many crappies came shallow and then left again. They will move and stay shallow for a while now that the water is warming.

Fishing with jigs and plastics, small hair jigs tipped with minnows, or jig/hooks tipped with bait under a bobber will all produce. Edges of submerged weeds or early emergent weed growth will attract pan fish.

Focus on 4-8 foot water and fish about half the depth of the water you are fishing. Adjust your depth up and down until you contact fish. Remember that pan fish will come up to take your bait, but rarely will feed down.

If you see them in the shallows, fish above them and be stealthy. If you can see them, they can probably see you. Move away and pitch to them instead of trying to fish right on top of them. Some plastics, crappie minnows, fathead minnow, and pieces of night crawler all working to take pan fish.  

Spot tail shiners are always a great bait in the early season for walleyes but have been hard to come by for the bait shops because of the slow to warm water. They should be available now and for the next several weeks as our conditions improve.

They are not the only bait going. Expect to try several baits and several spots before figuring out what the fish are doing in the lake you are fishing. Not all lakes fish the same way at any given time.

Get out and enjoy the lakes.    

Laabs runs Brad Laabs’ Guide Service in Detroit Lakes.

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