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Brad Laabs: Weather, wind, lake ice made for a down opener

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The opener was slow for most anglers. Most lakes barely made themselves available, and for the lakes that did get opened up, the wind and weather made sure we all remembered it was opening weekend. Saturday and Tuesday’s 25-40 mph winds sandwiched the overnight low of 24 degrees Sunday night and the high of 89 on Monday — weird, weird, weird! It sure makes for an all-around eventful start to the open water season.

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With the Governor’s opener being hosted by Park Rapids, and so close to us, I thought I would hear more about how that event went. My understanding is that they did a great job with the event, just like Detroit Lakes did when we hosted the Governor. The word is he went out at midnight with his guide and did catch a walleye.

Shore fisherman that fished from the banks of the Pelican, Ottertail, and Dead rivers probably had more success for walleyes than most of the anglers fishing the lakes out of boats. Some of these river sections were closed to protect spawning fish and are open again after Friday May 17. Many fish are still in the rivers, and will be filtering back to the lakes over the next week.

During the first week of the inland waters open season, we have had both northern pike and walleyes finishing up their spawning rituals. Most of the male walleyes caught Saturday through Wednesday were still “milking.” Crappies and bass are next and are staging now for their spawn. The crappie bite in shallow water has just started and should continue for the next couple of weeks. Bass fishing opener is next Saturday May 25, and they should be very active in shallow water. Many fish will be holding tight to their spawning beds. They can be very aggressive when protecting their nests. Sight fishing will come into play this year for the bass anglers on the opener.

Just a reminder, the musky season does not open until June 1. I know all the locals know this, but in the past we have had some visitors to our area that have harvested musky before the opener. This reminder is for the visitors to our area that will sometimes catch a musky while angling for other species. It is easy to get excited, and if it is out of your norm, not to realize when the season for that fish opens. Anglers on Big and Little Detroit, Pelican, Sallie, and Melissa can easily stumble onto a musky bite in shallow water this time of year.  

Water temperatures have warmed quickly in the past week and most lakes have about 50 degree water in the main lake areas and mid 50 degree water in shallow bays. As of Thursday only a few docks at public accesses were in and available, but now that things have turned around for us so quickly, we will start having more available every day.

It is easy to take for granted the work that many do to get lake accesses, docks, and beach areas ready for us all to enjoy. A year like this reminds us how much gets done for us so we can enjoy our lakes.

Water levels are still down, but lake access is better now than it was in the fall. If the rain we are forecast to get holds true, all the lakes will be in great shape by next weekend. The dock and lift installers are crazy busy trying to play catch up.

This is always a busy time of the year with high school spring sports playoffs, proms, high school graduations, college graduations, spring projects, and spring clean up. Try and make some time to get out on the water, do some fishing, relax, and enjoy this beautiful area.

(Laabs runs Brad Laabs’ Guide Service in Detroit Lakes.)

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