Some caught 'em, some didn't
Another opener is in the books for all of us fishermen. The weather forecast was supposed to be for good weather. It is opener, so it was, of course. We all received cold, windy, and rainy conditions on Saturday, followed by a bright blue sky with high winds on Sunday. The weather did not seem to stop anyone from chasing after walleye and northern. Many boats were out on many area lakes. The reviews were mixed, as they always are. Some great anglers didn't do well and some rookies did great, and vice versa. That is the way it always is on opener. One thing is for sure. We all enjoyed getting out and giving it a try.
I feel fortunate that I picked the right lake, and we happened to be in the right place at the right times doing the right things. It does not always go that way. We were able to bring 20 walleyes into the boat. We kept some nice 14-18 inchers to eat and released some 18 and 19 inch "eyes."
We found two primary patterns on Saturday. One pattern was fishing light jigs long-lined a distance behind the boat moving from 8-14 feet of water in front of a river outlet. We tipped the jigs with shiner minnows and kept the bait fresh. The other opening day pattern that was successful was fishing a couple of small humps that are just off the shoreline breaks in 19-21 feet of water. Both jigs and live bait rigs tipped with shiners produced for us in this situation. On Sunday morning I started out with a bang with two nice 17 inch walleyes coming into the boat in the first minutes of the trip. We lost another fish of similar year class at the boat a few minutes later. I then went about two hours without a bite! I scrambled to the shallows with light jigs and caught some nice crappies.
After an afternoon break and switching lakes, the evening bite for walleyes was productive again in the deeper water. Jigs and rigs were equally productive. For my boat for the weekend several 19 inch walleyes were the biggest to come into the net. I have heard reports of many bigger walleyes in the 24-28 inch range being caught on several different area lakes.
Some anglers did not spend very long chasing walleyes when the shallow crappie bite has been so good. I have heard many reports of limits of nice crappies going home with anglers for dinner. I have been pleased to observe and hear about anglers putting back the big slab crappies that are full of spawn. Selective harvest will help to manage the fishing resource.
The crappie reports and my own experience this year seem to point to a tremendous year class of crappies. Big crappies of 12-15 inches seem to be getting caught everywhere. Keeping the 9-11 inch crappies and putting the big girls back is always a good idea. Pay attention to lake regulations as some lakes in our area also have specific regulations regarding crappies also.
The open water season is happening. The water will warm this week. The shiners will move up for the shallow water spawn, and the predator fish will follow. We all get to keep getting out and practicing getting better at this great sport of fishing.
(Laabs runs Brad Laabs Guide Service in Detroit Lakes.)