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Walleye fishing opener

For some, summer begins on Memorial Day weekend, or when the last traces of snow melt for good.

But for many more in the area, Saturday, May 14 -- Minnesota's walleye and northern pike fishing opener - marks the real start of the season.

"I think all in all, it should be a good opener," said Jim Wolters, the Area Fisheries Manager, "pending any waterfront that should come in that Thursday or Friday."

To maximize success, Wolters advises fishermen to be smart in their approach, selecting their fishing spots according to this year's circumstances.

"I think males are gonna be shallow," Wolters said, adding that "females will have spawned in most of the lakes, and will probably be out deeper in their recuperating phase," after the spring spawn.

However, Wolters stressed that it is more important for fishermen (and women) to be safe, lawful and considerate on opening day than strategic.

One regulation change that fishermen should be aware of is the new "Pull the Drainplug" law that went into effect last July 1.

This law requires people to drain their live-wells and pull their boat-plugs as they move between bodies of water, so no water moves between the lakes

According to Wolters, the purpose of this law is to "try to prevent aquatic invasive species from being transferred from one lake to another."

"That's a new law we're still getting people up to speed on," Wolters added.

People fishing on Lakes Sallie and Melissa should be aware of a regulation change, which states that northern pike between 24 and 36 inches must be released, although people may keep pike over 36 inches. The old regulation required fishers to release any pike over 24 inches long.

"That's the big change in regulation," Wolters said.

Although not stated in law, Wolters encourages fishers to make sure their boats are ready for the water by the time they reach the public access.

"Common courtesy is to make sure everything works at the access," said Wolters.

Other than a few minor changes, this year's fishing opener is shaping up to be a continuation of the eagerly-awaited, fruitful tradition it has become in the Lakes Area.

"I think its setting up to be pretty good," Wolters said. -- Nathan Kitzmann