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Walleye opener dubbed a 'big success'

The walleye opener in the Detroit Lakes area was a big success. Not everyone caught walleyes, but the wonderful weather and other active fish made for a great opener.

My son Jake was able to join me for opening day and we were fortunate enough to find active walleyes on Ottertail lake in 7 to 11 feet of water. We kept fish to eat, put many smaller fish back, and released a 23- and a 23.5-incher as well.

Jake was the multi-species specialist. He was able to boat a 50-inch sturgeon and caught and released a 30-inch northern. The sturgeon ended up being about a 40-minute battle. He fought the monster fish on a walleye jigging rod spooled with 6lb test monofilament line (with 1/16 oz. jig and shiner for bait!).

Like most openers, when it comes to walleyes, some did well, some did ok, and some struggled. Our success came on jigs and shiners long lined behind the boat in shallow water.

The lake choice can be a critical factor for opening day success. Some of the clear, deep, and cooler lakes had walleyes off edges and in 16- to 25-foot water. Some of the area lakes with 60-degree surface temps had walleyes shallower (4 to 12 feet) relating to the schools of shiner minnows moving onto the flats for spawning.

Some anglers reported success with leeches on rigs in deeper water, and leeches under bobbers in shallower water especially in areas with newly emerging cabbage weeds. Look for many walleyes to remain shallow for the next couple of weeks as water temps seem to be warming slowly.

The current cold front will move the shiners off the edges again, and as we come out of the cold snap and start to warm again, they will move up shallow--and so will the gamefish.

Cabbage weeds can be a walleye magnet location in the early season, so check them out with jigs or slip bobbers and bait/plastics.

Lakes were very busy, and area bait shops served many locals and guests to the area. Look for the weekends to continue to be busy on the area lakes from now until the end of summer, with the mid-week activity minimal until schools are out and summer vacations begin.

If you can work your schedule to get on the lakes during the weekdays, or even in the weekday evenings, you will enjoy more privacy and less competition for spots.

The bite over the next several weeks will continue to improve, especially for the walleyes. Remember to practice patience at the accesses, and offer help. Be efficient yourself and consider others when launching and loading.

The shallow bass and northern bite is on. If you want a tight line, and it doesn't matter to you what you are catching, now is a good time to enjoy that shallow water action.

Remember, you can target bass now for catching, but they must be released until official opening day the Saturday of Memorial weekend.

Shallow water crappies and sunfish are also on the bite and will continue to be shallow for two or three more weeks, depending on the lake. The deeper lakes that warm slower still have those crappies just moving shallow for spawning and nest protecting. Get out and enjoy the lakes, and remember to clean, drain, and dry.

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