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Success on opener is in time spent fishing

Since I am writing this on Thursday it is difficult to give you an up to date report on the progress of the Minnesota fishing opener. What I can tell you is that some had some success catching walleyes Saturday, and others did not. Anyone that changed up their game plan to catch crappies and sunfish had success. This is how it is most years for the opener.

I believe it is more important to judge the success of your opening weekend on the quality of time spent fishing. It is called "fishing," not "catching," for a reason.

I will be the first to admit I had the attitude at one time that my success was judged by the number of fish I caught. Years ago I was a "meat hunter." I now believe that getting out fishing is the success, and catching a few fish just adds to the quality of the experience. Keeping fish to eat is a great bonus.

It is also important to teach the importance of catch and release and selective harvest, so that we and future fishermen can enjoy the resource.

The opener is much more than catching and eating a few walleyes or northern pike. This is about family time, friendships, fellowship, enjoying the outdoors, and it is the kickoff to summer. The fishing opener and deer hunting have become unofficial holidays in Minnesota. It is the holiday atmosphere of the event that draws the big crowds to the lakes, more than the quality of the bite. Fishing will always improve over the next few weeks after the opening day. This is the way it always seems to be.

Every year is a little different, however, and making the adjustments to the conditions makes the difference in the ability to catch fish. This opener we are behind with water temperatures, and this has kept the spot tail shiners from moving to the shallows for their spawning ritual. Typically the shiners have moved shallow by now and are a primary target for walleyes. Some walleyes will get caught deeper than normal this year during this first weekend. They will stay out deeper feeding on shiners, one of their primary food sources.

As the water warms over the next week or so and the shiners move up to the shallows, so will the walleyes. The pan fish are shallow now and have been active for a week already. This is a great time to get the kids out on an active bite. Even the old kids like me!

Some lakes will warm more quickly than others. Deep, clear lakes warm more slowly than shallow, stained water. Pay attention to the conditions of your lake. If you can figure out were the food is, you will find the predator fish you want to catch.

Changing lakes can make a difference in early season success, as some lakes "turn on" before others do with the bite activity level. If changing lakes, remember to clean trailers, empty bait buckets, drain live wells, and remove drain plugs to prevent the spread of invasive species.

The DNR has been aggressive in getting good information out to educate the public and help us all develop new habits that will help with maintaining quality fisheries. They have also done a great job, in a short period of time, of getting all our accesses ready for the heavy traffic of the opening weekend.

Next week I will share some of the successes and catch reports from our area from this weekend. Keep your stick on the ice and your line in the water!

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