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A busy opener in the lakes area

The author's son, Josh Laabs, on opening day. Submitted photo1 / 4
Brad Laabs with a friend he met on opener weekend. Submitted photo2 / 4
Fishing Columnist Brad Laabs3 / 4
The author, Brad Laabs, with son Jake and a dozen walleye they caught Sunday on opener weekend. Submitted photo4 / 4

Another opener has come and gone. The lakes in the area were very busy as the weather made it easy to be on the lake. Like most openers, some had success, some did ok, and some struggled when it came to catching fish (especially walleyes).

Spot tail shiner minnows, a walleye favorite meal in the early season, were hard to come by for some bait shops, and a limited number of anglers had them in their arsenal for opening day.

As the week has progressed, the shiners became more accessible with the nice weather, warming water temps, and sunshine. The shiner bite should continue for the next couple of weeks.

Water temps ranged from 48 to 56 degrees on area lakes at the opener. The lakes have continued to warm through the week and range from 56-60 degrees now. The bite will keep improving.

I received opening weekend reports from several anglers catching walleyes as shallow as 3-4 feet on opener. One crew was running crank baits over the fish in 3-4 feet and put back a 25 incher and kept four 17-to-18-inchers to eat.

Most were getting walleyes on jigs and minnows/plastics, some caught on bobbers with minnows or leeches, and some pulling live bait rigs with minnows/leeches/crawlers. I did hear of a few anglers getting into some walleyes on sharp shoreline breaks in the 18-24 foot water ... but most came shallow from 4-12 feet.

The pan fish bite was a huge success for some anglers focusing on sunfish and crappies. Northern were very active and most anglers had action on opener from them. Bass were active very shallow as well. Remember, you can target them to catch, but you cannot keep any until Memorial weekend.

I had the pleasure of fishing opening day morning for about four hours with my two sons Jake and Josh. We found some walleyes shallow opening morning and caught them pitching small jigs tipped with a mix of fatheads, rainbows, and river shiners.

We caught and released a couple over 20 inches with a 22.5 being the biggest, and we lost another 20-incher at the boat (my son Josh was convinced it was a northern, so Jake and I never made a move for the net ... it would have gone back anyway, since we put back 20-inchers and over) We kept a 16- and a couple 18-inchers for a walleye dinner Saturday evening.

Josh headed back to the cities with his wife Jenna and our granddaughter Grace, so they could have Mother's Day with his wife's family Sunday. Jake and I headed back Sunday morning to the same spot we left Saturday's walleyes, armed with spot tails. We were able to boat a limit of 12 beautiful walleyes from 16-19 inches in about three hours pitching jigs and shiners into 7-10 feet of water.

Look for most walleyes to continue to be in 15 feet of water, or less, most of the time while the shiner run is on. The weather will move them up some of the flats and onto the breaks with storms and cold fronts. Focus your energy on shoreline breaks for the next couple weeks.

Crappies will be on spawning beds now with the warming shallows. The bass will be very active shallow over the next few weeks, and the northern ... they will be northern ... they will find your presentation!

(Laabs owns Brad Laabs Guide Service in Detroit Lakes)

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