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Getting ready for the opener

John "The Bait man" Store, owner of Quality Bait & Tackle in Detroit Lakes, holds a handful of leeches at the bait store Tuesday afternoon.1 / 2
John Store, right, helps Quality Bait & Tackle customer Greg Nosal find some jigs Tuesday afternoon. Quality Bait will be open all night Friday in preparation of the fishing opener at midnight.2 / 2

Fishing season for walleye, northerns and sauger starts at midnight on Friday, and John Store, owner of Quality Bait in Detroit Lakes, is going to be open for business.

All night long.

It will be his ninth year of staying open all night on the fishing opener.

On Wednesday, he was stocking up for the big weekend, filling his four big tanks in the back room with minnows, including 4,500 spottail shiners, which he expects to be the big seller for opening weekend.

He is also laying in a good supply of rainbows, fatheads, crappies and other minnows.

Not to mention 1,500 night crawlers, an army of white worms, and 1,600 plastic carry-out bags for minnows and leeches.

"The No. 1 bait is spottail shiners, because that's what comes in the shallows every year," Store said.

If the walleye aren't ready to cooperate yet, try for some panfish, he said.

"You never know, if the walleyes aren't biting, put some crappie bait on -- I'll tell you what, the crappies are biting."

While Store says he has no idea how busy it will be for opener weekend, he feels the weather plays a huge role in angler turnout.

"It's just like anything, the nicer the weather, the busier it is," he said. "The busiest time of the year can be the opener, it can be Memorial Day, it all depends on the weather -- the weather can destroy you."

Those who love fishing will be out for the opener anyway, but he said, "There's a limited number of diehards anymore. A lot of people think 'if the weatherman says it's going to be crappy, why show up? Why spend $100 on gas to get to the lakes?'"

Tips from an expert

May 14 marks the opening date this year for walleye, northern pike, stream trout in lakes, and lake trout for all inland waters. Bass season will be open May 28, and muskie season will open June 4.

DL Newspapers fishing columnist, Brad Laabs (owner of Brad Laabs Guide Service) says opening day is always a bit of a crapshoot for success, especially for walleyes.

Warmer weather helps get the bigger game fish active.

He recommends looking for active fish in shallow water. The baitfish move to the shallow, warmer water and the predator fish will follow.

The bait of choice will be minnows (usually spottail shiners). Flats that hold weeds with hard sand bottom or areas that change from sand to gravel are good early season locations.

Lakes that have rivers or feeder creeks will have warmer water areas that will be holding baitfish, and are worth checking out.

Don't forget night crawlers or leeches. Sometimes they work when minnows don't. The best bet is to have all baits available to you so you can find out what is working.

If the walleyes or northern pike aren't cooperating, change your game plan and chase after some crappies or sunfish. They are up in the shallow water and have been actively feeding for a week already.

The active pan fish bite will hold steady for the next several weeks. Laabs says crappie or fathead minnows are working for crappies, and small leeches, pieces of night crawler, or small minnows are working on the sunfish.

Stop aquatic invasives

This year, the DNR is urging boaters and anglers to take action to prevent the spread of aquatic invasive species that harm water recreation, such as boating and fishing.

"Our lakes and rivers are too important to take for granted," said Tom Landwehr, DNR commissioner. "Boaters and anglers need to be accountable and personally responsible to prevent the further spread of aquatic invasives."

State law requires boaters to do the following:

• Remove visible aquatic plants and zebra mussels from boats and trailers before leaving a water access.

• Drain water from boat, livewell, bilge and impeller by removing drain plugs, and open water-draining devices before leaving a water access.

• Drain portable bait containers when leaving any zebra mussel or spiny waterflea infested waters of the state (anglers can keep unused bait when leaving state waters, if they replace the water with tap or spring).

Some aquatic invasive species are small and difficult to see at the access. To remove or kill them before transporting a watercraft to other waters, the DNR recommends either:

• Spraying boat and trailer with a high-pressure sprayer using hot water (140 degrees), such as hot water sprayers available at a car wash.

• Drying boat and equipment for at least five days.

These laws and recommendations are intended to help prevent the spread of invasive species such as zebra mussels, Eurasian watermilfoil and spiny waterfleas. These species could be easily spread within the state if citizens, businesses and visitors don't take the necessary steps to contain them.

Zebra mussels pose serious ecological and economic threats to Minnesota's lakes and streams. Heavy infestations can kill native mussels, impact fish populations and interfere with recreation. Infestations can increase costs for industry, including power and water supply facilities.