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Plan a fishing trip for great open water action

As we get into February now you will have a chance to fish all the area fishing derbies. It won't be long after they are done and we will be into March. This can be time to consider all the options that are available to you for fishing in March and April. Depending on weather and ice conditions you can still chase after local bite options. We will discuss this more in a few weeks. The options I am going to inform you about now will require a little trip planning for great open water action.

The closest and easiest trips to plan for are only hours away. The Mississippi River offers year round open water action for multiple species. The most popular of these include pool 2 (below the Ford Dam in the Twin Cities) as well as pools 4,5,9, and 10.

For walleyes, pool 2 is catch and release only, but offers trophy opportunities. Pool 4 below the dam at Red Wing gets most of the attention and the most winter time or early spring boat traffic. It is recognized as a world-class walleye and sauger fishery. Less pressure with great fishing includes pool 5 with launching available in Alma, Wis. Pools 9-10 are open below the dams and have good fishing for walleye, sauger, bass, white bass, and catfish. These pools are located at the boarder areas were Minnesota, Wisconsin and Iowa meet in the southeast corner of our state. The Rainy River on the Minnesota/Canadian border is open for walleyes until April 14. The chance for trophy fish brings many anglers to the stretch of river that runs from International Falls to Lake of the Woods just north of Baudette. The dates for the river opening vary from year to year depending on weather, but you can usually count on the last week of March to the first week of April opening the river to create the short window of opportunity for this bite.

Nelson Lake in North Dakota stays open year round due to warm water discharge from the electric plant. Bass are the most sought after biters by most anglers taking advantage of that open water situation. North Dakota offers a couple other open water bite options associated with the Missouri River. The tailrace below the Garrison Dam and the stretch of river at Bismarck are both great options.

Traveling a little further can take you to the Fox River at Green Bay Wis. This stretch of river has trophy fish of multiple species, but most often it is the big walleyes that draw the open water anglers.

The Illinois River is a recognized sauger and walleye fishery. The most popular and productive stretch is just upriver and downriver from Spring Valley, Ill.

Traveling a little further can take you to some of the most sought after winter open water fishing destinations in the country. These lakes include, but are not limited to Stockton, Truman, and Lake of the Ozarks in Missouri. Also consider Greer's Ferry, Bullshoals, and Norfort in Arkansas and Cumberland Lake in Kentucky.

I have personally been to all the Mississippi River pools, Rainy River, Missouri River, Illinois River, Bull Shoals, and the Fox River. Return trips to all of these fisheries as well as the others mentioned are all on my bucket list. If you have not started your accumulation of fishing destination trips, I suggest you make your start this March and April. If you have started, I may have helped extend your list of "must do" trips. So much water, so little time!

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