Brad Laabs: As the lakes warm, here's where to find the fish

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Brad Laabs

Water temperatures range from lake to lake, but most are ranging from the mid 50s to the low 60s in shallow bays right now.

The lakes will warm quickly if the forecast for the warm weather and sunshine holds true for the next week or two. The deeper clear-water lakes are warming slower. Many lakes are just starting to get bullrushes peaking above the surface.

Most walleyes are getting caught on jigs with minnows or plastics, or rigs and minnows in 6-13 feet of water.

Try fishing with a one-sixteenth- or one-eighth ounce jig with the minnow, and jump up to a quarter-ounce jig when using the plastic baits in the 3½ to 5 inch size.

Look for hard-sand bottom areas to be holding eating-sized males. Larger females are relating more to outside edges of developing cabbage weeds. Sand flats close to river inlets and outlets have been the most productive this last week, and should continue to produce as the spot tail shiner run is really just getting going.


Shiners are a walleye favorite in the early season when they are up shallow getting ready for their spawn. The shiner minnow bite should last for another 10 days or so.

Leeches have been producing walleyes also, and several trophy-sized walleyes were caught this last week on leeches. The best presentation for the leeches in shallow water has been on hooks or small jigs under slip bobbers, or live bait rigging with a three-foot leader on a split shot rig or slip sinker rig with one-sixteenth- or one-eighth ounce egg or worm sinker moving about .4-.6 mph

Long line both rigs or jigs in the shallow water, or stay out deeper and cast and retrieve the baits back to the boat. The night crawler bite should get started in the next week or so with the warm weather and warming water temps.

Crappies, sunfish and bass have all moved to shallow water submergent weeds, or the very edges of newly emergent weeds in 3-7 feet of water. Jigs and minnows/plastics, jigs or hooks tipped with minnows under bobbers are taking the most fish. Some sunfish are active on pieces of night crawler or wax worms tipped on small jigs or hooks under bobbers.

Bass season opens this Saturday for harvesting, and they are extremely active in shallow water. Bright-colored jigs with plastics or minnows, or high action, high flash lures fished fast and aggressively will get aggressive reaction bites now.

Northern pike are biting everything, everywhere right now. So if you are just looking to stretch a line with some action, get in 4-8 feet of water and cast around healthy developing weed growth and you will have action.

Be patient, tolerant, and helpful at boat accesses this holiday weekend as it will be busy, and some anglers don’t get as much practice launching and loading boats. Social distance -- and clean, drain and dry!

(Laabs owns Brad Laabs Guide Service in Detroit Lakes)


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