Brad Laabs: Part of the fun of fishing is solving the puzzle of what works and where
Opening weekend was cold and windy with a mix of snow, sleet, and rain. It doesn’t seem to be uncommon to contend with challenging conditions for a Minnesota fishing opener. Last year we had wind gusts of up to 40 mph on opener. Most seem like they are memorable for the tough conditions. It seems I can only remember a few that the weather was more sweatshirt than Gore-Tex.
The cold front shut the spot tail shiner run off, so shiners were hard to come by for bait. Some bait shops had them, but only for a short period of time as anglers would buy them up, and buy them out, as soon as they showed up.
The spot tail shiner is walleye candy in the early season. The next couple weeks will help your odds if you have them to offer the fish.
Most anglers struggled for bites and a few fish on opener, but some anglers had great success when they were able to locate schools of walleyes. Reports range from walleyes being as shallow as 2-3 feet, some caught in 7-9 feet, some in 9-11 feet, and some walleyes were feeding in 18-24 feet.
I think the key with the depth was dependent on the lake and the location of the baitfish on that body of water. Find the baitfish and you find the fish.
I am sure some anglers that had success got fish on jigs and plastics, but the anglers I am aware of that did well found the jig and minnow to be the best option.
Water temps range from the high 40s to the mid-50s degree range. As we warm up and get some sunshine, look for the shiners and the fish to move shallow. By this weekend, shiners should be more available from most bait shops.
Crappies and sunfish have been moving in and out of the shallows and relating to the slowly developing weed lines. Weather, again, is the big key for their location and activity level.
Bass and northern will also be in on the weed edges and will be actively feeding. Fishing shallow, even in cold front conditions, northern and rock bass can be counted on to bite as they never seem to be as negatively affected as the walleyes, smallmouth, and largemouth bass are. Remember, you can target bass to catch and release only at this time.
As water temps climb and get to around 60 degrees, the leech and crawler bite also starts to produce well for those chasing after walleyes. Leeches on jigs, rigs, and under bobbers and the crawlers fished on rigs, or jig and a half crawler, start to become go-to techniques for prying walleyes from the lake to the frying pan.
Part of the fun of fishing is solving the puzzle of what works and where. Get out, give it a try, and enjoy yourself during these very weird times we are living in now.
(Laabs owns Brad Laabs Guide Service in Detroit Lakes)