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Brad Laabs: Great weather after a tough year made for a very popular fishing opener

The beautiful weather and the need for people to get out and be active after the year we have all been through, made this the busiest opening day that I can remember.

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Brad Laabs with a 27-inch catch-and-release walleye caught on opening day. (Submitted photo May 2021)

Last weekend “opening fishing” weekend was one of the nicest weather openers that I can remember for a long time. No high winds, no rain, no snow or sleet, and no cold!

Winds were calm and the temperatures easily made it t-shirt fishing by mid-morning. My son Jake even got sunburned. I save opening weekend to fish with my sons Jake and Josh. On the way home from work on Friday afternoon to pick up my grandson Easton to come up from the Twin Cities, the transmission went out on his truck -- it’s always something, isn’t it?

So Josh and Easton were not able to make it up, but Jake and I were able to send texts and pics to make him jealous during the day on Saturday.

The lake we started on had the most boats I have ever seen on the lake, and the lake has hosted some 50 boat tournaments. Reports from around the area lakes indicate the same was true for almost all the lakes. The beautiful weather and the need for people to get out and be active after the year we have all been through, made this the busiest opening day that I can remember.

Walleye success varied and a couple of the lakes in the area had a very active walleye bite in shallow water. Jigs and rigs with shiners or slip bobbers with hooks or jigs tipped with leeches seemed to be the best bite for most anglers. We were able to find nice eating-sized walleyes from 14-17 inches and put back one 21-incher out of seven feet of water. We caught fish on jigs and shiners, both pitched and long line trolled and snapped.


The northern pike were also active up shallow, and loved eating the spot tail shiners as well. We also caught some bigger perch and a few anglers near us not only caught walleyes, northern and perch, but some crappies in the same area. We fished for about six hours, took a few hours in the afternoon off for some food and birthday celebration for my wife Mary.
Jake and I then took Mary out to catch some nice crappies for a couple hours in the evening just before the beautiful sunset Saturday night. We were casting 1/16th ounce jigs tipped with big fatheads into shallow weeds and bullrushes.

Everything that swims and eats was up shallow feeding. We caught crappie, gils, rockbass, bass, northern, and even got to CPR (catch-photo-release) this 27-incher you see this old man holding (that’s me!). When I see the picture, I sure look older to me than I feel (thank God!)

Water temps have remained all week in the high 50s to low 60s. The shallow bite will hold up and be similar for the next week or two as it was for the opener. Most walleyes came from 6-15 feet of water.

Developing cabbage weed patches will be fish holding magnets. Go shallow in wind and cloudy conditions, and look for fish off the first break edges and extending points when it is clear and bright and calmer conditions.

As the water warms, the night crawler bite will join the minnows and leeches as a preferred meal for hungry walleyes. If you are fishing plastics on the jigs, work them more aggressively to trigger reaction bites. Remember that bass season is still closed. You can target them to catch, but they must be released until the bass opener that starts the Saturday of Memorial Day weekend.

(Laabs owns Brad Laabs Guide Service in Detroit Lakes)

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