Since the ice has come off the lakes, the water has not had much of a chance to warm this last week, with the weather we have had.
The temperatures will be better all week this week until the fishing opener, but we will be lacking the sunshine. Shiners will be hard to come by for the opener unless we do get some warming sun. The shallow water warms more quickly with the sunshine than it does with a 50-plus degree day with cloud cover.
Let's hope the forecast at this point is wrong (it happens!), and we get a couple of days of sun this week. It doesn't take long for the minnow trappers and netters to get shiners if the conditions get right.
If we are not able to get shiners, other minnows will work, as will plastics, power bait, and gulp. It is just hard to beat the spot tail shiner in the very early season, as they are walleye candy this time of the year.
My minnow preference, in order (if I am not able to find any spot tails) would be rainbows, small suckers, and then large fatheads. Smaller- to medium-sized river shiners or golden shiners are also popular for early season walleye anglers.
If using plastics on jigs, the white and pearl, white with a blue hue, or white with a green hue are good for mimicking spot tail shiners. The 3.5- and 4-inch gulp minnows or powerbait minnows have a good history of producing for many anglers.
My suggestion for opener is to focus on some of the lakes that were the first to become ice free. They warm more quickly and baitfish will be in the warmest water in the lake. Shallow bays, river mouths, and north shorelines will typically have warmer water in the early season.
Shallow basin lakes, especially if they have some stain to the water, or a dark bottom, will always warm early, and bait fish and fish activity tends to be more active with the warming water. Find the bait fish and you will find some fish.
Crappie anglers have already been finding success very shallow, and many have even been shore fishing to reach active fish. The crappie bite will just keep getting better over the next several weeks, so they become a great option to help create some opening weekend success.
Bass and northern will also be shallow, and it is not uncommon to catch multiple species in some of the same shallow areas. All of the gamefish are chasing some of the same early meal options available to them.
Searching for the walleyes in the 6-12 foot water is a great starting depth. If the shiners aren't up shallow, some walleyes will be off the breaks and targeting them for food. Other minnows will be using the warmer shallow water and some walleyes will target them. Stick to shoreline breaks, and windswept areas can also increase your odds for locating active fish shallow.
Be safe, have fun, and be patient with others who are less experienced at the boat ramps. With the decent weather in the forecast for opener, our local lakes are going to be busy. Remember to clean, drain, and dry. We all need to do our part to stop (if possible), or slow the spread of aquatic invasive species of both plants and animals.
(Laabs owns Brad Laabs Guide service in Detroit Lakes)