Brad Laabs column: Some tips on how to approach the early days of fishing season

The good news is this cold and unpredictable spring may finally be over. We could be turning the corner to nice weather.

Forum Columnist Brad Laabs.jpg
Fishing Columnist Brad Laabs

DETROIT LAKES – The good news is this cold and unpredictable spring may finally be over. We could be turning the corner to nice weather.

Ponds and shallow lakes have opened up this week. By the end of this weekend, most of the lakes in the region should have open water. Water temperatures will be frigid for a while until the sun, nice weather and more mild overnight temps can do their job. A few clear and deep lakes are always the last to ice over. They are also the slow ones to open up in the spring in the late fall.

With less than a week of open water before the opener, water temps will be very cold. Walleyes will be looking for some of the warmest water in shallow areas holding baitfish. Hard sand bottom and gravel bars will hold male walleyes for a couple of weeks in spawning areas. We may still have males milting at the opener as the DNR walleye egg harvest at both Ottertail and Lake Sallie was going on this week.

This harvest is a couple of weeks later than more normal spring. The spot tail shiner run will be delayed this spring as well. Spot tails are always a major player in early season walleye activity as a high protein and readily available sought-after food.

Some bait may be challenging to get for some bait shops for this opener as trapping time has a short window. Leeches that are trapped in area ponds are just getting available for trappers to get into now. It will be a scramble to get bait shops supplied.


High water situations in area rivers have also presented challenges for trapping minnows. Look for the crappie and sunfish bite to get going in shallow bays and warmed North Shore flats. Any submerged health-weed growth can be a magnet for baitfish and panfish. Small jigs tipped with minnows or plastics will work for both shallow water walleyes and shallow panfish. Slip bobbers may also play a significant role in this opener as it is a very stealthy way to present the bait to shallow fish.

I think we will have active northern pike and bass shallow and hungry, so expect a multi-species catch to be happening as you search for hungry and active walleyes.

This late ice out will also leave a small window to get all the area public access docks in and ready. Some access ramps need work after getting pushed around by the ice out. Water levels for the area lakes will be great after all the snow this winter and spring and the contributions from some of our spring rains.

People are anxious to get out and enjoy nice weather, and the forecast for the opener looks very good. I expect the more popular community fished lakes to be busy. Remember to be patient and polite as there will always be some that lack launching and loading public access etiquette. Many times it is a lack of knowledge, awareness or experience. Welcome to the nice part of our spring and the good springboard to our summer.

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