By Tim Douglass, Publisher of the Pope County Tribune
It seemed like a long time coming, but the annual Minnesota fishing opener is this Saturday, May 14.
Anglers in this area will likely be out in force, especially if we get some nice weather this weekend. Looking at the advanced forecast, which can’t always be trusted, we’ll have some heat during this week and some rain. By Saturday, however, temperatures will be more spring like, with lows in the 50s and highs in the mid-60s. It is supposed to be partly cloudy during the day on opener, but it looks like the rain will be over by then.
Walleye fishing, the primary reason for the opener, is so reliant on the weather. A darker day usually produces more walleyes during the day. A bright, sunny day can mean anglers need to be out early and then out again in the evening.
In the years I’ve been fishing opening weekend or in the first few weeks of the season, catching a few walleyes is a lot of fun but becomes less important as I age. It’s just nice to get out on the lake and pursue Minnesota’s most popular game fish.
Strategy is always needed, but the weather is usually the most important factor in those first few days.
Dennis Anderson, the outdoors columnist for the StarTribune, recently featured some tidbits from a book written by DNR fisheries biologist Paul Radomski. In that forthcoming book, “Walleye, A Beautiful Fish of the Dark” (University of Minnesota Press) persistence and a willingness to fail are crucial to successful angling.
I’ll second that. Those who pursue walleyes regularly understand that just because you’re fishing doesn’t mean you’re catching fish.
Sometimes everything comes together–the right bait, the right weather conditions, the right depth or location in the lake–and it can seem easy. Other times, doing everything right doesn’t produce many, if any walleyes.
Anyway, here are some bits of knowledge from Radomski.
• Keep in mind: Whether fishing in spring, summer, fall or winter, water temperature, light penetration and oxygen levels are key determinants in locating walleyes.
• Water temperature will be a concern for walleye anglers on Saturday’s opener, s.
• The best walleye fishing often occurs beneath cloudy skies when a ripple — commonly known as a walleye chop — roils a lake surface. Sunny days with lakes that are mirror flat often make fishing tougher.
• Yet in walleye fishing as in all fishing, exceptions to “rules” are common. Walleyes, for example, often feed without regard to conditions. Best as a result to keep a line in the water as often as possible, changing baits, locations and water depths — or all three — as often as necessary.
• Keep in mind also that walleyes, like other fish, often hang out on weed edges and along other changes in “structure.” But no one bottom type is productive at all times.
• If such a claim could be validated, it’s likely most walleyes caught on the opener will be fooled by jig-and-minnow combinations. But not all jigs are the same: They come in different colors, shapes and sizes. Minnows differ, too. Fatheads are cheapest and generally a good bet. Shiners can be (but aren’t always) more productive for walleyes. And red tail chubs often are best (but are costly and can be difficult to find).
• Like cats, dogs and horses — but unlike humans — walleyes have specialized eyes that allow them to hunt in low light. Their primary prey, yellow perch, lack this advantage, as do a major walleye predator, northern pike.
• Walleyes, however, likely have blurry close-up vision, leaving them at times unable to distinguish between a yellow perch, for example, and an angler’s lure or bait.