Chris Schultz

Outdoors Column

By Chris Schultz

Winsted-Lester Prairie Journal & Howard Lake Herald, Minn.

May 4, 1998

Fishing opener could be a good one

The ice went out about two weeks earlier than normal.

The weather this spring has been beautiful. Water temps on our local lakes have warmed up at a fast pace and walleye and northern pike should be recovered from spawning and be biting at a good pace by the opener.

Actually, this year's opener is shaping up to be one of the better ones we have had in quite some time. If you're ready to go, and Mother Nature continues to cooperate, the fishing and the experience should be super.

Like most openers, early ice out or not, the fishing for walleye and northern pike should be best on the smaller, more shallow lakes in our area.

These lakes tend to warm up faster than the deeper ones and because of that usually provide better action on the opener.

In the past few years, lakes like Washington, French, Swan, Marion, and Collinwood have all been hot walleye spots on the opener, they should be good choices again this year.

For northern pike, Winsted, Dog, Lake Francis, and back waters off the Crow River have been the top spots.

Although Winsted did experience a fishkill this winter, fishing for northerns on Winsted and the other lakes mentioned should be good again this year.

Other lakes in the area like Waconia, Howard, Cokato, and Big Waverly take a little longer to warm up and usually provide excellent fishing by Memorial Day.

Even if the fish don't bite like gangbusters on the opener, we shouldn't complain.

Just think back to 1996. That year, the water on our area lakes was freezing cold on the opener and several of the lakes in northern Minnesota were still covered with ice.

By the way, the 1998 fishing season for walleye and northern pike on inland waters in Minnesota opens at midnight on Saturday, May 9.

Area lakes fishing report

The crappies are still biting and the sunfish are just getting started.

Dan Radtke of Radtke's Bait and Tackle near Winsted reported a lot of anglers have been heading to the east side of Lake Mary for crappies and sunfish and that Lake Ida has also been providing some good panfish action. The top baits going out last week were crappie minnows and Maynard's Flu Flu jigs.

Joe's Sport Shop in Howard Lake reported a few sunfish are starting to bite just off the railroad tracks on Howard Lake and the crappie action on Lake Mary has been good.

Joe's also noted that Collinwood, Washington, and Big Waverly should be good lakes to try for the walleye opener.

For opening weekend: Radtke's Bait and Tackle will be open 24 hours a day Friday, May 8, and Saturday, May 9.

Tentatively, Joe's Sport Shop in Howard Lake will close at 1 a.m. and reopen at 4 a.m. Saturday, May 9.

New fishing regulations set for 1998 seasons

From the DNR

Minnesota anglers need to be aware of new fishing regulations when they venture out for the start of the 1998 fishing season, according to the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR).

New special or experimental regulations will be in place on Mill Lacs Lake and Upper Red Lake, as well as 15 other lakes around Minnesota.

On Mille Lacs Lake, there will be a 15-inch minimum size limit for walleye, with only one walleye over 20 inches allowed in a person's possession limit. This is the same walleye size limit that was in place during the 1997 season.

New for 1998 on Mille Lac is a "protected slot limit" for northern pike. The slot limit requires all northern pike from 26 inches through 36 inches to be immediately released, with only one over 36 inches allowed in a person's possession limit.

The night fishing ban on Mille Lacs will start at 10 p.m. on May 11 and end at 12:01 a.m. on June 8.

Other lakes affected by new regulations include Ida Lake in Blue Earth County; Dudley and Kelly lakes in Rice County; Little McDonald Lake in Otter Tail County; Pelican Lake in St. Louis County; Loon, Reeds and St. Olaf lakes in Waseca County; and Mink and Somers lakes in Wright County.

The new regulations are designed to improve fishing quality, prevent over-harvest, and in the case of Ida and Loon lakes, protect newly developing game fish populations.

In addition to anglers heeding new fishing regulations, people with a taste for fresh snapping turtle should be aware that it is now illegal to harvest one in Minnesota during the months of May and June. This restriction is intended to protect snapping turtles during their egg-laying period.

Details on the Wright County lakes are:

Mink Lake (Wright County)

Sunfish: Possession limit 5.

Crappie: Possession limit 5.

Yellow perch: Possession limit 10.

Walleye: Possession limit 2.

Largemouth Bass: All must be immediately returned to the water. Possession or use of live minnows is prohibited.

Somers Lake (Wright County)

Sunfish: Possession limit 5.

Crappie: Possession limit 5.

Yellow Perch: Possession limit 10.

Walleye: Possession limit 2.

Largemouth Bass: All must be immediately returned to the water. Possession or use of live minnows is prohibited.

Outdoor notes

35 percent of Minnesota adults hunt or fish.

Read the 1998 Minnesota Fishing Regulations Handbook before you head out for this year's opener.

Double check all your fishing gear and equipment before you hit the lake. Pay special attention to your boat trailer. Make sure the lights work, the bearings are greased and the hitch is in good working order.

Don't shy away from fishing for northern pike on the opener or throughout the season. Northerns provide a great fight, are often much easier to catch than walleyes, are excellent in the frying pan with or without the y-bones removed, and are abundant in our area lakes.

Be courteous and not competitive on the lake this spring and summer.

Pay special attention to exotic species this season like milfoil. Every time you land your boat, make sure you clean all vegetation off the trailer and boat so you don't transport it to a different a lake.

Take a kid fishing. You'll have fun and so will they.

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