Chris Schultz

Outdoors Column

By Chris Schultz
Winsted-Lester Prairie Journal & Howard Lake-Waverly Herald, Minn.

May 6, 2002

Fishing opener, walleye, and northern pike seasons start Sat., May 11

Another year, another season, another opener. In Minnesota there is nothing like it. Anglers by the thousands will grab bait, tackle, rods and reels to fish from shore, docks, and boats.

Resorts will be full, there will be parties, boat landings and lakes will be busy, millions of dollars will be spent, and with out question, fish will be caught.

It's tradition, it's fun, it could be the biggest event in Minnesota.

For me, every opener turns into a battle of where, when, and with what? Each opener for at least the past five, I have said, "Next year I'll be in a new boat, on a good walleye lake, with all the latest technology, and I'll be one of those anglers nabbing all the walleyes."

Then the opener comes, and my small 14-footer isn't out of storage or emptied of duck decoys. The new boat and all the equipment I talked of are still at the boat dealership and especially this year­time is short.

As the opener nears, and I look at my waders, Rapalas and old gear, I find myself saying, again, "Next year I'll be in a new boat, on a good walleye lake, with all the latest technology, and I'll be one of those anglers nabbing all the walleyes."

Now, with opener only days away, I'm going to punt and get back to what fishing is supposed to be, fun and simple.

My waders and 14-foot boat don't leek, my fly rod as a new tippet, new line is on my spincasting rigs.

I don't have to worry about batteries, instruction manuals and what buttons to push, and most of all my two daughters, one 4 years old and the other 2, have brand new Zebco 202s­their first fishing rods, and, probably most important, they love to dig worms.

We may not catch a lot of walleyes, but we'll have a lot of fun digging worms and catching sunfish.

The opener

With only five days to go, success during the opener on lakes in our area will be very dependent on what this week's weather is like.

Right now the water is still very cold, if it stays that way anglers may be able to find walleyes in very shallow water just coming off the spawn. The fish will most likely be in very shallow water. They may bite like crazy, or they may not bite at all.

If the weather is very warm this week and water temps rise, the fish will probably be out of very shallow water and out on the weed edges and gravel or rock bars. The spawn will be over and the fish may be a little more difficult to find and catch.

The situation could make fishing on the opener difficult, because many anglers believe walleyes just coming off the spawn or just after spawning don't bite. They need a little time to recover before the action picks up.

On most openers, the spawn is long over and isn't a big factor when comes to catching walleyes.

Because of the cold spring, the best bet for this year's opener will be to fish the smaller lakes. They aren't as deep and the water warms up faster.

This week's weather will also affect those fishing the Crow River. Right now the current is moving pretty fast. If it doesn't rain or snow during the week, the current will slow and fishing conditions will improve.

Moving on, Joe's Sport Shop and Hardware in Howard Lake reported: The weather this week will definitely affect the opener. The fish may still be spawning and in very shallow water if it stays cold.

Collinwood and Washington always get a lot activity on the opener and produce fish. However, smaller, shallow lakes will probably provide better fishing.

Joe's noted that, in previous years of cold spring weather, Howard had been a good opening day walleye lake.

Regarding spring crappie action, reports and activity has been slow. The best fishing has come from Lakes Ann and Big Waverly.

On opening weekend Joe's will be open 'til midnight Friday, May 10. From 5 a.m. to 7 p.m. on Saturday, May 11 and Sunday, May 12 from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m.

Lil' Angies Bait and Tackle at the Porthole in Lester Prairie reported: The bait shop is geared up and ready to go for the opener.

Also, the water is still very cold and anglers will probably find the best action in shallow water on smaller lakes that warm up faster, like Ann and Eagle.

Spring crappie action has been good on Big Waverly, and although the current on the south fork of the Crow River as been fast, anglers are catching a few cat fish.

On opening weekend, Lil' Angies will be open till 1:30 a.m. Friday night, May 10 for those midnight anglers, Saturday, May 11 from 4 a.m. to 1:30 a.m. and Sunday, May 12 from 5 a.m. to noon.

On a final opening day angling note, if you're out after walleyes, especially in shallow water, fish at night. Walleyes are very sensitive to light, and trying to catch walleyes on a bright sunny day in shallow water can be tough.

Outdoor notes

­ Be cautious, courteous, and patient at the landing and on the lake this weekend. Your angler experience will be better, and so will everyone else.

­ When you head to the lake, make sure there is a personal flotation device for each person in the boat, and don't forget about exotic aquatic species. When you leave the lake, clean all vegetation from your entire boat and trailer.

­ Take some time to read the 2002 Minnesota Fishing Regulations Handbook.

­ Put new line on your fishing reels. Less tangles mean less headaches and more fun, especially when your fishing with kids.

­ For a little extra angling fun, go out and try to nab your own nightcrawlers. An evening walking across the lawn with a flashlight in search of nightcrawlers can be a test of skill and quickness.

It's fun, a part of fishing tradition, and the effort will improve your hook setting skills when you actually do get a line into the water.

­ Make sure your boat trailer is properly licensed and in good working order this season. Check, the hitch, safety chains, lights, and tires. It's a good idea to give your trailer wheels a good greasing every year.

­ Get your dog checked for heartworm and on a heartworm preventative medication.

­ Take a kid fishing - you will have fun, and so will he or she.

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