Chris Schultz

Outdoors Column

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

May 20, 2002

For me, it was the best opening weekend ever

"Daddy, daddy I've got one." That's what my four-year-old daughter, Abbi, was screaming as the sun set and the sky darkened on the opening weekend of the 2002 fishing season.

We were fishing from shore, on, of course, a secret lake, at dusk Sunday.

I threw out a leach on a slip bobber rig, and then got one of my ultra light set-ups ready to go for Abbi. Out of the tackle box, Abbi picked out a small black and green Beetle Spin. I would cast it out and Abbi would reel it in.

On the third or fourth cast of Abbi's Beetle Spin, I noticed my bobber was gone.

After a little patience and a slow attempt to set the hook, I had missed on my first chance of the year to nab a fish.

During that foray is when the real excitement started. Abbi was reeling in and yelling, "Daddy, Daddy, I've got one."

My brother-in-law and his son, who were fishing with us, quickly ran over to check it out. When I got close enough, I saw the fish in the water and thought it was a bass.

But, after Abbi cranked the reel a few more times, sure enough, it was a walleye ­ her first. A nice 14-incher.

She was gleaming with fishing joy. A fish in her hands and a big smile on her face.

Although the opening weekend of fishing in Minnesota was dismal, cold, and wet for many anglers, Abbi's first walleye made it the best opening weekend I've ever had.

The opener: not great, but not bad either

If you were one of the opening day anglers that was on the water by 2 or 3 a.m., you were greeted by some good weather to fish in and probably some good to fair walleye fishing.

Locally, early morning anglers fared well. Just before sunrise the weather was actually beautiful for fishing, and reports indicated that fishing at that time was also pretty good.

Then, at about 7 a.m., the rain moved in. Enough rain to soak anglers and make fishing miserable. The rain continued for much of the day; and by 10 a.m. most of the lakes in the area were barren of boats and anglers.

I started the day at 5 a.m., driving around and checking out several area lakes. By 8:30 a.m. I was trolling from a pontoon on Diamond Lake near Willmar.

The only thing the party of anglers that I was fishing with caught was my rod and reel combo. I accidentally dropped it in the lake and another angler made a dandy nab with the landing net to retrieve it.

Diamond, a good opening day walleye lake, was like many other lakes in the area. Those who were on the lake early, before the rain hit, got some fish. Those who weren't just got wet.

Two anglers from Willmar who I spoke with had a dandy stringer of walleyes. They said the best action came in very shallow water at about 3 a.m.

Moving onto other reports, Paul Diedrich, area fisheries manager for the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources based in Montrose, noted the weather for most of opening day was lousy for fishing and that anglers who wader-fished in the dark on the windy side of area lakes had the best action.

He added that Buffalo Lake provided some good action early on opening day, and that one wader fishing angler did nab a 24-inch walleye.

Joe's Sport Shop and Hardware in Howard Lake reported: Opening Day was basically a thumbs down for angling. The action was okay from midnight until the rain started.

Collinwood was busy and provided some good fishing and Lake Ann has been hot with anglers getting a lot of small 12 to 14-inch walleyes.

Dave Groff of Lil' Angie's Bait and Tackle at the Porthole in Lester Prairie reported: The opener was slow, with rain, rain, and more rain.

As the week moved on and weather improved, so did the action on the south fork of the Crow River. Dave noted that kids and other anglers heading to the river had been doing okay on walleyes.

The crappie action on Lake Mary has picked up, with fish biting in weed beds in about six feet of water. On Mary, anglers have also been picking walleyes, with one 24-incher coming off last week.

The hottest lake in the area has been Waconia, with Lake Ann not to far behind.

On a final fishing note, Diedrich let the cat out of the bag for good walleye action right now. Fish the windy side of the lake at night and stay shallow. That will be the best bet for walleyes until the weather and water temps warm up.

Outdoor notes

­ Although the conditions aren't perfect yet, a few morel mushrooms have popped out. Dave Groff showed his first morels of the year.

He said someone stopped at the bait shop wanting to know what these things growing on the south side of one of his buildings were. Dave went to check it out.

When he got there, he told the person he would take care of them and not to worry about it. But, to please call back when they pop up again next year.

Prime time morel hunting should be just around the corner. All we need is just a few warm days in the '80s, and morel hunting will be in full swing.

­ Don't forget about northern pike. A few dandy northerns were caught on Winsted Lake during the opener and there are several other lakes in our area that provide excellent fishing for northerns.

­ Look for crappie action on our local lakes to pick up this week.

­ The bass fishing season in Minnesota opens Saturday, May 25.

­ Anglers on Mille Lacs and through much of northern Minnesota were greeted with good weather and good fishing for the opener. The rain was pretty much stuck in the southern half of the state.

­ Minnesota is first nationally in the sales of fishing licenses per capita.

­ Keep fishing simple and easy. You will have more fun, and if you have a kid with, so will he or she.

­ Waterfowl, pheasants, song birds and other wildlife are now in the nesting season or soon will be.

Hopefully, after a slow start to spring, nesting conditions in late May and June will be good.

­ If you catch a lunker or have an interesting fishing or outdoor story to share, please give me a call at (320) 485-2535 or (320) 543-2131.

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