Chris Schultz

Outdoors Column

By Chris Schultz
Herald Journal

May 10, 2004

Fishing opener is almost here

It’s been a long wait and, for many, the anticipation has been almost unbearable.

For me, before I get into some of the best area lakes to hit for the opener, the time before this year’s opener has been filled with much more anticipation than usual.

A typical opener for me usually consists of fishing at least one area lake for northern and walleye, taking a bunch of photos, driving around to a bunch of other area lakes to get fishing reports, and then participating in several radio broadcasts giving reports on the fishing opener.

When that’s all said done I, more often then not, end up on small stretch of the Crow River to try and catch a few fish and find some peace and quiet.

The last few years I’ve closed up the opener shore fishing on a local lake, or pond, with my two daughters Abbi and Emmi.

This year’s opener will be a bit different.

First of all, before the season even gets started, I’ve already hooked a big one, about a 10-pound, healthy baby boy, I hope.

The scoop is, my wife is expecting in July. The doctors have told us it’s going to be a boy, and everything is looking good.

The new addition to our family that is on the way has me filled with anticipation, and on this year’s opener, that anticipation is leading my wife and I to a childbirth refresher class, and not to a local lake.

The girls and I will get a line in the water, but it won’t be until later in the day.

An invitation to the governor’s fishing opener on Lake of the Woods, that had to be declined, added another twist to this year’s opener.

Moving on, the opener is still the opener, and it’s the biggest outdoor event that Minnesota has to offer.

The day is much more then just a day of fishing. It is a big part of our state’s outdoor heritage, and outdoor related economy.

Locally, lakes will be full of anglers, boat landings will be busy, bait shops will be booming, and fish will be caught, especially by those who are out early, and were lucky enough to be on the right lake, and in the right spot.

In our neck of the woods, it always seems like mix of hot and cold.

Most lakes won’t produce much on the opener, but a select few will give up fish in big numbers.

With that statement in mind, and quite a few years of covering local fishing openers, here are my top ten area lakes for the opener.

1) Lake Washington: Washington, near Darwin, is shallow, warms up fast, and in recent years has almost been sure bet for a few walleyes on the opener.

Get out early, I mean midnight, and fish shallow, with live bait for the best action.

2) Buffalo Lake: Buffalo, bordering the city of Buffalo, has been a boom for walleye action in the winter, spring and fall the last few years.

The lake gets very busy, and because of that, some of the best opening day action can be had wader fishing with shallow running crank baits before the sun comes up.

3) Collinwood Lake: Collinwood, just south of Cokato, had always been a good opening day lake.

Fish with live bait, and just follow the crowd.

When someone catches a walleye, every boat on the lake seems to head to that spot.

4) Winsted Lake: Winsted, bordering the City of Winsted, can be a big sleeper on the opener.

You won’t catch any walleyes, but some big northern pike can be had along with some fast action on crappies.

Troll with spoons, or try still fishing with sucker minnows.

Eight to 10-pound northern pike aren’t unheard of.

5) Granite Lake: Granite, in Wright County near Albion Center, is mostly known for good sunfish action.

The lake, however, can be an opening day hot spot for walleye, and a few northern pike.

Troll, or drift, with live bait along the east shoreline for walleye.

If they don’t bite, head to the sunken island for panfish.

6) Howard Lake: Howard, bordering the city of Howard Lake, can be kind of hit and miss on the opener.

Some years, the lake is very busy on opening day, and some years it’s almost empty.

On the opener, the lake can produce anything from good numbers of walleye, big northern pike and limits of nice sized panfish.

Fish the northwest part of the lake northern pike, and head to the high banks on the northeast side for good walleye action.

The access on the south side is new, and much bigger thanks to the Howard Lions and Sportsmen’s Clubs.

7) Stahls Lake: Stahls, northwest of Hutchinson, more often then not provides fast action on small to mid-sized northern pike on the opener.

The lake is basically a sure bet to catch some fish.

Troll along the west shoreline with a spinner and minnow.

8) Lake John: John, near Annandale, is simply a good opening day lake.

I’ve probably spent more opening day mornings on this lake than any other.

Fish the point in the northwest part of the lake with just about anything, and you’ll catch fish.

9) French Lake: French, north of Cokato, can boom with walleye action on the opener.

I kind of picked this one from past history, and am not sure what kind of shape the lake, and its walleyes, are in right now.

Follow the other boats and fish slow with live bait.

If the weather is bad, and the wind is really howling, French can be a great lake to hit on the opener.

10) Diamond Lake: Diamond, near Atwater, is a little farther away than the other lakes in the top ten, but when the walleyes turn. This lake can really produce some fish in a big hurry.

It’s definitely hit and miss. Fish the point on the north east part of the lake with live bait, and if the walleyes are biting, they aren’t as picky as your average Minnesota walleye, making them a bit easier to catch.

This lake was cold most of last year, so it could boom on the opener.

There you go, my top 10 area lakes for the 2004 Minnesota fishing opener.

Finally, be prepared, be patient on the lake, and at the landing, and please remember that safety always comes first.

DNR closes several lakes and streams to protect walleye concentrations

From the DNR

Several lakes and streams in Minnesota will be closed to fishing for the May 15 fishing opener to protect walleyes, the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR) said today.

“We’ll have walleyes concentrated in a number of spawning areas, especially in the northeast,” said DNR’s Assistant Fisheries Chief Steve Hirsch. “The closures help prevent too many fish from being harvested during the first week or two of the season.”

The following fishing closures have been in effect since April 1:

- Sea Gull River, Cook County, from Sea Gull Lake through Gull Lake to Saganaga Lake approximately one third mile north of the narrows is closed through May 28.

- Saganaga Falls, Cook County, on the Minnesota-Ontario border where the Granite River enters Saganaga Lake is closed through May 31.

- Maligne River (also known as Northern Light Rapids) on the Ontario side of Sagana Lake is closed through May 31.

- Channel between Little Gunflint and Little North lakes, Cook County on the Minnesota-Ontario border is closed through May 31.

- Cross River, Cook County from the Gunflint Trail to Gunflint Lake is closed through May 28.

- Little Birch Lake, Todd County, at the east shore inlet is closed to fishing and boating through May 28.

The posted area begins downstream of the fish barrier on Angler Drive.

Closures on Minnesota-Ontario border waters are done in cooperation with the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources and affect both sides of the border.

The following fishing closures will be in effect from May 15 through May 21:

- Tait River, Cook County, from White Pine Lake to the Forest Road 339 crossing.

- Junco River, Cook County, from the first log dam above County Road 57 downstream to Devil Track Lake, and including a portion of Devil Track Lake near the river mouth.

The following fishing closure will be in effect from May 15 through May 28:

- Gull River in the city of East Gull Lake, Cass County, from the Army Corps of Engineers Dam on Gull Lake to approximately 250 feet downstream.

- Boat travel is permitted through all the closed areas, except on Little Birch Lake in Todd County where the closure applies to both fishing and boating. All closed areas will be posted.

Some drought facts

From the DNR

Most people look out their windows, see spring flowers blooming and grass turning green.

If they have done some spring gardening they may be aware of how little soil moisture there is, otherwise most are not aware most of Minnesota is in a drought.

According to national drought indicators, the only area not in drought is a small part of the northwest Minnesota.

The Minnesota climatology office reports that from July 2003-April 2004, eight of the 10 months recorded below normal precipitation.

In fact, over the same ten months only five of 100 years have had lower precipitation totals.

The US Drought Monitor shows most of western and north central Minnesota are in a severe drought.

Other indicators of drought conditions included low stream flow, low topsoil moisture for crops, and plants and high to very high fire conditions.

Predictions for the next 90 days (May through July) show no tendencies away from normal (precipitation or temperature).

However, monthly rainfall amounts begin to decrease after April.

Normal rainfall will only prevent the drought from becoming more severe.

Outdoor notes

• Always check your boat, trailer, and gear for exotic species, like milfoil, every time you leave a lake.

Remove it, dispose of it properly, and help stop the spread.

• Most boat landings in the area do not have garbage containers at them.

Carry your own garbage bags with you, and do your best to help keep all of our lakes and accesses clean.

• Don’t forget to purchase your new 2004 Minnesota fishing license.

• The Winsted Sportsmen’s Club will meet Tuesday, May 11, at 7 p.m., at the Lake Mary Club House.

The agenda includes making plans for the upcoming take a kid fishing event.

In next week’s column look for more information on the clubs annual event.

• The morel mushroom hunt is on.

Although conditions are a bit dry for good morel hunting, the best hunting of the year usually occurs when the lilacs bloom.

• Be prepared for low water levels on our area lakes, and some tough conditions at some of the boat landings.

• The 2004 Minnesota bass fishing season opens Saturday, May 29.

• The 2004 Minnesota muskie fishing season opens Saturday, June 5.

• The apple trees in my back yard bloomed Saturday, exactly one week earlier than last year.

• Today, May 10, the sun will rise at 5:50 a.m. and will set at 8:38 p.m.

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

• This week in the outdoors, I had the chance to do little shore fishing with my daughters, planted shrubs, and mowed my lawn for the first time.

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