Chris Schultz

Outdoors Column

By Chris Schultz
Herald Journal

May 8, 2006

A super seven for the fishing opener


Although this week’s column includes an extensive news release on the May 13 fishing opener from the DNR Fisheries Office in Hutchinson, in an effort to build some tradition for this column, and just for the heck of it, I’m still going to share with you my super seven area lakes or fishing spots for the 2006 Minnesota fishing opener.

The goal or purpose of the list isn’t to catch an opening day limit of walleye or northern pike, or to spoil someone’s secret fishing hole, but to simply throw a line at a few spots that may be a good bet for catching a fish or having a good time on the opener.

Most on the list are included in the Hutchinson Fisheries Office news release, and are traditionally good during the first part of the season – that’s why they’re on the list.

1. Stahls Lake

Stahls Lake, northwest of Hutchinson, is my number one pick this year because it’s an easy lake to fish from shore, or in a boat, and the lake is a consistent producer of northern pike.

The fish aren’t big, but they bite like crazy. Hook on a sucker minnow or a Rapala and troll the southwest corner of the lake, or just troll or cast to the weed edges.

You don’t have to get there early, and if conditions are right and the water is clear, you can actually see northern pike in the water hanging around the weed edges.

The northern fishing is great action, but don’t expect to catch a walleye.

2. Diamond Lake

Diamond Lake, north of Atwater, can be a tremendous opening day walleye producer.

The lake is due to be hot on the opener and, in general, it’s pretty easy to fish.

Stay in shallow water and head to the point on west side and troll, or drift around it with a leech or minnow rig.

Diamond can also produce some good northern pike action and a lunker walleye is possible.

3. Winsted Lake

The odds are pretty good that you won’t catch a walleye on Winsted.

Actually, I don’t even know if Winsted has a walleye in it.

Northern pike and crappie are what you will catch there. The potential exists for some big northern pike.

A few years ago, on the opener, I watched a kid fishing from shore land about 15 northern pike in less than an hour.

He was casting a red and white daredevil, and two of the fish were more than seven pounds.

Fish near the old creamery on the east side, or fish near the bay on southeast corner.

4. Lake Washington near Darwin

Year-in and year-out Washington is probably the best opening day walleye lake in our area.

The lake is shallow, warms up fast, and is well stocked with walleye.

Get there early – try midnight – and be prepared for a good crowd.

5. Collinwood

Collinwood Lake, just south of Hwy. 12 between Cokato and Dassel, is another one those consistent early season producers.

More often than not the lake provides some good action for walleye and northern pike on the opener.

Fish the windy side of the lake or try trolling along the campground on the east side.

6. Howard Lake

Howard Lake, adjacent to the city of Howard Lake, is in better shape after flooding a few years ago then some anglers think, and the lake is due to produce some good action on the opener.

Head to the rock pile near the middle of the lake’s south end or troll the high bank on the northeast corner for walleye.

For northern pike troll the weed line on the southwest side.

7. Lake John

John, just south of Annandale, is an old opening day favorite of mine, and more often then not provides some good opening day action.

Fish the northwest part of the lake, where it turns to the narrow bay and expect to catch walleye or northern.

John is a lake for the early riser because the best fishing occurs right around sunrise.

If you’re after northern pike, still fishing with sucker minnows is almost a guaranteed bet on John.

If any of you noticed, I didn’t include either fork of the Crow River in this years super seven.

Right now, the Crow is too high and moving too fast for good fishing.

If water levels drop, and the current settles down by opening day, the river may provide some good fishing.

Good luck fishing and have a safe opener.

Fishing opener
From the Hutchinson DNR Office

Below is information regarding the upcoming fishing opener Saturday, May 13. Please feel free to use any or all of this information in your local newspaper. If you have questions, please call the Hutchinson DNR Office.

• Saturday, May 13 - Fishing Opener

This year’s opener for walleye, northern pike, and sauger, is May 13.

The season for largemouth and smallmouth bass begins Saturday, May 27, for most of the state.

The season for muskellunge begins June 3.

Angling for crappies, bluegills, sunfish, rock bass, white bass, catfish, perch, bullheads, and carp is open on a continuous basis.

Anglers are reminded that all resident anglers (age 16 and older) must have an angling license.

Exceptions are that mothers on Take-A-Mom Fishing Weekend (May 13-14), and adults accompanying children under age 16, on Take-A-Kid Fishing Weekend (June 9-11), may fish without a license on those dates.

Safety while on the water is always a concern.

Boaters are reminded that all watercraft, regardless of length, will need to carry at least one U.S. Coast Guard (USCG) approved, wearable life preserver for each person on board.

In addition, state law requires that all children, less than 10 years old, wear a life jacket while in a boat that is underway.

Boats 16 feet and longer must carry at least one USCG approved throwable device.

Persons 12-17 years of age are required to have a watercraft operator’s permit to operate a boat of more than 25 horsepower, unless someone at least 21 years of age is on board and in reach of the controls.

Operation of a boat while intoxicated is illegal and dangerous.

The DNR points out that about one-half of fatal boating accidents in the U.S. are alcohol related.

Boaters are reminded to clean off all vegetation from their boats, motors, and trailers.

The purpose is to prevent the spread of Eurasian watermilfoil, an exotic plant species.

Washington, Stella, Manuella, Ripley, and Big Wolf lakes in Meeker County are now on the list of lakes containing Eurasian watermilfoil.

• New Regulations

When anglers are going through the new fishing regulations, they should note that the season for walleye, sauger, northern pike, bass, and muskie now closes Feb. 25, 2007.

The extension of the angling season began last year but did not make it to print in the 2005 regulations.

Another significant change is that, beginning this year, anglers can only take one walleye over 20 inches as a part of their daily and possession limit.

Previously, anglers were allowed to take one walleye over 24 inches.

These are only a few of new regulations this year so anglers should refer to the 2006 fishing regulations to become familiar with other new regulations.

• Lake Marion Fishing Report

Lake Marion is located north of Brownton on State Hwy 15.

The lake comprises 419 acres and has a maximum depth of 15 feet.

The public access is on the east side of the lake. A McLeod County park is located on the east side of the lake and provides shoreline angling opportunities, fishing pier, swimming beach and camping sites.
Shoreline angling is also available at Lake Marion along State Highway 15.

Netting conducted by the DNR, in 2005 indicated good net catches for walleye with many fish in the 13 to 26 inch range.

Walleye fry (day old) are stocked two out of three years with the next stocking scheduled for 2007.

The net catch in 2005 for northern pike was in the normal range with most lengths ranging from 15 to 24 inches.

Angling for black crappie and bluegills should also be good this summer.

Lake Marion provides a unique opportunity to catch channel catfish. Anglers have a chance of catching a 20-pound-plus catfish at Lake Marion.

Past assessment netting sampled quite a few catfish in the 20 to 28 inch range with a few being over 30 inches long. Lake Marion should also provide good success for largemouth bass from 12-18 inches.

• Swan Lake Fishing Report

Swan Lake is located north of the town of Silver Lake and is a popular area fishing lake.

The 343 acre lake, though shallow at 10 feet, provides a considerable amount of angling opportunity.

There is a public boating access on the east side and a county park access with a fishing pier on the north side.

There is also state-owned, shoreline angling access along the south side of the lake.

DNR Section of Trails and Waterways has been working on improving angler access on this site for several years so it is in pretty good shape.

Swan Lake has good numbers of black crappies and should provide fair success for bluegills and pumpkinseed sunfish.

Though not really noted for largemouth bass, sampling indicates fair numbers of largemouth from 12 to 19 inches in length.

Channel catfish will again provide angling opportunity this summer with many fish from 17 to 30 inches.

DNR assessment netting completed in 2004 indicated good numbers of walleye with lengths from 16 to 23 inches.

Because these fish have had an opportunity to grow since the 2004 netting, the average sizes of walleyes should have increased.

Swan Lake is scheduled for walleye fingerling stocking this fall. For those anglers that enjoy bullhead fishing Swan Lake would be a good choice.

This season Swan Lake should produce many 10 to 12 inch bullheads.

• Belle Lake Fishing Report

Belle Lake, north of Hutchinson, will again be a good choice for anglers.

Belle Lake is 826 acres in size and has a maximum depth of 25 feet.

There is a state-owned public access on the east shore and a very nice county-owned access on the southeast side.

There is a fishing pier and shoreline fishing available at the county park on the southeast side. Camping is also available at the park.

DNR netting in 2003 indicated above average numbers of walleye with eight different age classes being represented.

Walleye anglers will be pleased with the sizes of walleyes, with many fish in the 15 to 22 inch range.

Belle Lake is stocked with walleye fry in odd numbered years, which means the lake will be stocked in the spring of 2007.

The 2003 netting indicated that northern pike are doing very well in Belle. Net catches for northerns was higher than it has been in the last thirty years. The size of these northerns will also make anglers happy as there are many fish in the 3 to 4 pound range.

The DNR conducted walleye population estimate netting on Belle this spring and besides nice walleyes, found many dinner plate (10 to 13 inches) sized crappies.

It will be interesting to see how well these crappies bite this summer as the netting also indicated a considerable amount of forage available for those large crappies.

• Jennie Lake Fishing Report

Jennie Lake is about six miles north of Hutchinson and should provide a lot of good fishing this summer.

The 1,056 acre lake has a maximum depth of 15 feet. There are public accesses on both the north and south shorelines.

If you do not have a boat shoreline fishing is available at both accesses.
There is a fishing pier at the Aquatic Management Area (AMA) on the south side of the lake. The AMA is located east of the south public access.

There is a small parking lot with a foot-trail to the lake. If anglers are interested in larger than 1 to 2 pound walleyes, then Jennie would be a good choice.

A netting survey conducted by the DNR in 2003 indicated most fish in the 3 to 5 pound range with some as large as 8 pounds.

The lake is stocked with walleye fry two out of three years with the next stocking in the spring of 2007.

Jennie Lake has excellent numbers of northern pike with most fish being in the 21 to 27 inch range.

Though walleyes and northerns will likely provide the most interest for anglers there should also be good fishing for bluegills and largemouth bass.

There also might be a few nice yellow perch being taken this summer.

• Collinwood Lake Fishing Report

Collinwood Lake has provided excellent fishing the last few years.

The lake is located about three miles southeast of Dassel.

The 584 acre lake has a maximum depth of 28 feet.

There are public accesses on both the north and south shorelines.

There is a Wright County Park on the east side.

The park has a public fishing pier, boat access, swimming beach and camping available.

The most recent DNR netting information indicated net catches above the normal range for walleyes.

This year many fish will be in the 20 to 22 inch range.

Walleye fingerlings are stocked into Collinwood in odd numbered years.

Northern pike fishing should be excellent for fish from 3 to 4 pounds.

There should also be good fishing for black crappies, bluegills and you might even try your luck at channel catfish.

The catfish showed up in 2002 netting and ran from 17 to 20 inches in length but should be considerably larger by now.

Yellow perch that were sampled in 2002 should now be of a size more acceptable to anglers. If you are a bullhead angler Collinwood Lake might be a good choice for some of those 12 to 13 inch bullheads.

Collinwood Lake is scheduled for netting this summer so it will be interesting to see how the fish population has changed over the last few years.

• Washington Lake Fishing Report

Washington Lake is one of the most popular fishing lakes in the area.

Washington is located between Darwin and Dassel and has a public access on the south shoreline. Though the lake is good-sized at 2,639 acres, it is generally quite shallow.

The maximum depth is 17 feet. The lake has a history of being an excellent walleye lake but there is also angling opportunity for many other fish species.

The most recent netting survey by the DNR was conducted during the summer of 2004.

The net catch for walleye was in the normal range with many fish in the 14 inch range and there were also fair numbers of fish from 17 to 20 inches in length.

Though there is some natural reproduction of walleyes in Washington, the lake is stocked with walleye fry (day-old fish) in odd numbered years.

Washington should provide good angling for northern pike. Lengths of northerns in 2004 ranged from 18 to 27 inches.

Bluegill numbers in Lake Washington are in the normal range. During the last few summers anglers have reported nice-sized bluegills with many fish being from 8 to 10 inches.

Anglers might notice that these larger bluegills will be thinning out as they are replaced by smaller age-classes.

Though the number of crappies is not high there should be fish available in the 8 to 9 inch range.

Washington will also provide good angling for largemouth bass and possibly a few smallmouth bass this summer.

Bullhead anglers will also have an opportunity to catch bullheads over 12 inches long.

A reminder for anglers is that Eurasian watermilfoil is present in Lake Washington.

This exotic plant species grows very aggressive and often displaces other aquatic plant species.

The Washington Lake Association has been active in trying to control the plant in the lake. It is important that when boaters are leaving the lake they remove all vegetation from their boats, motors, and trailers in order to keep the Eurasian watermilfoil from spreading to other lakes.

• Stella Lake Fishing Report

Stella Lake south of Darwin should be an excellent choice for walleye fishing on the opener.

Stella is 553 acres in size and is 75 feet deep and has a public access on the south side of the lake.

DNR netting conducted in 2004 indicated the number of walleye was above the normal range for a lake of this type.

Though there are several age classes of walleye in Stella many fish will be taken in the 12 to 19 inch range.

There is also a chance at catching a walleye in the 25 to 26 inch range.
To supplement natural reproduction of walleye, the DNR stocks walleye fry into Stella in odd numbered years. Stella has fair numbers of northern pike with lengths from 15 to 30 inches.

Smallmouth bass are present in Stella Lake and anglers might see smallmouth in the 12 to 18 inch range.

If you are a bullhead fisherman, you might try your luck at the yellow bullheads in Stella Lake. Some of the yellows are now 10 to 12 inches in length.

Like Lake Washington, just downstream, Stella Lake now has Eurasian watermilfoil.

Though the exotic plant has been found in several locations in Stella, the extensive surface mats of vegetation are not yet present.

Boaters should be extremely careful to clean off all vegetation from their boats, motors and trailers in order to avoid the spread of this exotic plant species.

• South Fork Crow River Fishing Report

The South Fork of the Crow River, in Hutchinson, will gets its’ share of attention from fishermen this summer.

It is not uncommon to see many shoreline anglers lined up below the dam in Hutchinson.

The City of Hutchinson has done a considerable amount of work on stabilizing the shoreline of the river and is creating parks for improved recreational access to the river. River systems like the South Fork have very diverse fish communities.

Species that might be of most interest to anglers include walleye, northern pike, black crappie, bullheads and channel catfish.

The river provides a good opportunity for residents that do not have boats or who do not have the ability to travel to area lakes.

An interesting note is that preliminary plans are underway to build a fish ladder at the site of the present dam.

The aging dam will hopefully be replaced within the next couple of years. A fish ladder would allow fish to move up over the dam and gain access to many miles of fish habitat.

Even when a fish ladder is installed, anglers will find that fish will still congregate at the foot of the ladder and will still provide angling opportunities.

• Manuella Lake Fishing Report

Lake Manuella is near Darwin and is 51 feet deep and 286 acres in size.

The lake has a public access on the southeast shoreline.

Netting completed in 2004 indicated average numbers of walleyes.

Many walleyes were in the 14 to 20 inch range.

Manuella has average numbers of northern pike from 18 to 30 inches.

There are good numbers of largemouth bass and smallmouth bass in the 12 to 17 inch size range.

For those people interested in bullhead fishing, there are a few yellow bullheads over 12 inches. There are average numbers of bluegills with many fish in the 5 to 7 inch range.

Manuella is a little different from most lakes in that there is a popular swimming beach on the southeast shore next to the public access.

Eurasian watermilfoil has been found in Lake Manuella. Boaters are reminded to remove all vegetation from their boats, motors and trailers when leaving the lake.

The next scheduled DNR netting at Manuella Lake will be completed in 2008.

• Stahls Lake Fishing Report

Stahls Lake is located northwest of Hutchinson.

The lake is 142 acres in size and has a maximum depth of 35 feet.

There is an access to the lake at the county park on the southeast side.

Stahls Lake has two earthen fishing piers available to shoreline anglers.
It is quite common to see anglers along the channel between Stahls Lake and French Lake.

A 2001 netting assessment indicated excellent numbers of northern pike with lengths between 17 to 32 inches.

Walleye were present in low numbers with lengths ranging from 18 to 26 inches. Net catches of walleye should improve as Stahls Lake is scheduled for walleye fingerling stocking in odd numbered years.

Net catches of bluegills were above the normal range with some bluegills in the 6 to 8 inch range.

There are average numbers of black crappies with most fish being 7 to 9 inches.

Yellow bullheads are common in Stahls Lake. Some of these are in the 11 to 12 inch range.

The next scheduled DNR netting at Stahls Lake is set for 2008.

• MinnieBelle Lake Fishing Report

Minniebelle Lake is a very popular fishing and recreation lake located south of Litchfield.

The lake is 545 acres in size and is fairly deep at 49 feet.

A public access is located on the east shoreline.

Assessment netting conducted by the DNR in 2003 indicated average numbers of walleye with many fish from 12-25 inches.

The lake is stocked with walleye fingerlings in even numbered years.

There are good numbers of northern pike from 16 to 29 inches.

Anglers are reminded that there is presently a protected slot limit on northern pike.

All northern pike between 24 and 36 inches must be released. The purpose of the special regulation is hopefully to increase the average size of northerns caught.

The netting evaluation of the protected slot begins this year so it is still unknown whether the special regulation has been successful.

There will also be a considerable amount of angling for bluegill (5 to 8 inches), black crappie (8 to 11 inches), and largemouth bass (12 to 18 inches).

Lake MinnieBelle probably has some of the nicest yellow bullheads in the region.

Many of these bullheads are in the 12 to 15 inch range. The Aquatic Management Area (AMA) on the northeast side of the lake has become a popular fishing spot, as there is a fishing pier and ample shoreline fishing available.

Access to the AMA is located about a quarter mile northwest of the state-owned public access. The public can use the scenic foot trail to reach the lakeshore.

• Aquatic Management Areas

By now, most people have become familiar with the state’s Aquatic Management Area (AMA) program.

The purpose of aquatic management areas is to provide angler access to lakes and streams and also to protect natural resource habitat. AMA’s are administered by the DNR Section of Fisheries.

In the Hutchinson Fisheries Management Area there are now quite a few AMA’s.

One aquatic management area is located at Thompson Lake near Cosmos.

The AMA is located about a quater mile west of the Thompson Lake public access.

This naturalized AMA is open to the public for hunting, fishing and nature viewing.

Another AMA is located at Lake Minniebelle.

This AMA is about a quarter mile northwest of the present public access.

Anglers can reach the lakeshore by following a very scenic nature trail.
Shoreline angling sites are located along 600 feet of AMA shoreline and there is also a public fishing pier.

A unique AMA is the Cedar Lake Islands AMA. Cedar Lake is north of Hutchinson and just west of Belle Lake.

There are now eight islands open to the public for hunting and fishing.

The Cedar Lake Islands AMA can be reached through the public access on the south side of the lake.

The islands are marked with AMA signs to distinguish them from private islands in the lake. Other AMAs include Dunn Lake and Lake Jennie.

The Dunn Lake AMA is north of Darwin, MN.

The Lake Jennie AMA is located east of the south public access.

The Jennie AMA now has a public fishing pier.

For more information on aquatic management areas, please contact the DNR Fisheries Office at Hutchinson.

Outdoor notes

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

• The morel mushroom hunt is on. Head to the woods and look for morels near dead or dying trees.

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

• Make sure you reviewed the 2006 Minnesota Fishing Regulations Handbook. Take note of new regulations for 2006.

• Avoid the rush and pick up your bait and last minute items for the opener Friday.

• The apple trees in my back yard bloomed Thursday, May 4.

• Today the sun will rise at 5:53 a.m. and set at 8:26 p.m.

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