Chris Schultz

Outdoors Column

By Chris Schultz
Herald Journal

May 7, 2007

Super seven for the fishing opener

Every year, deciding where to go for the fishing opener is like a shot in the dark.

Should you stick around home and hit one, or more, of our area lakes or head north for more of a weekend trip?

Either choice stills presents the problem of which specific lake, or river, to actually wet a line in, of course, in the land of 10,000 lakes the problem is a big one and the choices aren’t easy.

From my experience of several years of fishing on local lakes, a few pieces of information from the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources, all kinds of reports from local anglers, and the fact that I have been blanked on walleye so many times on the opener that I have come to love catching northern pike, here’s my list of seven good local spots to try for the 2007 Minnesota fishing opener.

1. Lake Washington near Darwin.

Year in and year out Washington is probably the best opening day walleye lake in our area and with good management will probably always be on my list of super seven for the fishing opener.

Washington is only 17 feet deep, warms up fast, and is well stocked with walleye.

Getting there early on the opener is a must, and following the crowd with your jig tipped with a fathead is your best bet to catch fish.

Washington can also provide some great action on northern pike.

2. Buffalo, bordering the City of Buffalo.

The lake has been a hot spot for early season walleye anglers for quite a few years and has a very high walleye population compared to other lakes in the area.

Fish the center flat to the northwest shore for the best action and be prepared for a lot of company.

Wader fishing from the south shore can also be a good bet on Buffalo.

3. Diamond Lake near the city of Atwater.

Diamond is really a diamond in the rough when it comes to opening day and early season walleye fishing.

When the walleye bite turns on, it really turns on, and catching a limit of decent size fish is not uncommon.

Drift off the point on the northeast bay, or spend your time trolling with a spinner rig and fathead.

Fishing the windy side of the lake is also a key to catching opening day walleye on Diamond.

4. Stahls Lake northwest of Hutchinson.

Stahls has been one of my favorites since I was a kid.

It’s not much of walleye fishery, but when it come to lots of action on small-to-medium sized northern pike, Stahls offer some the best action in our area.

If the weather is bad or your fishing with kids Stahls is a great opening day choice.

Troll or cast crank baits in the southwest corner of the lake.

5. Clearwater and Augusta near Annandale.

The walleye action on Clearwater picked up last year and some area anglers are expecting some pretty good early season walleye fishing this year.

Troll the weed lines on the northwest part of the lake and if you don’t find any there head to the bar on the east side of Augusta.

If all else fails both lakes provide great spring crappie fishing.

6. Dutch Lake near the City of Howard Lake.

Not many anglers think of Dutch as a place to head for opening day fishing, and if you’re looking for walleyes it’s not.

However, Dutch can provide some tremendous action on big northern pike.

It’s simple, tie on a spoon, start trolling, and you’ll catch fish.

Dutch can also produce big crappies.

The lake is small and boats bigger than 14 feet can be tough to deal with at the landing.

7. Collinwood Lake south of the city of Cokato.

Great, or really good, fishing on Collinwood seems to go in three-year streaks, but more often than not the lake produces walleye and northern pike on the opener.

Fish the windy side of the lake or troll near the campground.

Collinwood’s max depth is 28 feet, but on opening you’ll find the best fishing in seven feet or less.

Good luck fishing and have safe opener.

Keg’s Bar fishing league

The Keg’s Bar fishing league will begin Thursday, May 17 with fishing from 6 to 9 p.m.

The season runs 14 weeks on 14 different lakes with walleye, bass, and northern pike what anglers are looking to catch.

There will be a season ending tournament for anyone that has competed on seven of the dates.

To participate, or for more information, stop by Keg’s Bar in Winsted and talk to Brian Langenfeld.

Opener breakfast, spring raffle Saturday in Dassel

Dassel Rod and Gun Club will host breakfast Saturday, May 12 from 6 to 11 a.m. at Sportsmen’s Park on Lake Washington. Menu includes french toast, scrambled eggs, sausage, milk, juice, and Evan’s egg coffee. Drawing set for 11 a.m.

Lake Ann fishing preview
From the DNR

Anglers can expect good fishing for most species on Lake Ann during 2007. That is based on test netting by the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR) that was accomplished during the summer of 2006.

Walleye are moderately abundant. A wide range of sizes and ages were noted.

Fish have survived from every year in which they were recently stocked, 2002-2005.

Walleye average 17 inches in length and 1.7 pounds.

Northern pike are present at moderate levels also. Fish range in length up to 35 inches or more.

This level of northern pike abundance allows some yellow perch to survive and some perch are of harvestable size (10 inches).

In other lakes pike are so abundant and prey on perch to such a great extent, that few larger perch exist.

Good fishing will be available for both bluegill and black crappie.

Bluegill appeared to be more abundant than they were in a 1996 survey when the catch was much lower.

The average length was six inches, and the largest bluegill sampled was nearly nine inches.

Black crappie are more abundant than they were 10 years ago. While the average length is somewhat small fish larger than 11 inches are present.

Catch rates of largemouth bass at Lake Ann are lower than most other area lakes, but fish of all sizes are present.

Sturgeon restitution, invasive species among proposed rule changes
From the DNR

New rules proposed by the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR) would increase the restitution value of lake sturgeon, modify regulations for scientific and natural areas, add three animals to the state’s prohibited invasive species list and allow nonresidents to capture raptors for falconry.

Public comments on the proposals, published in the April 30 edition of the State Register, will be accepted through May 30.

The proposed rules may also be viewed on the DNR web site www.dnr.state.mn.us.

“These changes are based on input from a broad range of stakeholders and a need to update our some of our rules,” said Steve Hirsch, assistant director, DNR Division of Ecological Services.

Under the proposed rules:

• Restitution value for lake sturgeon more than 40 inches would increase from $500 to $1,000.

Restitution value for lake sturgeon more than 50 inches would be $1,000 plus $100 for each inch over 50 inches.

• A permit would be required to hold orienteering, geo-caching and athletic events at scientific and natural areas.

• Portable stands that do not damage trees or vegetation would be allowed on scientific and natural areas for hunting where it’s permitted and for wildlife observation.

• Northern snakehead fish, tubenose gobies and New Zealand mud snails would be added to the state’s prohibited invasive species list.

Northern snakehead fish has not been found in Minnesota, but has been reported in the wild in 10 states.

Tubenose gobies and New Zealand mud snails have been found in the St. Louis River Estuary and Lake Superior, but have not been found in inland waters of the state to date.

• Nonresidents would be allowed to take raptors from the wild for falconry.

This change would increase opportunities for Minnesota residents to take raptors in other states, because a number of states have reciprocity provisions that allow nonresidents to take raptors only if their home state allows nonresident take.

Comments or questions on the proposed rules may be directed to Steve Hirsch, DNR, 500 Lafayette Road, St. Paul, MN 55155-4025; (651) 259-5106; or e-mail steve.hirsch@dnr.state.mn.us.

DNR starts countdown to fishing opener
From the DNR

Minnesota anglers are counting the days until the May 12 fishing opener and the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR) is helping – with a reminder to introduce someone new to the sport.

The DNR will count down the days to the fishing opener on electronic billboards throughout the Twin Cities metropolitan area beginning May 7.

The space was purchased in partnership with the Recreational Boating and Fishing Foundation, a nonprofit group dedicated to growing participation in boating and fishing.

“This innovative approach to marketing the fishing opener is aimed at avid anglers,” said Mark LaBarbera, DNR communications director. “We’re counting on those folks to introduce someone new to the sport and encourage more people to go fishing this year.”

Recruitment and retention of anglers has become a priority for the DNR after a statewide survey showed the number of licensed Minnesota anglers ages 16-44 declined 9.3 percent from 2000 to 2005, while the state’s population overall in that age category grew by one-half percent.

The billboards are part of a campaign, known as the Anglers’ Legacy pledge, which encourages anglers to introduce a nonangler to a quality fishing experience.

The pledge is based on research that suggests most people would gladly go fishing if only someone would ask them.

The Recreational Boating and Fishing Foundation will rent another 16 billboards to catch the eyes of motorists streaming north into lake country.

These billboards will remind parents and grandparents to take their kids fishing by promoting the “Take Me Fishing” campaign.

“Through fishing, kids learn new skills, confidence and the importance of protecting water quality and habitat,” LaBarbera said. “It’s incredibly important that we help young people build a connection to the outdoors that will last throughout their lives.”

Recreational fires still OK in Minnesota
From the DNR

Although burning restrictions have been placed on much of the state, campfires and fires contained in a charcoal grill, camp stove or other device designed for the purpose of cooking or heating are still allowed, according to the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR).

“There has been some confusion about recreational fires being allowed because of the request made last week by the Minnesota Department of Agriculture (MDA) to immediately burn any Taylors-brand firewood purchased at Menards and other major hardware stores in Minnesota,” said Bob Tomlinson, DNR Forestry Division deputy director.

“Knowing that burning restrictions are in effect in much of the state, but then hearing that some firewood should be burned immediately, has some people wondering about what is the right thing to do.”

A warm and dry Saturday and Sunday this past weekend encouraged people to get outside and enjoy the weather, but it placed much of Minnesota in a “very high” to “extreme” fire danger rating.

Burning restrictions are in effect for all counties from northern Minnesota south to Ramsey, Hennepin and Washington counties.

Even though restrictions are in place, campfires are still allowed.

A “campfire” is defined as a fire set for cooking, warming or ceremonial purposes that is not more than three feet wide or three feet high, and has the ground five feet from the base of the fire cleared of all combustible material.

Fires contained in a charcoal grill, camp stove or other device designed for the purpose of cooking or heating are also allowed.

Caution must still be used with campfires, however. It is best to burn only after 6 p.m. and to make sure the fire is “dead out” and doused with water before leaving it.

The request for consumers to immediately burn any Taylors-brand firewood is part of an ongoing effort of the MDA to prevent the introduction of the destructive tree pest known as the emerald ash borer (EAB) into Minnesota.

MDA made the request after learning that firewood sold under the Taylors-brand had been improperly imported into the state from areas under an EAB quarantine. To date, EAB has not been detected in Minnesota.

“EAB can hide inside firewood, so imported firewood coming from EAB-infested states must be debarked to lower the risk of spreading the pest,” said Val Cervenka, a DNR forest entomologist.
The MDA found firewood sold under the Taylors-brand that was not debarked.

To make matters even more confusing, the DNR is asking people to purchase firewood they want to use when camping or picnicking from the DNR facility they will be visiting or from a local vendor, and not to bring it from home.

“We know this issue of EAB and firewood can be confusing,” said Tomlinson, “but state and federal agencies are working together not only on what to do about this pest, but also on how the public can be made aware of it and what to do about it.”

For more information on the wildfire danger and EAB situation in Minnesota, visit the DNR’s Web site at www.dnr.state.mn.us.

DNR question of the week
From the DNR

Q: Snakes can be occasionally spotted sunning themselves on driveways. Should property owner be concerned?

A: The most common snake in Minnesota is the common garter snake, which is harmless.

The appearance of unwanted snakes is usually due to cracks or holes in concrete structures.

These spaces provide warm places for the snake to spend the winter.

When spring returns, the snakes reappear outside.

Since snakes cannot regulate their own body temperature, they rely on their surroundings, such as rocks or concrete, to warm themselves.

If the presence of these snakes is a concern for homeowners, a few simple solution is to fill the holes or cracks in the concrete; make their yards unattractive to snakes by removing yard or other debris piles and keeping shrubs and trees trimmed, and the grass mowed; and eliminate what snakes eat - mice.

Outdoor notes

• Purchase your new fishing license before the opening day rush.

• Double check your boat trailer tires, hitch, and lights before you head for the lake.

• The morel mushroom hunting season is only days away.

Look for good hunting right after a day or two of warmer weather.

Typically, the best time to hunt morels is when the lilacs are blooming.

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

• Remember to be cautious, courteous, and not competitive at the landing and on the lake this season.

• The apple trees in my backyard officially bloomed Friday May 4. Last year they also bloomed on May 4.

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

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