June is walleye month, and Minnesota is the walleye state. If you intend to catch these fish this summer, best to be on the water soon. And while 1,700 lakes and 100 rivers in Minnesota harbor the state’s most sought-after fish, 10 huge bodies of water account for a whopping 40 percent of anglers’ annual catch. And most of these lakes are big: Lake of the Woods, for instance, amasses 950,400 acres, 307,010 in Minnesota. Even Cass Lake, the smallest of the 10, is 30,000 acres when adjoining waters are included. Following is a lake-by-lake breakdown detailing how walleyes are being caught now on Minnesota’s best waters. Upshot: The fishing, as always, is great. The catching — as is customary in June — is, too. Time to be on the water.
Mille Lacs: Though governed this summer by a 100 percent walleye release mandate, this hot spot two hours north of the Twin Cities is offering anglers plenty of fish. Guide Tony Roach (roachsguideservice.com) reports “lots of 50- and 60-fish days.” “We’re catching walleyes 13 inches to 28 inches,” Tony said. As mid-June approaches, walleyes will continue to move from shoreline rocks, breaks and other structure to deeper water, gathering on and along the lake’s flats. Leeches and nightcrawlers are good choices, Tony advises, on sliding-sinker rigs, trolled or drifted under 1 mph. Wind is key — it tends to stack the lake’s walleyes on the edges of flats or other structure.
Leech: Leech anglers are finding walleyes throughout the lake. Guide Tom Neustrom (mnfishingconnections.com) reports Leech gives up more walleyes when the wind blows. Check Submarine Island, Annex and Pelican reefs, among others, he recommends. Walleyes are still being found in fairly shallow water, 8 to 14 feet, and are being taken on red-tail chubs and leeches, with some on nightcrawlers, said guide Steve Fellegy (651-270-3383), who soon will switch to lead-core line trolling #5 Shad Raps. “I like the smaller baits with lead core to get them down, rather than using the bigger baits. Walleyes seem to like the smaller ones,” Fellegy said.
Lake of the Woods: Walleye fishing has been fantastic near the Northwest Angle and Oak Island, reports Kyle Kruidenier of Oak Island Resort (oakislandresort.com). “Walleyes are being caught 12 to 25 feet down,” he said. Most anglers jig with minnows. “Not many guests this week pulled Lindy Rigs,” Kyle said. “But one last week caught a 31-incher on a rig and ’crawler.” Smallmouth bass are being taken on or near the top, and northern pike are being caught casting in bays. “One boat caught 36 northerns, another 29,” Kyle said. “They even caught five walleyes casting and, by accident, a few muskies.” (Lake of the Woods muskies season opens June 18.)
Upper Red: One of the state’s true hot spots, this lake moves to four keeper walleyes on Wednesday, up from three. One can be longer than 17 inches. The larger bag reflects the lake’s healthy fishery and is made possible, in part, because angling pressure falls off for the summer beginning in mid- to late June. “Fishing on Upper Red has been off the charts,” guide Tom Neustrom said. “I’ve had 30- to 40-fish days there this summer.” Walleyes have been caught shallow in recent days, some in 7 feet or less. “I’ve found that any structure with rock and sand has fish on it,” Tom said. “Memorial Day weekend was gangbusters.”
Winnibigoshish: Walleye action on this 58,000-acre lake has been very good this early summer, with jigs and minnows still producing in shallow water. Most fish have yet to move onto midlake breaks, reports Craig Brown of McArdle’s Resort (mcardlesresort.com) on Winnie. “On cloudy days, we’re still taking fish in 6 feet of water,” Craig said. “On clearer days it’s been 10 to 14 feet. It’s mainly still a shoreline bite.” On and around Winnie — as elsewhere in the state — shiner minnows are tough to find. “But fatheads are working just as well,” Craig said. Early mornings and evenings are producing best for walleyes, with the best action near windward shores.
Rainy: Anglers who trek to this border lake usually are rewarded, not just with walleyes but with smallmouth bass. It’s the lake’s smallies, in fact, that each summer attract convoys of anglers to Rainy from distant states. “Walleyes up here are still very shallow, in 6 to 10 feet of water,” said Billy Dougherty of Rainy Lake Houseboats (rainylakehouseboats.com). “Eighth-ounce jigs pitched to shore with minnows are taking fish. We also drag jigs-and-minnows on the bottom, which has been good.” Friday, some of Billy’s clients cast fly rods and poppers for smallies, taking the feisty fish on the surface.
Vermilion: One of the state’s most picturesque lakes, Vermilion and its walleyes are in transition, said guide Mike Estrin of Mike’s Guide Service (mikesguidefishing.com). “Our walleyes are moving to the midlake reefs, and most fish will be on those reefs and humps within seven days or so,” Mike said. For now, windblown shorelines are yielding fish. Minnows work, but the switch is on to leeches and nightcrawlers, Mike said, with leaders 5 to 6 feet long the way to go. Big Bay has been producing fish, as has Frazer Bay. Here also mornings, evenings and cloudy days benefit anglers. And Texas-rigged plastics are taking smallmouth and largemouth bass.
Pepin: Representing the southern part of the state in Minnesota’s Big 10 walleye lineup, Lake Pepin — essentially a wide and long spot in the Mississippi River — yields a lot of summer walleyes. “They’re on the breaklines right now, most in less than 12 feet of water, and we’re catching more saugers than walleyes,” said Jarrad Fluekiger of Rutting Ridge Outfitters (ruttingridgeoutfitters.com) in Alma, Wis. Mayflies will hatch soon, prompting walleyes and the baitfish they chase to rise in the water column. “Then we’ll run planer boards with Shad Raps and Flicker Shads, while also trolling baits with lead-core line,” Jarrad said. “Pepin is perfect for lead-core trolling. It’s a sandy bottom without much structure or snags.”
Kebetogama: Fishing was very good in May on this border lake, said Jeff Krueger, owner of Harmony Beach Resort (harmonybeachresort.com). But unsettled weather in recent days has slowed fishing. “The fish are scattered and in various depths, from 7 to 30 feet,” Krueger said. “Jigs and minnows have been best; we’re just now switching to leeches. The bigger fish are in the shallows.” Guide Travis Carlson (218-875-2811) reports that in addition to walleyes, Kabetogama is offering top-notch northern pike (some exceeding 40 inches) action and “great” smallmouth bass fishing. “The smallies are a pretty well-kept secret here. Some are bigger than 20 inches.” Saugers and jumbo perch round out “Kab’s” finned attractions, Travis said.
Cass: Walleyes are being found here 14 to 20 feet down, with action better near the shallower end of that range, with the best action in early morning and evening. A few shiners remain available at nearby bait shops, said Clark Heitmann, owner of Horseshoe Resort (horseshoeresortoncasslake.com). “But mostly we’re using leeches and ’crawlers,” he said. Though perhaps not as popular among some anglers as Leech and Mille Lacs, Cass Lake has comparable, or better, walleye fishing, Clark said. “Our walleye fishing, according to DNR surveys, is above the state average and above the Cass Lake historical average,” he said. Nighttime anglers are dragging Shad Raps, Reef Runners and other baits in 6 to 8 feet of water.
Dennis Anderson firstname.lastname@example.org