Anderson: Ice is out, and fish are biting

  • Article by: DENNIS ANDERSON , Star Tribune
  • Updated: May 24, 2013 - 12:58 AM

Anglers during the long weekend should have ample opportunities to make up for the opener’s chilly conditions.


Mille Lacs is not only a great walleye and muskie lake, but home to a good-sized population of smallmouth bass, many of them big.

People who have a chance to get on the water over the coming long weekend will generally find good fishing statewide — a statement that couldn’t be made until recent days because of the late spring and lousy weather.

Here’s a breakdown:

Mille Lacs: “Fishing’s been phenomenal,” said Terry Thurmer of Terry’s Boat Harbor. Most walleyes are being taken in 5-16 feet of water on jigs and minnows. Shiners and rainbows are working better than fatheads, and in the last hour or so of the day, dragging Rapalas or other crankbaits in bays are producing walleyes. Some leeches are taking fish, but mostly it’s been a minnow bite on rock piles. Reasonable numbers of walleyes in the 18-20 inch harvest slot are being caught and kept. “Two of those produces as big a meal as four of the smaller walleyes we were allowed last year,” Thurmer said. The limit is two. But two in the 18-20 inch range is enough.

Minnetonka: Crappie action has picked up, and is best in the evenings. Fish are in the shallows, and a cautious approach is warranted with the lake’s clear water, said Tim Sonenstahl of Wayzata Bait and Tackle. Most walleye action has been at night. Jigs and minnows or minnows with Twister Tails produce, with fish being caught in 3-9 feet on or near sand flats heated by the sun during the day. The bass opener is Saturday, with the best fishing expected in protected bays with cuts and dark bottoms.

Winnibigoshish: Fishing was tough here on the opener (as my party can attest), but has improved considerably. This week’s rain and cold cut into anglers’ fishing time. But plenty of walleyes have been found in water 10 feet or less, with most in 5-6 feet. Sugar Point and Sugar Bay have been good, and anywhere in front of the Cutfoot Sioux gap has produced limits. With weather stabilizing, fishing this weekend should be good.

Chisago Lakes area: Crappie action is good on Chisago Lake and South Lindstrom, with fish moving into shallow, warm bays. Crappies also are being caught by walleye fishermen in 12-14 feet of water, also in Chisago and South Lindstrom. The bass opener will generate a lot of boats on the water, with good action expected throughout the area. But bass are behind and not on their beds yet. “It still should be a good opener,” said Brad Dusenka of Frankie’s Bait in Chisago City. North Center is producing walleyes, some in 8-16 feet during the day, and in shallow sand at night. On South Lindstrom try the saddle bar between Rose Hill Resort and the swimming beach.

Lake of the Woods: Yes, the ice is gone, said Gregg Hennum, owner of Sportsman’s Lodge near Baudette. Anglers have moved onto the lake, and many are fishing jigs and frozen shiners while anchored. A few are drifting spinners also, Hennum said.

“People are fishing right outside the Gap in 8-14 feet of water,” Hennum said. “There’s been good fishing by Pine Island as well.” Resorts at or near the Northwest Angle are just now becoming fully operative. For the first time in recent memory, island operations such as Sportsman’s partner resort, Oak Island Lodge, couldn’t be reached on the Minnesota walleye opener because of the late ice-out. First guests are arriving now, Hennum said, with excellent walleye fishing reported already by guides and local residents.

Rainy Lake: The ice went out a week ago, said Billy Dougherty of Rainy Lake Houseboats. The early bite has “been better than normal, really good, actually,” Dougherty said. Walleyes are being caught in 5-7 feet in current, and shallower — 3-4 feet — on gravel beds. “We’re also finding fish in 15-22 feet, on the breaks on the edges of current,” Dougherty said. Bass are behind and haven’t come in yet to spawn. “Last year our best bass fishing began May 20,” he said. “This year it will probably be mid-June.” Jig fishing has produced northerns and whitefish, in addition to walleyes. Water temperature in the main lake is 41 degrees, with bays at 48. Wherever current can be found, the temperature is in the 42-43 range.

Leech Lake: Ice went fully out May 15, a bummer obviously for those planning to fish Leech on the May 11 opener. But fishing has been good since, despite inclement weather, reports Ray Phillippi of Big Rock Resort in Horseshoe Bay. Windblown points have been best, with anglers willing to suffer recent east winds finding good action. “Most walleyes are being taken on a jig and minnow, mostly fatheads,” Phillippi said. “We haven’t had a lot of shiners available, so it’s been fatheads, but they’ve been working.” Grassy Point, Stony Point and Sucker Bay have produced walleyes. Many are being found in 4-8 feet of water over rocks, “though start a little deeper,” Phillippi said.


Dennis Anderson

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