or walleye anglers, Minnesota offers a veritable smorgasbord of possibilities. You don't have to go far to find a walleye hole -- the treasured state fish swims in some 1,700 lakes and rivers. Top-10 lists are subjective, especially for those who favor smaller, lesser-known walleye haunts. But here are 10 walleye waters that appear on many lists.
 MISSISSIPPI RIVER (ST. PAUL TO HASTINGS)
Status: Some of the best urban walleye fishing anywhere. Pool 2 (from the Ford Dam in St. Paul to Hastings) is 11,000 acres of fishing possibilities. And there are big walleyes -- 45 percent of walleyes sampled last fall were 20 inches or larger. There are also sauger, smallmouth bass, white bass and channel and flathead catfish, some as big as 50 pounds. Some anglers have discovered this metro mecca, but DNR officials say it's underutilized.
Where to find 'em: Try a jig and minnow for walleyes near the Ford Dam, where walleyes congregate. Also work crankbaits near shore and along wing dams. Anglers are catching bass in the backwaters using jigs and plastics. For more information and where to launch a boat, see tinyurl.com/c8g85u.
Regs: Continuous season on Pool 2 for walleyes, sauger and largemouth and smallmouth bass, but it's strictly catch-and-release.
 LAKE MILLE LACS
Status: It won't be gangbusters, but the walleye fishing should be better than last year, especially for keeper-size fish. Because of high amounts of forage, especially perch, walleyes produced in 2006 already are over 14 inches. And fish in the 2005 year class are 17-18 inches. The glut of small perch likely still will hurt angling.
Where to find 'em: Late evenings and early mornings usually are best; the northeast end of the lake is popular early because of the large shallow sandbars, which attract fish and anglers. Try 8 to 16 feet of water with minnows and a jig or Lindy-type rig. But some anglers will try leeches, crawlers and crankbaits.
Regs: The night-fishing ban runs 10 p.m. to 6 a.m. May 11-June 8. There's an 18-28-inch protected slot, with one fish over 28 inches allowed in a four-fish bag limit.
 OTTER TAIL LAKE
Status: If you haven't fished it, this would be a good year to try. The walleye population is high, thanks to several years of good reproduction, including the 2005 year class. Those walleyes should be around 13 inches this spring and 14 inches or larger this summer. "It should be a real good opener,'' said Arlin Schalekamp, DNR area fisheries manager in Fergus Falls. He expects a crowd.
Where to find 'em: Try inlets from the Otter Tail and Dead rivers -- walleyes concentrate there -- and fish 3 to 9 feet deep with jigs and shiner minnows or leeches. "It's all real good this time of year,'' said Schalekamp. Later, try humps, bumps, dropoffs and sunken islands farther offshore.
Regs: Six fish bag limit; no slot.
 LEECH LAKE
Status: "In a word ... fantastic,'' said Doug Schultz, DNR large lake specialist. "The catch rates are among the highest we've seen in the state.'' He said three anglers last fall reportedly boated 200 walleyes in about four hours. The walleye population has been boosted by three successive strong year classes, in '05, '06 and '07. Those 2006 fish will be 14 to 15 inches on the opener.
Where to find 'em: Pine Point will be a popular destination. Try fishing in 8-12 feet of water with a jig and minnow. But Schultz said anglers will do well on crankbaits and leeches, too.
Regs: 18-26-inch protected slot; one over 26 inches allowed; four-fish bag limit.
 CASS LAKE
Status: Very good walleye abundance, especially in the 12-15-inch range. Fishing should be similar to the past few years.
Where to find 'em: For early season, try any of the numerous river mouths, flowages between lakes and smaller basins, which tend to warm first. Fish shiner minnows in 3-8 feet of water in those areas, 6-12 feet in the dips. Try using slip bobbers in the evening.
Regs: No slot; six-fish bag limit.
 LAKE WINNIBIGOSHISH
Status: A very good walleye population should mean excellent fishing -- better than last year. Strong year classes of fish in 2005 and 2006 drive the surge. Those 2006 fish should be 14- to 15-inch eatin' size.
Where to find 'em: Start in shallow water, 8 feet or less, with the traditional jig and minnow. As water warms, anglers will move off shorelines to midlake humps and bars. "The biggest mistake people make early is they don't fish shallow enough,'' said Chris Kavanaugh, DNR area fisheries manager in Grand Rapids.
Regs: 17-26-inch protected slot; one over 26 allowed; six-fish bag.
 LAKE VERMILION
Status: Walleye numbers are about average, primarily because of poor reproduction in 2004 and 2005. The numbers of 13- to 15-inch fish are down. Anglers will tend to see more big fish than usual. "They'll have to work a little harder for nice eater-size fish,'' said Joe Geis, DNR area fisheries manager. But 2006 was a strong reproduction year, which bodes well for the future.
Where to find 'em: Shallow areas, such as Pike Bay or in channels, are popular because fish tend to be more active in warmer water. But other anglers will find fish in 30 to 40 feet of water. Be flexible. "If you're not catching fish, move,'' Geis said. A jig and minnow or a minnow rigged with a spinner blade and beads are good choices, but leeches and crawlers can work, too.
Walleye regs: 17-26-inch protected slot; one over 26 inches; four-fish bag limit.
 UPPER RED LAKE
Status: "It's going to be crazy good,'' said Henry Drewes, DNR regional fisheries manager in Bemidji. Walleyes are "extremely abundant'' thanks to strong year classes of fish from 2004 to 2007.
Where to find 'em: Water is expected to be very cold, meaning the bite on the warmer Tamarack River could be hot. Also, try the shallows at the 5- to 7-foot break with a slip bobber with a fathead or shiner. Fishing tends to be good all day, so sleep in. Expect fish -- and crowds.
Regs: 17-26-inch protected slot, one over 26 allowed, four-fish bag limit (new this year.)
 LAKE OF THE WOODS
Status: Walleye abundance is a bit lower than in recent years, but fishing is expected to be similar to the past few years. Sauger abundance is very high because of three successive strong year classes, but most of those fish will be too small to keep.
Where to find 'em: Because of the early opener and late ice-out - there was still ice on the lake Tuesday - water is expected to be cold, which could mean tougher fishing. Walleye anglers should target shallow areas that warm first, including the Rainy River, Four Mile Bay and near the mouth of the Rainy River outside of Pine Island.
Regs: 19.5-to-28-inch protected slot, one fish over 28 allowed; six fish, walleyes-sauger combined. Not more than four can be walleyes.
 RAINY LAKE
Status: "Walleye fishing is as good or better as it's ever been,'' reports Kevin Peterson, DNR area fisheries manager in International Falls. Last summer saw record-high catch rates. But anglers will have to work to find keepers, because many fish will be over 17 inches, in the protected slot. There's good news: A strong year class of 11- to 13-inch fish will be keeper-size later this summer and next year.
Where to find 'em: Start in deep water - up to 30 feet -- where most consistent early action seems to be. Narrows can be good, too, as can shallower Black Bay. Another hot spot: below Kettle Falls. Bait of choice: jig and minnow, though some troll crankbaits with success.
Regs: 17-to-28-inch protected slot; one over 28 inches; four-fish bag.
Doug Smith • firstname.lastname@example.org