The only way to say it is WOW, the walleye fishing on our northern minn. lakes is unbelievable right now. Mille-lacs, Leech, Cass, Winni, and Lake of the Woods are all on a fantastic bite. Mille-lacs deep gravel bars on the SE side of the lake are putting out huge amounts of eaters to big fish, put on a 3-way swivel rig with a spinner and a crawler or run some lead-core with some #5 or #7 shad raps or Salmo baits and you'll have some fun. At Leech pick out some structure on the windy side of the lake get in about 13-18ft of water with some live bait rigs with some crawlers,leeches or bigger chub and you'll have some stories to tell. The same techniques as Leech will work on Cass and Winni. On Lake of the Woods, deep rock humps out in the Garden Island or Long pt. areas 28-32ft of water with a jig and a minnow are unbeatable right now, for daily updates on LOW the best info I've found is at Wigwam resortlow.com.If you can sneak away for at least a weekend to hit one of these lakes you'll have some of the best walleye fishing of the year.
Wow this has been a tough spring for those of us who chase the Walleye. Everyday it seems like the wind is blowing 15-30 no matter which way it comes from. One of the things I've learned over the years is to try not to fight mother nature, to take what you get and work with it as best you can. Now I know there is a pretty good bite right now on some of the big lakes and if you have to fish them we'll talk here in a little bit about how to try to put some fish in the well, but if you don't have to fish the big lakes why not try a river or small lake that you drive by a hundred times to get to the big ones.
I"ve had some awesome days of fishing when the day before I planned on fishing one of the big lakes here in Minn, then to wake up and find out the forecast had changed to Windy with a good chance of rain. But remember an awesome day of fishing for me doesn't always mean I have to fill the live well, sometimes being with the wife and kids or with some buddies, picking a little lake that we have never fished before and putting together a pattern on this little lake to put just a couple of fish in the well is very gratifying. I always use the help of a little bait store that usually is nearby, they won't have all the answers of coarse but they will almost always give you at least a head start on your search.
Now lets talk about some tactics if you have to be out in the elements. The first thing is to have some equipment to make your life a little easier. Anchors, I always carry two, a big water spike and a navy style, and who ever tries to tell you that there is no skill in anchoring up is a fool. Make sure you have 100-150 ft of rope so you can keep letting out more to truly work an area without re-anchoring, some of my best days on Mil-lacs have been setting up on the windy side of a rock pile and letting some corks and jigs do all the work. Also a couple of big drift socks if your going to try to drag some baits along the bottom, the bigger the better to slow you down as much as possible.
There is a new product out this year called a Tech-Stick made by Fin-Tech, it's a new live bait sinker that lets you change sinker sizes without retying lines and when it's blowing hard we all know how miserable it is to re-tie lines. One thing to remember when the wind blows hard for a day or two in the same direction and then finally calms down there will always be an under current coming back in the opposite direction for a day or two and that little bit of current will change some patterns of the fish, try to work some structure that will let the fish hide from the current and lay there and wait for an easy meal.
With opening day just around the corner, I'm recalling all the fishing reports from years gone by. Statements like “I couldn’t find the fish", "It was too windy to keep the bait in front of their noses", "I didn't have the right bait", or "There aren't any fish in this lake, it must be the dead sea!" are all comments heard around opening day. Sure, some of these reasons may be true for not getting opening day walleyes, but I believe that most problems lie with the tackle and presentation.
You don't need a lot of flash and fancy gadgets for early walleyes. As a matter of fact, it’s just the opposite. You need to slow down your presentation and keep it simple. To catch some opening day walleyes, concentrate on the following three things and you shouldn't have any problem putting some fish in the boat; location, boat control and bait presentation. Success on opener starts long before getting to the lake, by studying a lake map and developing a plan. The first places to look for walleyes are areas adjacent to where they have just spawned. Shorelines with pea to marble size gravel are ideal! The areas where rivers or small feeder creeks dump into the lake will warm the fastest and will also act as a walleye magnet. Sandbars will hold their share of walleyes too. Finally, don't forget to check the northern most shorelines; the sun will warm those areas first. Start shallow and watch your electronics. Once you have found the depth and an area that is holding walleyes, its time to get your rigs ready. Once you have positioned your boat where you want it and are seeing fish on the locator, the next step is to get the bait down to the walleyes.
Since it is early in the year and the water temperature will be low, you will need to present your bait so that it moves very slowly. Two of the best presentations to use are minnow-tipped jigs, and live bait rigs. I believe that nothing beats a live bait slip sinker rig. I prefer using the following set up: From the main line I tie on a #14 barrel swivel and a 5 - 7 ft. snell made from 6 lb. Berkley Trilene Fluorocarbon. On the business end, I use colored Gamakatsu Octopus hooks in sizes ranging from #8 to #2 depending on what live bait I am using. With the variety of colors that Gamakatsu has to offer, there is no problem finding one that will attract the walleyes. Lastly, make sure to use a removable weight so you don't have to retie if you change depths. Walleye bites can be difficult to detect. Sometimes you will feel a sharp tap while at other times your line will just start to get "heavy".
If you like to pitch jigs, this is the time of the year to do it. You can use the same set up that you use for live bait rigging. Just cut off the swivel and tie on a time proven, fish catching jig such as Fin-Tech knuckle ball Jig. These short-shanked, wide gap hooked jigs make jigging easy. At this time of the year, I think minnows work best. Fatheads are usually the choice because they are so readily available and are more durable than shiner minnows. Don't just rely on minnows though; crawlers can be good, and if the water is warm enough, leeches can be ideal.
The bottom line, to eliminate the “I didn't have the right bait" comment, be prepared to bring a variety of live bait along with you. So if you slow down your presentation, have precise boat control, prepare by bringing a variety of live bait choices, you should get your opening day walleyes, and not have to end the day saying "There aren't any fish in this lake, it must be the dead sea". See ya on the water.