I had it all planned out--start shallow and work deeper. Turns out, most of the fish my clients and I caught were in small groups hanging around the 19-30 ft range--so I did the opposite. With 46 degree water temps (basically only 2-3 degrees cooler than Lake Superior on a summer day) and a delayed shiner run, the fish could have been anywhere. With a little searching around with the electronics and a little information from the locals it didn't take long to realize that the fish were a little deeper than planned. Par for the course on "Opener".
Starting the day at 6:30 or so, I "marked" some fish and "bait balls" clearly in the 19-30 ft range just outside the first break off shore. No problem I thought, all I have to do is have a story for the local "Patriot" radio station who would be calling me @ 7:30 am live to the boat. One hour to catch some fish?-- sign me up.
Sure enough after 15 minutes we had three fish in the box and a story to tell the station when they called. Bottom bouncers and a shiner minnow and some precise boat control and we were in business. Thankfully I was in a "stay put" mood focusing on each fish I marked--giving each fish multiple chances from all trolling angles to bite--and most did. Trust me, I am not a patient person and will move spots immediately if fish are not caught in 5-10 minutes. After exhausting the bouncers utilizing a fast clip on the troll, we switched to live bait rigs to filter out the remaining fish that could be triggered take the bait. With the active fish removed from the school, it was time to change fishing spots.
Moving spots is always a gamble--no matter what. There is always that "what if" devil guy on your shoulder. I say ignore him and follow your gut and dont look back. Well maybe 2 hours later look back, and then hit the same spot again,-- other then that--no way. This time the results of not looking back and finding one other spot with similar characteristics was my meal ticket. Four of us had our fish by lunch time and it was once again a successful "Opener". Remember, the fishing only gets easier throughout the season. Good Luck, Capt., Josh www.minnesotaguideservice.com
I made my plan today on how I am going to begin my search for Mr Walleye on Saturday morning. Its simple and some variation of the plan usually works just fine. There are a few key points you might want to utilize to construct your own plan of attack on the ever to important opening day.
First, I try to determine by using a lake map or DNR information where the walleyes in a particular body of water may have spawned. Typical spawning areas are where creeks/rivers flow into the lake, rock/rubble shore lines that get constant wave action when windy, or shallow sand/gravel flats near shore in the 2-6 ft depth range. Once 2-3 spawning areas are located concentrate on the shallows flats that surround the spawning areas. These flats should be sand/gravel with patches of newly growing weed scattered throughout. The weeds are where the baitfish and walleye will be holding. An average depth range for these "feeding flats" is 4-8 ft of water--give or take. Drift or slowly troll these flats with live bait rigs or a 1/16-1/8 oz. jig tipped with a minnow, leech, or 1/2 of crawler--my favorite is a shiner minnow--a major food source for walleyes for the next 3 weeks or so. Try green, white, or blue for jig/hook colors. A little red is always good as well. Keep your bait away from the boat (a short cast) to avoid spooking fish that are basically 3 ft below you outboards lower unit! After I check a few different flat areas out and hopefully put a few fish in the box I head for the first break line (drop-off) related to the flat that leads to deeper water.
I prefer a fairly quick drop to help concentrate the numbers of fish verses a long gradual slope that can scatter fish. Look for little cuts, points or inside turns in the break line by using you sonar. The corner of an inside turn is my starting point. Better yet, look for the baitfish and take a mental note of what depth the baitfish are appearing--start fishing close to the baitfish at the depth they are holding in. Whenever baitfish are found --the walleyes will be close by-within 20 yards or less. The average depth range when fishing these "initial breaks" is 9-15 ft ...give or take. If Im not having much luck I just simply concentrate my efforts deeper.
On the same breakline I will scan the bottom with the sonar looking for baitfish and or walleyes. The depths I search may lead down to 40ft..or more in some unique cases. Either way, I am still hanging around the first breakline just out from the shore line flats. Bait?--same thing, jig or rig tipped with a minnow. If I am marking fish but they but seem to be tight lipped I may try a slip bobber for a few minutes. If the bobber doesn't take a fish then its time to get a little more aggressive.
Another option is to "snap jig" a 1/4-3/8 oz jig (much heavier than needed) to try to trigger a reaction strike from the fish. Snap the jig off of the bottom and let it fall back down to the bottom full speed. Its funny how it works on fish that may not touch a slower approach. Another option is to troll at a good clip with a 1/2 -3/4 oz bottom bouncer with a #4 hook tipped with a minnow, leach, or crawler. Try a leader of about 2-3 ft in length. The bouncer may trigger an extra hit or two. If nothing jumps in the boat after all of that, then change spots and try to find fish that are more aggressive in a different location. Have a good opener and dont forget Mom. Capt. Josh