Large crowds returned to Minnesota's thawed-out lakes Saturday for a sun-kissed fishing opener that provided smiles all around despite a mixed bag of success.

Gleaning from reports filed by game wardens from the state Department of Natural Resources, walleye fishing ranged from exemplary on several large lakes to frustrating on others — and everything in between.

The best walleye bites discussed in the reports were on Lake of the Woods and connected Rainy River, Lake Vermilion, Mille Lacs, Upper Red and Lake Waconia.

"The windy conditions made it tough to anchor up, but most people still caught limits of walleye,'' wrote Baudette area officer Nicholas Prachar from Lake of the Woods.

"Walleye were being caught all over the lake [Vermilion],'' wrote Marc Hopkins in Tower.

Kyle Quittschreiber, whose territory includes Upper Red Lake, reported that most walleye anglers were able to have "good success.''

On Mille Lacs, Luke Croatt said he observed "very good fishing … with most catching and releasing multiple walleye.''

East of Mille Lacs around Hinckley, warden Bret Grundmeier said most anglers were "very happy due to the favorable weather and the fact that many had live wells filled with fish.''

Even in areas where the fish weren't biting, anglers were in good spirits, reported Phil Mohs of Center City, where lake parking lots were packed. One fisherman joked with Mohs that finding a parking spot for his vehicle was a tough as getting the walleyes to bite.

The words "moderate" and "decent'' were used by game wardens to describe walleye fishing on Leech Lake and in the Ely area. But Marty Stage said Ely area anglers were keeping a lot of small walleyes.

Rick Reller in Buffalo reported a "low harvest of walleye'' and Chris Vinton of Perham said "some anglers struggled to find many fish.'' Angie Warren, too, reported just "fair'' fishing in the Detroit Lakes area, but she duplicated what most other wardens reported by saying that everyone was enjoying the great weather.

The opener's whimsy was reflected in a special tale reported by Hibbing area game warden Don Bozovsky: "An angler was checked in a boat on opener, less than six hours prior to his wedding. He had no fish so his bride was his catch of the day.''

Tony Kennedy