- It is coming up upon us very quickly; a rich tradition deep in our roots here in the state of Minnesota, the “infamous walleye opener”. Over the years, Blake and I have had some truely “epic” days on the water. From these “epic” days of success, crucial tactics & concepts have been analyzed, documented, and established into a pattern. Over many years of fishing on opening day, our go top 2 “go-to lakes” are: Lake Mille Lacs & Leech Lake. Also, in these great underwater ecosystems, the chance at that elusive 50″ Muskie is always there, however we will wait until June 2nd to talk about those ferocious brutes.
- Before any walleye excursion to unfamiliar lakes it is crucial that you check the regulations. MN regulations have been fluctuating over the years, with major efforts from the MNDNR (Minnesota Department of Natural Resources) regarding stocking programs as well as special regulations regarding invasive species such as: Zebra Mussels and Eurasian Milfoil. This year lake Mille lacs has changed the walleye protection slot, allowing you to keep fish measuring under 17″ and one over 28″ (However there is no point of keeping a monster when you can get an identical replica).
- This year should be a great opener, especially with this early spring weather we have had here in “MinneSNOWta”. The lakes have warmed up exceptionally well and much earlier as compared to previous years. This means that the Walleyes should be spawned out, and awaiting your presence on the flats, underwater islands, and in the middle of the water column chasing bait-fish in “Walleye-Space”. A good way to target the fish in the middle of the water column is to cast 1/2 OZ Gold Rattle Traps. When fishing Mille lacs for walleyes there are a few essential systems to catch fish. The go to starter every morning will be a live bait rig ( lindy rig), which is just a snell and a weight of your choice depending on the weather. Blake and I personally prefer the smallest weights we can get away to lightly thump the bottom, incorporated with a standard walleye snell. On Mille Lacs we would recommend at least a 6′ snell, because of the ultra clean and clear water of this ecosystem. Some anglers prefer to use snells as long as 10′. Make sure to always have a flurocarbon snell 6 or 8 lb, depending in the clarity of the water use as light as possible.
- If the lindy rig is not producing, or it is getting later in the day, nothing beats casting out a slip bobber and waiting for the slow take as “Mr. Bronze Back” slowly sucks in your over-sized shiner minnow. Slip bobbering is a very affective way to catch walleyes on Mille lacs, however, it seems to be more effective later in the day and/or overnight. (On Mille lacs you cannot fish past 10 pm for the first weeks of opener) As for rigging our slip bobbers, we prefer this set-up; “rig up a standard sized bobber with a slip and plain red hook or a small glow jig with a leech or shiner minnow, set it about 2 feet from the bottom.”
- If it just so happens that the bite is slow, try to cover as much water as possible. One really effective method of achieving this is trolling crank baits with planner boards. We like to use shad raps or else husky jerks when trolling. Focus your trolling on shallow rock flats or else deep vegetation lines. Make sure to troll at a speed that your baits all look natural, also make sure your plugs are wobbling right down in the strike zone. When fishing walleyes, we find most of our success with live baits, but new swim baits & trigger x baits have came to work just as effective in specific circumstances. These circumstances are when fish are spread out, and casting a jig and plastic covers more of the water column. When fishing Mille lakes, it tends to be a leech/minnow/crawler lake. These methods trigger most of the bites, generally speaking.
- Let’s now shift gears and discuss how to find walleyes on Leech Lake. On Leech, make sure to never be caught with out minnows( red tails or shiners). Also, it is essential to keep your baits lively and fresh. Leech Lake fish are in gin clear water, and you want your minnow swimming naturally. We have found that on Leech, the fish are always there, so continue to survey options until you find that hot bait. One last word of advice, Leech Lake is IMMENSE and OPEN, use the wind to your advantage; Make sure you always have a drift sock for windy conditions.
Love where we live and be thankful for the greatness of our remaining underwater ecosystems,