Friday, February 3rd, 2023
Friday, February 3rd, 2023

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Despite nasty weather, angling action decent

Staff Writer

Willmar, Minn. Inconsistent weather and cool water temperatures
have dominated reports during the first five weeks of walleye
fishing in Minnesota.

In lake country, water temperatures are still struggling to
reach 60 degrees. In the south, steady wind and rain have caused
problems, while the central and western regions of the state
experienced one of the coolest and wettest springs in recent
memory.

The weather has done more than confuse fish. By most accounts,
it’s kept weekend anglers, those most bait shops rely heavily upon
for business, from actually hitting the water.

Opening weekend was unseasonably cold. A skim of ice still
existed on many bays and channels in northern Minnesota. The next
big fishing event, Memorial Day Weekend, was a complete washout as
heavy rains and wind hovered over the entire state.

According to Brad Foshaug, of 71 Bait and Sports in Willmar, the
fishing actually has been pretty decent. The biggest problem he’s
seen is a lack of anglers, mainly thanks to weather.

“Between the wind, rain, and cool weather a lot of people just
haven’t been excited to hit the water this year,” he said. “Last
weekend provided the busiest Saturday I’ve had since the walleye
season started.”

Foshaug said he sold more bait and just as many licenses last
weekend as he did the day before the opener.

“You know the weather has been really bad when people are just
buying their fishing license in the second week of June.”

Tom Kratzke, at Randall’s Resort on Lake of the Woods, can’t
remember a spring this cold. While vacationers are still coming,
they aren’t catching the number of fish they usually do this late
into the season.

Overnight lows continue to dip below 40 degrees on the state’s
northern border, while daytime highs consistently have been in the
mid-60 degree range. As a result, water temperatures have struggled
to reach 60 degrees, and that has hindered the walleye bite.

“We need some heat to warm the water,” Kratzke said. “We’re
catching fish, but it’s been very inconsistent, and not even close
to what we expect to catch this time of year.”

Kratzke said downrigging farther out in the lake is
traditionally a safe bet by the second week of June. But the
majority of walleyes being caught now are from the same locations
as on opening day.

Arguably, Lake Winnibigoshish has provided the most consistent
walleye bite in the state up to this point. The cold and wind has
made for tough fishing conditions on certain days, but it’s had
little effect on the fish.

Limits of eating-sized walleyes continue to be caught off the
points along the west side of the lake. If anything, the cold water
has kept these fish active in these shallow locations longer than
usual. The perch and northern pike action also has been very good
on Winnie.

The walleye season started slow on Lake Mille Lacs and Leech
Lake, two of the state’s premier walleye fisheries. But the bite
has improved at both locations in the past 10 days.

Franz Plattner of the Lakeview Inn said the past two weeks have
provided some of the “best walleye fishing in three or four years”
on Leech Lake.

Reports last weekend from Mille Lacs also were the best so far
this season. Consistent walleye action, especially during the
evening hours (the night ban is now off), can be found on the
shallow rocks. The smallmouth bass bite also has been good by most
accounts.

The farther south one travels, the warmer the water. Summer
patterns finally have started to form as leeches and crawlers take
a few more walleyes than minnows. Although later than normal,
panfish are just about done spawning south of the Twin Cities. This
is another signal that the water has taken more time to warm
up.

“In this area, the panfish are usually done spawning by now,”
said Curt Larson, of Master Sport Bait and Tackle in Fairmont.
“We’re still seeing sunfish and a few crappies in the shallows
finishing their spawn.”

But fishing conditions slowly are improving. Eventually the
weather will improve, which should mean anglers can expect better
fishing later this summer.

“If there’s an upside to the cool spring it could mean better
fishing later in the year,” Foshaug said. “Maybe we won’t
experience the traditional dog days’ this year.”

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