Despite cold water, an above-average opener

Walker, Minn. – Cold, wet, and windy weather usually dominates
story headlines on the fishing opener. While the weather was a main
talking point again this year, it was because of the summer-like
conditions that greeted anglers opening day.

With no wind, bright skies, and temperatures in the 70-degree
range, sun block and cold drinks replaced hot coffee and winter
clothing across the state. As a result, angler numbers were high
and bait and tackle sales were better than most years.

It seemed like everyone wanted to be in a boat this opener. But
while the weather got anglers on the water, it wasn’t exactly ideal
conditions for catching walleyes.

Like most years, some people struggled and others found limits
of walleyes. In the end, everyone thought the fishing was going to
be better based on the spring we’ve had and most anglers felt it
would have been if the wind would’ve kicked up.

“We had good reports, marginal reports, and some poor reports,”
said Cory Brock of Reed’s Sporting Goods in Walker. “Overall, for
the weather as calm and bright as it was, we can’t complain with
the number of fish caught.”

When summing up the bite on Leech Lake, Brock knows it could
have been really good with some wind or overcast skies. The guys
that moved and put in their time still seemed to catch walleyes,
just not as consistently as expected.

Roger Croaker of Nodak’s Lodge on Lake Winnibigoshish said the
walleyes weren’t jumping in the boat, but overall the bite was good
given the lack of wind. He was surprised the walleyes hung in their
shallow spots and bit as much as they did.

“There were more boats on Winnie than I’d seen in five years and
with no wind I was amazed those fish hit in the shallows,” he said.
“I hate to say the weather was too nice, but I think the walleyes
would have really bit with some wind.”

On Lake Mille Lacs, the lack of wind limited the best walleye
action to the morning and evening hours. The guys that spent time
on the lake during the middle of the day often struggled to catch
fish.

Terry Thurmer of Terry’s Boat Harbor on the west side of the
lake talked to many anglers that stated there were spurts of
daytime action anytime a little gust of wind would blow. But when
it was calm, the bite was slow.

“We caught fish during certain times of the day and the walleyes
seemed to be spread out,” Thurmer said. “The guys that caught
limits went out early or stayed late and the guys that slept in
didn’t do as well.”

Some of the best walleye reports in northern Minnesota came from
Lake of the Woods, Upper Red Lake, and the Cass Lake Chain. With
the exception of Upper Red, where walleyes were again found in less
than eight feet, the traditional shallow bite wasn’t happening.

But the guys that adjusted, moved deeper and worked
non-traditional areas did well. On Cass Lake for example, walleyes
were being caught in water as deep as 30 feet on opening weekend.
Reports from Lake of the Woods indicated the best bite in 12 to 25
feet.

The one constant through opening weekend was that there were a
lot of people fishing. Bait and tackle dealers, resorts, gas
stations, and convenience stores all benefited from the warm
weather. Even with a slow bite in many areas, most anglers didn’t
seem to mind and they took advantage of the nice weather.

“We sold a lot of bait to the guys catching fish and beer to the
guys that went back to the cabin early,” said Ron Flatten of
Willey’s Sports and Spirits in McGregor. “It was tough to complain
when you get weather like that on opening day.”

Kabetogama hosts governor

Gov. Tim Pawlenty bagged four fish on Lake Kabetogama near
International Falls.

Spokesman Bruce Gordon says the governor caught a 14-inch
walleye just before 8 a.m. Saturday and a second walleye about 10
minutes later. Gordon says the governor later caught two others,
the largest of which was 22 inches.

Pawlenty’s wife and lieutenant governor beat him to the catch,
however. Gordon says Lt. Gov. Carol Molnau caught a walleye about
7:30 a.m., and first lady Mary Pawlenty caught her first walleye
about five minutes before her husband.

Pawlenty was due back at the Capitol later last Saturday as
lawmakers wrapped up the 2010 legislative session.

The AP contributed to this story.

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