MN: Opener walleyes bite well despite weather
Bemidji, Minn. – The number of walleyes Minnesotans caught on opening day depended on their willingness to take serious abuse from Mother Nature.
A steady 35-mile-per-hour northeast wind, finger-numbing temperatures, and rain took its toll on anglers eager to start the walleye season across the state.
Some of those who battled the weather found success, others didn't fare as well, and based on minnow sales at many bait shops, it appeared a decent number of fishermen stayed in bed.
"Despite the weather, there was fish caught around here and a few guys kicked butt," said Mark Cook of Bluewater Outdoors in Bemidji.
Based on reports from opening day, what happened on the lakes around Bemidji mirrored the rest of the state. Walleyes were caught, but there didn't appear to be as many people out.
Ben Kellin of Ben's Bait and Tackle said the anglers who worked hardest and withstood the cold rain and wind caught the most fish. He also pointed out that the big lakes such as Winnie, Bowstring, and Leech were more productive than the smaller lakes.
"It was by no means a slugfest for walleyes this year, but given the weather we had it could have been worse," Kellin said. "The guys who grudged and grinded it out wound up with limits."
Roger Croaker of Nodak's Lodge on Winnie said the walleye action was very good. He talked with a lot of guys who got pounded by the wind, but most of them caught good numbers of fish.
The strong winds obviously affected where anglers were fishing on Lake Mille Lacs. The north-end sand produced fish, but conditions weren't quite as rough on that end of the lake.
"The weather was about as brutal as it could have been on opening day," said Steve Johnson of Johnson's Portside on the east side of Mille Lacs. "The guys who could get out caught some fish, but there were a lot of people staying on shore."
Brad Foshaug of Brad's 71 Bait and Sports in Willmar reported on Tuesday that it was the worst opener he'd ever seen in his area from participation standpoint.
He knows the weather was the main culprit and that there will be better days ahead for walleye anglers in west-central Minnesota. But on this opener, Foshaug said numbers of people and numbers of walleyes just didn't show up.
"I mean I could have locked the doors after 1 p.m. Saturday because nobody was going out in that wind," he said. "Hell, I wouldn't have gone fishing either even if I could have – it was ugly out here."
Brad Dusenka of Frankie's Live Bait in Chisago City pointed out that many fishermen gave opening day a shot for a few hours in the morning. But with the poor weather, many groups had called it a day by noon.
The few limits taken on Saturday came from unusually deep water and that's atypical for opening day, according to Dusenka. But given the conditions, he believes a lot of those shallow fish had moved back to deeper depths and that made them difficult to catch.
The most encouraging news is that Dusenka and most other bait and tackle dealers saw a spike in business and the walleye bite once the wind calmed and the sun came out on Sunday.
By Tuesday afternoon, it was quite evident that the improved weather was improving the fishing across the state. After a rough start to the walleye season, the outlook sounded good for the upcoming weekend.
"It's been better every day since Saturday," Dusenka said.