Fishing report: Not a bad season in Minnesota

Fairmont, Minn. — The first five weeks of the walleye season have presented some surprises and some unexpected challenges for anglers across the state.

Fishing patterns have developed as they normally do for walleyes in most areas, which meant they bit shallow early and gradually have moved deeper as water temperatures began to climb.

In other locations, anglers have struggled to consistently catch walleyes on lakes that typically aren’t real difficult to figure out. It’s been tough to pinpoint why the fish won’t cooperate, but the lack of consistency has left walleye fishermen scratching their collective heads.

The panfish spawn went according to schedule and is just about wrapped up in most parts of the state. Bass and northern pike have cooperated and muskie reports have been good.

In southern Minnesota, timely rains have regularly flushed out many lakes that typically “green up” by the time June rolls around. It’s also allowed walleye anglers to find fish in shallow water later than usual, according to Justin Sommer of Sommer’s Bait in Fairmont.

Sommers added that the average size of the walleyes in this area has been exceptional this season, panfish action continues to be consistent, and muskies bit immediately on the weedlines, which developed early.

Warm weather in April allowed weeds to establish themselves earlier than normal in most areas. But that has led to some increased fishing opportunities during the early stages of the season.

Ben Mase of In-Towne Marina on Lake Waconia said most fish species related to the weeds right out of the gate. Most years, finding significant weed growth doesn’t happen until mid-June.

Mase also pointed out that lake levels, which were somewhat low to start the season, have returned to normal levels over the past couple weeks.

In central Minnesota, Mille Lacs continues to produce walleyes at a good pace. Water temperatures climbed with this week’s weather, but it hasn’t limited the bite.

Steve Johnson of Johnson’s Portside in Isle says the walleye bite might have slowed a bit from the suicidal pace in May and early June, but is still very strong compared to recent years.

“It’s stupid good; I’m still hearing reports of 25- to 50-fish days,” Johnson said. “This is a great year to hop on a launch with a kid and catch walleyes.”

Kevin Lempola of Delaney’s Sporting Goods in Park Rapids pointed out that it’s been a good walleye year in his area, but somewhat inconsistent at times. He says the weather has been stable, so he can’t blame anything other than moody fish.

“It’s one of those years where a lake will produce one day, but not the next,” Lempola said. “If you fish walleyes three days in this area, one of them will be really good and the other two won’t.”

Roger Croaker of Nodak’s Lodge on Lake Winnibigoshish said anglers on this noted walleye lake also have struggled to put together a few days of consistent fishing in a row. But he believes the weather is to blame for the lack of cooperation with Winnie’s walleyes.

It’s been difficult to develop a pattern with 90-degree heat one day and 50-degree highs the next. He says the wind seems to blow hard for a couple days and then the lake lies flat for a week – it’s added up to some unusually slow walleye catches by Winnie’s standards.

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