Sleeper walleye lakes for the Minnesota fishing opener

With over a million licensed anglers in the state, it seems like all of them are fishing your favorite walleye lake on the fishing opener. Lakes like Leech, Winnibigoshish, Upper Red, Mille Lacs, Vermilion, and Gull are loaded with anglers wetting a line. 

The funny thing about these lakes and the crowd is that everybody seems to be dispersed around the lake until somebody catches a walleye. It’s at that moment all the other boats converge on that location. Most likely scaring every last walleye off the spot. 

It’s enough to keep some anglers off the water, which isn’t all bad, but if you have the urge to wet a line this opener without battling an angry mob there are a few quality lakes to consider. I’ll include several of my top choices this week in my blog and finish up the list next week. 

One more thing, this list is just the top of the iceberg. Visit the DNR website’s Lake Finder feature details on walleye stocking and population information. The lakes on my list are solid locations to start with, but strike out on your own to find that next sleeper walleye lake. 

Lake Sarah and Lake Shetek

One way to beat the crowds is to go in the opposite direction. While everybody heads north, head all the way to the southwestern corner of the state. Lake Sarah and Lake Shetek, in Murray County, dominate the walleye scene.  

The parking lot will probably feature more South Dakota and Iowa license plates than Minnesota ones, but the lakes are loaded with walleye. 

The walleye population on Shetek comes thanks to a massive stocking effort. Sarah has good genetics and is a solid natural reproduction lake. If you don’t have a boat, that’s okay, because both lakes have good shore fishing opportunities along with plenty of places to hold a boat. 

Crankbaits and slip bobbers are the best options on the opener in the traditional walleye haunts. 
Lac qui Parle Lake

Once again, to avoid the crowds drive in the opposite direction. Central and northern Minnesota are busy, but all’s quiet on the western front. Lac qui Parle has 10 landings, an ample supply of walleye and 5,600 acres of water to cover. 

This massive body of water seems intimidating but essentially the north side is shallow and devoid of structure while the south end is deeper with rock piles and shoreline structures. Find walleyes throughout the system during the fishing opener. The best times to fish are often during the day. 

Artificial lures are the way to go on LqP with shallow running shad raps, slip bobbers, or a jig and minnow on the rocks. The area north of Hantho is a great place for casting into the rock piles. 

White Iron Lake

White Iron is an early season walleye hot spot in the Superior National Forest of northern Minnesota with stained water that warms up faster and turns on the walleye. While other lakes in the area are colder, with more lethargic walleye, White Iron has fast and furious walleye action. 

Tie on a brightly colored rattle jig tipped with a minnow or half a crawler and work it along the bottom. Livebait rigs and crankbaits also work quite well on the lake. 

The inside curves of the many points and humps are productive in spring. There are plenty that show up on the map, but even more that don’t so keep your eyes open. If the wind is blowing into it, get your boat there. 

Big Stone and Traverse lakes

The distinctive “bump” on Minnesota’s western border features two easily overlooked destinations for walleye anglers. Both lakes are heavily stocked with walleye and are relatively easy to fish. 

Perhaps these lakes are overlooked because they are massive. Covering over 24,000 acres of the state, it seems like a lot of water to fish. Most of the early season fishing is done using jigs and minnows while midseason fishing is done with a slip bobber rig tipped with a leech and trolling crankbaits. 

On Big Stone, the islands on the south end tend to be the most productive as are the points and rock piles over the entire lake. Wind is always a big factor and walleye tend to hold on the wind swept shoreline that also features the warmest water. 

On Traverse, which bottoms out at just over 10-feet deep, there are numerous unmarked boulders scattered around the lake holding plenty of walleye. The best place to find these boulders is on the north end and around the islands. If water conditions are low be careful and consider stopping by a baitshop for some timely advice. 

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