Sleeper walleye lakes for the Minnesota fishing opener – Part 2
Last week I gave the first half of my list of walleye lakes around Minnesota where you can catch a lot of walleyes without catching the attention of a million other anglers on the lake with you.
This is the land of 10,000 lakes, but it seems like everybody visits the same seven or eight. Here are a few more options to add to your list. Read last week’s blog for even more choices.
Little Pine and Pine
They call him “Mr. Walleye” and Minnesota’s very own Gary Roach is no fan of big crowds on the opener. He prefers smaller lakes where fishing pressure is slight and the night bite is awesome. Both Little Pine and Pine lakes in Crow Wing County top his list. “The best locations on are on a flat, in a place where a crick comes in or along the edge of the weed bed,” Roach said.
Both lakes have all these characteristics beginning with Pine Lake, the more accessible of the two. Just off County Road 3 south of Cross Lake, Pine is part of the Pine River which flows in, and out of, the lake on the northeastern side.
This is also where you can find the best fishing. Try the areas adjacent to the two deeper holes and also the point where the river flows out again. Here another tributary flows in providing some unique current patterns.
The trickiest part of fishing Little Pine is accessing it. The only public access is on Cross Lake just off County Road 6. From there, motor up the channel through Dagget Lake and into Little Pine. Both lakes are good, but Little Pine has better structure than Dagget.
Roach likes the bar jammed between deep water just off the first main lake point on the eastern shore. The entire northern shore is good from Dream Island to the point on the northeastern side. Fish the flats here and the inside turns where the weed beds are sprouting.
Fish Hook Lake
Located in Hubbard County, just north of Park Rapids, Fish Hook Lake is a great lake for a wide variety of species but especially walleye. The emerging weedline tends to run from depths of 12 to 22 feet and is a great place to troll with a crankbait or cast a jig-and-minnow combo.
Walleye are numerous on the lake and DNR reports show healthy populations in the 16- to 20-inch range with plenty of trophy potential. The lake looks pretty humdrum on the surface with several minor shoreline points and bays but topographically speaking the lake features structure too numerous and tantalizing to miss a chance to fish.
Turtle River Lake
Located north of Bemidji just southeast of Highway 71, this unique lake is actually a series of three inter-connected bays that form a single lake. All that shoreline structure means plenty of points, humps and emerging weedlines that hold a bounty of opening fishing walleye.
“It’s a great lake to fish and you can go a lot of places without seeing a lot of anglers,” said Bryan “Beef” Sathre of Fathead Guide Service in Bemidji.
Beef has fished Turtle River Lake on many fishing openers and said he’s usually one of the only boats on the lake.
“The walleye are good-sized and plentiful while the pike population is even better,” he said.
A short-shank jig and fathead minnow or shiner is Beef’s first choice for opener followed closely by a leech and slip bobber. Walleye hold along the emerging reed and weed beds anywhere from 4 to 8 feet deep and on the rocks or transition areas from 7 to 10 feet deep.
The town of Blackduck, and the adjacent lake bearing the same name, is a wonderful place to spend a fishing opener. Amenities are plentiful while many of the tourist traps common with more populated destinations are lacking. A lot of anglers heading to Lake of the Woods drive right by it without giving it a second thought.
“This is a phenomenal lake to fish a slip bobber and leech on opener,” Beef said. With two islands, numerous shoreline structures and large sand flats dominating the midlake structure, Blackduck offers plenty of solid walleye locations.
Blackduck also has plenty of area to make long trolling runs with shallow diving crankbaits.
“Put on an old-fashioned floating Rapala and slowly troll it along the breakline and emerging weedline and you’ll catch plenty of walleye especially at sunrise and sunset,” Sathre said.
This is about as close to Canada as you can come without leaving the country, and it’s close to more popular lakes like Rainy, Lake of the Woods, and Vermilion. The governor will be on Vermilion with lots of crowds, but Kabetogama will be pretty quiet and loaded with walleyes.
Opener weekend walleye are in the shallows around the sandy bays with rock rubble. A jig and a minnow, typically a chub or shiner, is the way to go, as are shiner-looking crankbaits.
In addition to a phenomenal walleye fishery, Kabetogama also has a tremendous smallmouth fishery that is open to fishing, not to mention plenty of opportunities for a trophy pike.
Kabetogama has six boat landings spread out along the southern shore of the lake and plenty of resorts open for business.