Saturday, February 4th, 2023
Saturday, February 4th, 2023

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An alternative to the walleye-fishing opener

Albert with one of the rainbow trout he caught at Bad Medicine Lake during a past fishing opener. (Photo courtesy of Joe Albert)

I don’t believe I’ll ever be mistaken for a fly-fishing bum, and catching trout typically isn’t at the top of my to-do list. Yet when Minnesota’s fishing season opens Saturday, it’ll be all about trout, as far as I’m concerned. I won’t be fly fishing, nor will I be using downriggers to carry baits down to the depths.

Instead, I’ll be slow-trolling a Rapala in relatively haphazard fashion around Bad Medicine Lake near Park Rapids, hoping there are rainbow trout feeding near the surface.

It’s become a tradition for a few of us to target rainbows at that lake on opening day. It’s easy and enjoyable fishing, and if everything goes right, we each have a few trout to bring home. Their meat isn’t as tasty as that of a walleye, to be sure, but it isn’t bad, either. And generally speaking, success in walleye fishing is something that’s eluded me for, well, my whole life.

On the other hand, it’s almost a given that you’ll catch a few rainbow trout on Bad Medicine early in the season when the water is cool. And reaching them doesn’t require specialized equipment. This isn’t difficult fishing, but it is fun fishing. We let out a bunch of line and start motoring around. When the trout hit, they hit hard, and you learn quickly not to judge the size of the fish by how hard it strikes. Countless times I’ve been convinced I’m winching in a 20-incher only to be surprised when a 14-incher shows up at the side of the boat.

It’s simple fishing that’s a great way to begin the season. I keep the fish finder on because I think it’s interesting to see what’s going on below, but I don’t think electronics ever have helped me catch a rainbow trout. Each of us uses a different color and size of Rapala, and the fish often show a preference for one or the other, but I’d be hard-pressed to think of a time we actually changed lures in an effort to catch more fish.

You can call it lazy if you like, but I’ve got another word in mind: fun.

I can certainly understand people who target walleyes on the opener. And maybe I would, too, if ever I could catch them. But I can’t, so I won’t. But if walleyes are your thing, great, and have a fun and safe opener.

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