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Dennis Anderson: To catch your limit on Saturday's opener, increase your walleye IQ

Dennis Anderson, Star Tribune on

Published in Outdoors

No matter an angler's skills, catching walleyes on the opener can be easy or challenging, depending in large part on the weather — not only the weather on opening day, but on days leading up to the season's first walleye outing.

Yet weather aside, anglers who expand their walleye knowledge and improve their fishing skills can more regularly put fish on a stringer or in a live well. Perhaps 10% of anglers catch between 50% and 70% of boated walleyes.

To include yourself in the fortunate 10%, understand that as DNR fisheries biologist Paul Radomski says in his forthcoming book, "Walleye, A Beautiful Fish of the Dark'' (University of Minnesota Press) that persistence and a willingness to fail are crucial to successful angling. Understand also that most walleye trips end without any walleyes caught.

Yet the odds can be tipped in an angler's favor, especially from opening day through mid-June — perhaps the most productive fishing period in Minnesota — if an angler's increased understanding of walleyes and their habits is combined with 1) time-tested gear and bait deployed on, 2) lakes or rivers with reasonably abundant walleye populations.

So, using Radomski's book as a guide, along with other information, let's get smarter about walleyes and walleye fishing:

— Depending on spring weather, Minnesota's best naturally reproducing walleye lakes can be opening-day hotspots. These include Cass, Kabetogama, Lake of the Woods, Leech, Winnibigoshish, Upper Red, Mille Lacs, Pepin, Rainy and Vermilion. These 10 lakes account for about 40% of Minnesota anglers' annual walleye harvest.

 

— This spring, unfortunately, hasn't been much of a spring. As a result, on the opener, ice likely will be a problem for anglers on Rainy Lake and Lake of the Woods and perhaps on Vermilion — with Leech, Winnie, Cass and Upper Red on the bubble. Looking for alternative walleye waters for the opener?

— Keep in mind: Whether fishing in spring, summer, fall or winter, water temperature, light penetration and oxygen levels are key determinants in locating walleyes.

— Water temperature will be a concern for walleye anglers on Saturday's opener, particularly for lakes in the north. Lakes and rivers that are too cold, with ice only gone by a day or two, often don't trigger walleye appetites.

— The best walleye fishing often occurs beneath cloudy skies when a ripple — commonly known as a walleye chop — roils a lake surface. Sunny days with lakes that are mirror flat often make fishing tougher.

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