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Shane Wruck of Buffalo, Minn., has enjoyed walleye fishing with good success in recent years at Otter Tail Lake and surrounding lakes. Tom Hintgen/FOCUS

Ice won’t put the freeze on fishing opener

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Ross Hagemeister, Otter Tail Lake professional fishing guide, says nothing could stop the fishing opener in Minnesota – not even the ice still lingering on some area lakes.

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The thought of cancelling the walleye opener “sounds like Santa canceling Christmas... Sorry Santa, we don’t cancel major holidays in Minnesota,” said Hagemeister.

He reminds Perham area residents and visitors to Otter Tail County that the walleye fishing opener, happening this Saturday, May 11, is a huge source of revenue for businesses throughout the state.

“I think most Minnesota walleye fishermen would just as soon have their toe nails plucked out than miss the first day of the walleye fishing season,” he said.

But what should anglers do about the cold and sometimes semi-frozen lakes on this year’s unusual opening day?

The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources is recommending that anyone planning to fish check ice conditions and the availability of public water accesses before heading out. Bait shops, resorts and DNR offices are all good sources of this information.

Even where the ice is out, some waters may be closed to fishing to protect fish spawning areas. Check these closures online at mndnr.gov/fishing.

Anglers are also advised to wear life vests and exercise extra caution in the frigid waters.

As far as how to yield the best results on opening weekend, Hagemeister believes shore fishing will be more productive than fishing from a boat in most cases.

“The walleye will be spawning, getting ready to spawn, or just finishing throughout the region,” he said. “Try to find current areas, and areas very close to where they spawn, namely rocky/ruble shorelines. If available, use shiner minnows, but they’ll be hard to come by this opener.”

Mark Rostad, another Otter Tail Lake fisherman, agreed that shiners are key for this year’s opener.

He also added that, “Smaller male fish will be the norm, as the larger females, in post spawn, won’t be feeding yet.”

In addition to shiners, Hagemeister recommends leeches, crawlers or fatheads on small jigs, 1/32-ounce, 1/16-ounce or under slip bobbers. Casting Shad Raps (size 5) and original shallow diving Rapalas (sizes 7, 9 and 11) in current areas will work, too.

“Also, be sure and fish at dark if you’re up to it,” he said. “Walleye spending time in shallow water feed well in dark and low light.”

“It’s a new season, and a completely new type of walleye opener for all of us, novices and pros alike,” he added. “It’ll be an opportunity for all of us to learn something new.”

Tom Hintgen, Otter Tail County Correspondent

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