Make sure you're ready for fishing opener
May 14 marks the opening date this year for walleye, northern pike, stream trout in lakes, and lake trout for all inland waters. Bass season will be open May 28, and Muskie season will open June 4.
The opening weekend is one of the busiest times of the year on the lakes and at the public ramps. Make sure you plan ahead so you are ready to launch your boat. We have all had the frustration of waiting at the access for the selfish, unprepared boater that does all their chores while parked in everybody's way on the ramp. Don't be that guy or gal! Before getting in line to launch, un-tarp your boat, make sure you have put all your equipment in your boat, take your transom saver off, un-strap from your trailer, put the plug in your boat and be sure you and your partners are truly ready to launch.
Opening day is always a little bit of a crapshoot for success, especially for walleyes. Fishing is a very weather dependent sport when it comes to fish activity levels and their willingness to bite. As of now, the long-range forecast looks favorable. We are supposed to have temperatures in the high 50s to low 60s with overnight lows around 40 degrees. Warming and stable conditions help tilt the possibility for success to our favor. We hope and pray we do not get a cold front that rolls in to our area for next weekend. Yes, we will all still go out and give it our best, but wouldn't it be nice to have some favorable conditions. It seems like we have had many openers with cold, wind, rain, sleet, and even snow. They are all still great, and they have been the openers that are fun to talk about. It would be great to be able to talk about the opener when we had warm, stable, comfortable weather and the fish got active! Please, may it be next weekend!
You will want to be looking for active fish in shallow water. The baitfish move to the shallow, warmer water and the predator fish will follow. The bait of choice will be minnows (usually spot tail shiners). Flats that hold weeds with hard sand bottom or areas that change from sand to gravel are good early season locations. Lakes that have rivers or feeder creeks will have warmer water areas that will be holding baitfish and are worth checking out.
There are always some anglers that break from what is traditional and will catch fish opening weekend on night crawlers or leeches. The best bet is to have all baits available to you so you can find out what is working. Small jigs or live bait rigs with 1/8-ounce sinkers work well when fishing shallow water. Leader lengths of two to four feet should work.
It can be helpful to long line to get your presentation out way from the boat, or cast to shallow water. The idea is to get away from the boat to reduce the chance of spooking fish away from the area you are fishing. Some anglers will use slip bobbers as a stealthy way to present bait to shallow water fish.
As always, some will have success with catching, and some will have success with being out trying to catch. If the walleyes or northern pike aren't cooperating, change your game plan and chase after some crappies or sunfish. They are up in the shallow water and have been actively feeding for a week already. The active pan fish bite will hold steady for the next several weeks. Crappie or fathead minnows are working for crappies, and small leeches, pieces of night crawler, or small minnows are working on the sunfish.
Remember to treat the mom's in your life special today for Mothers Day. This seems like the first Mothers Day in a long time that has not landed on the same weekend as fishing opener so it will be easy to make this a special day. The crappies and sunfish are biting in shallow water and we are a week away from the fishing opener. The weather is improving and the water is warming. Life is good.
(Laabs runs Brad Laabs Guide Service in Detroit Lakes.)