Contributed photo
Fishing opener is quickly approaching and walleye are starting to spawn.

CHill Fishing Report

Cody Hill

Ready or not here comes the 2022 Minnesota Fishing Opener!  With that being said a few local lakes still have ice on them and may cause a few people to change their game plans.  Last week they were still catching and milking walleyes at local fisheries hatchery locations in our area.  That means walleyes are still in that shallow water preparing to spawn or will be post spawn.  

For those that don’t know about milking walleyes the fisheries department sets up nets and capture walleyes over night then the next day they sort them by sex and then mix 2-3 males to one female.  Since they force the females to release their eggs they are usually a few days earlier than natural spawning times.  That means over Mother’s Day weekend the natural spawn will be going on most lakes and wrapping up a few days prior to the opener.  

On our bigger lakes that are holding on to their ice that will delay their spawn.  Males will come to the natural spawning sites first and stay for multiple days where most females come in for shorter period of time and leave the area immediately afterwards.  After the spawn a few males do tend to stay in the area longer incase a female decides to arrive later.

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Lakes in the area are beginning to wake up and the spring bite is officially on.

Walleyes need water movement to spawn, either flowing water like a river, culverts, or natural wave action on rocks.  When I look at opener for deciding which lakes to go to, I prefer shallower areas of a lake especially with a river inlet.  In our area we have some amazing bait shops, and their wisdom is valuable information especially if they have shiners or don’t have shiners.  I fish a bigger lake very often on opener since its near our cabin and there are two rivers that flow into it and if the bait shops say they have an adequate supply of shiners I fish 3-7 feet of water but if they say that shiners are tough to find or they haven’t started running yet I target that 7-13 feet of water.  Reason is the walleyes chase those shiners for a quick meal after exerting all that energy spawning.  If shiners are hard to find they are most likely deeper than 4 feet of water so they can not net the minnows yet.   

What should a person use on a year like this has been a popular question I have been give.  With how cold our water is going to be I strongly suggest slowing down your presentations.  Casting a jig up shallow with a fat head or shiner minnow is a hard presentation to pass up.  If windier try using a soft plastic to get longer casts and jig it back to the boat.  When you are up shallow try your best to get away from the boat, these fish haven’t gotten used to seeing things moving above them yet so they can be very spooky.  

If you are fishing deeper using a simple lindy rig with a plain hook and a bead for color is a great presentation for finding schools of fish.  They will be schooled up, find one and I doubt it is solo!  Spin around and try that spot immediately again and if you catch a second fish trolling start pitching jigs till the school moves.  

Usually by this time of the year we have been up shallow fishing crappies already.  I have a feeling that the crappies will be starting to stage in that 5-10 foot range getting ready for hitting the shallows to feed and start prepping for spawn.  

Crappies prefer calmer water since they make nests, and the male protects the nest.  Find shallow flats near bull rushes or cattails and you’ll find crappies.  Just remember on cold mornings the fish will leave shallower water and go to that 5-10 foot range till it warms back up.  Pitching small hair jigs under a bobber down 2-3 feet depending on water column and if in doubt where to start try middle of water column and work from there depending on results.

Water will be cold so water safety will be very important and making sure you are wearing your life jacket is a great idea.  Last weekend at a professional walleye tournament in South Dakota a camera boat hit a pro angler going across the water.  Things can change quickly and it’s better to be prepared in case of an emergency.  Stay safe and please use selective harvest to protect our vulnerable resources.