Alternatives to shiner minnows
By Gary Korsgaden
For the Enterprise
Opening day means bait and tackle dealers phone’s ring off the wall with the same question, do you or will you have shiners for the opener? First, Park Rapids bait and tackle dealers have a well earned reputation of always having the variety and best bait for anglers across the state. Second our late spring weather coupled and netting restrictions on spot-tail shiner netting put in place May 21on Lake Winnibigoshish by the Minnesota DNR spurred the threat of a shiner shortage. Minnesota DNR imposed the restrictions in a effort to stop the spread of zebra mussels, confirmed to be in the lake.
Resourceful anglers will use other proven ways to catch walleyes on this year’s opening day and the days following. Legendary fisherman Al Lindner, has been working for years perfecting techniques to fooling walleyes on artificial lures. Lindner shared “if you’re going to master using artificial baits for walleyes, first you must have confidence in their use, second keep the offering moving.” Lindner turns to bright colored lead head jigs with “big eyes” tipped with minnow look alike, two to four inch rubber grub bodies in popular colors of white, silver, blue and chartreuse.
A second choice is the same “large eye” jig tipped with a twister-tail style jig body. Pitching these jigs up into the eight to ten feet water depths, early season schools walleyes will be cruising, certainly will produce a lot of fish. Lindner claims if anglers concentrate on “slowly moving the jig” lightly twitching the rod tip as you reel it back to the boat and experiment with size, color and style of rubber grub bodies until you’re honed in on what the walleyes are looking for that day, he adds.
At several of the Professional Walleye Trail events “pre-fishing” with a number consistent top finishers early on bodies of water during a “hot shiner bite.” Areas that drew hundreds of anglers first looking for shiners scarce at bait shops and second walleyes to inhale them. Days before the tournament a high percentage of “pros” weren’t using shiners but fathead minnows.
Before the days fishing anglers took several dozen crappie sized fathead minnows in a bucket and added salt until the minnows floated to the surface dead, scooping them up into a bag placing it in a cooler, the other remaining minnows were kept alive.
Tipping chrome silver jig heads, bright clear days, gold chrome cloudy days, two minnows were hooked through the lips piggy back style a dead one first enhancing the scent trail, a second live fathead minnow to give the jig motion. Pitching them shallow bringing it back to the boat slowly with light twitches of the rod tip.
A third method, a long time favorite casting three to four inch sinking pencil style silver or gold lures and bringing them back slowly to the boat. Particularly effective early mornings before daylight and again after dark these baits slowly wobble side to side entice strikes.
Phones will still ring off the wall at area bait and tackle shops looking for shiners, but anglers will have alternatives.