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Second week of walleye season should prove successful

Brad Westphal shows off an early season walleye caught using a nightcrawler. Minnows and leeches also produced nice fish for Park Rapids area anglers over the opening weekend. (Jason Durham / For the Enterprise)

Angler reports from last Saturday's Minnesota Fishing Opener varied across the state. While bodies of water such as Red Lake experienced schools of active walleye eagerly greeting the hoards of anglers, some other lakes were fairly subdued.

Those fishing folks who seemed to have the most success were those casting, jigging and ultimately tinkering in fairly shallow water, some fish coming from only a couple feet deep. Since water temperatures are relatively cool, many fish are seeking out the warmer shallow water regions where schools of forage are abundant. Yet as water temperatures continue to climb, the fishing will continually improve.

As for productive baits, minnows fooled a lot of fish, but nightcrawlers and leeches additionally tempted wary walleye. Anglers reported catching fish using various techniques including jigs, live bait rigs, and slip bobbers. Yet each lake differed in terms of activity.

Down on White Bear Lake, where Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty took part in the 61st annual Governor's Fishing Opener, walleye action was slow. Although Pawlenty didn't land a walleye, he did battle and successfully land a northern pike. Governor Pawlenty got an early start to the morning, heading out with his guide, Dennis Merry, at 3:30 a.m. Once the day concluded, it was announced that the 2010 Governor's Fishing Opener will be held on Lake Kabetogema.

Over the weekend, I attended the Governor's Opener and can testify that the angling action, at least in terms of walleye, was limited. However, the northern pike were active and at least provided hope when the rod would bend that maybe, just maybe, a walleye was writhing on the hook.

Yet as the guests on board my boat asked questions pertaining to fishing, I thought about how often those same questions are posed during seminars and guided fishing trips. Even though angling has progressed into a high-tech endeavor, some of the most basic questions still need to be addressed.

Q: How do you know when you get a bite?

A: Without the aid of a bobber, detecting a bite can be tricky. Since many Minnesota lakes are weedy and fish often prefer hiding in vegetation, differentiating a fish from a weed is a common conundrum. The simplest explanation of whether you have a weed or a fish on the end of your line is you'll simply know.

Q: When tying a live bait rig, how long should the snell be?

A: Personally, I tie live bait rigs in lengths from 2 ½ feet up to six feet long. This allows the bait to swim freely and separates the bait from the sinker and swivel components. But in all honesty, it's all about personal preference. Some people prefer a rig that's very short, other's prefer a long snell.

Q: How much time do you allow a fish to "run" with an open reel spool when fishing a live bait rig?

A: It depends on two factors, the size of your bait and the activity level of the fish. If you're using a larger bait, like a big lively minnow, you'll have to allow the fish more time to get both the bait and hook in its mouth. Traditionally, nightcrawlers require more time as well. Yet if the fish are really active, it may only take a couple seconds to inhale whatever's on your hook. A good start is a count to ten. If you miss the fish, give the next one more time. If you hook the fish deep, give the next bite less time.