Fishing for walleyes and northern pike started this morning at 12:01 a.m. What to expect? Like most openers, shiners are available, but not plentiful. Leeches and nightcrawlers are easy to find. We're seeing warmer water temperatures since the lakes opened a dozen days or so earlier this year. Walleyes are done spawning, widely dispersed and hungry. It's a far cry from when Gov. Dayton visited the Park Rapids area for his opener. Dayton found lakes choked with ice.
Rewinding to a column I wrote a few weeks ago, "Spring Crappie: Time to Sow and a Time to Harvest," spurred a lot of comments. Here are just a few of those comments. Pat Neu, executive director of the National Professional Anglers Association, said, "A concern exists for the future of the resource when targeting vulnerable fish." One angler wrote, "A closed season during the spawn might be the next step to preserving vulnerable spawning pan fish." However, resource professionals that I come in contact with frown on a closed spring season on pan fish.
An electronic fish finder makes it possible to locate fish while eliminating the guesswork. Anglers can benefit from using an electronic fish finder's capability to locate the best fishing locations. Modern sonar provides more information than older units and allows a fisherman to check depth, structure, speed and temperature readings pertaining each fishing application. Additionally, using a GPS-enabled fish finder can make your outings safer by marking waypoints, tracking productive trolling passes and launch spots for safe return.
Hubbard County is surrounded by lakes with Aquatic Invasive Species. West of us, Big Detroit and Big Cormorant was announced last summer of having zebra mussels. To the east, Leech Lake, and to the north, Red and Turtle Lakes have starry stonewort, as does Lake Koronis to the south. These are bodies of water so familiar to Hubbard County area anglers. A need for new challenges and responses. Starry stonewort is one of those new challenges.
Few have the on the water experience that these two gentlemen have, Joe Fellegy, 72, of Baxter, and Ray Nepsund, 87, of Park Rapids. They are career fishing charter captains on two Minnesota premier fishing lakes - Mille Lacs and Winnibigoshish. Fellegy's father bought land on the north shore of Mille Lacs Lake where he built a resort and the resort's first charter boat. Nepsund's grandfather introduced him to fishing, a passion evolving into a business ferrying people around on Lake Winnibigoshish, based out of Denny's Resort.
Greg Clusiau, a Keewatin, Minn. native and guide, feels the Park Rapids area lakes are Minnesota's gems for winter crappie fishing. Clusiau is one of, if not the best, winter crappie anglers that I have ever fished with. I caught up with Greg recently, and as always, was eager to pick up a few tips. Clusiau knows what he is talking about. He has 50 years of experience successfully catching winter crappies. Today, fishing is an occupation for him, and it has always been a passion.
Adding scents on lures to increase fishing success is in my background. My dad believed gas or oil on one's hands is repulsive to fish, keeping his hands clean by simply washing them with a bar of ivory soap. Before handling bait, he rubbed his hands in grass and dirt. Further masking human scent, he used anise oil on the lures and fingers. Today's black bass fishermen buy scents by the bucket full and apply it to their lures like holy water. It becomes a confidence thing with some guys. They apply scent like it's something as important as fishing skills or ability.
Minnesota's fishing scene is changing. Anglers are much better doing what they love to do, and that's catch fish. "There seems to be momentum out there for reduced bag limits," says Brad Parsons, central region fisheries manager.
How was your 2016 fishing season? Fair? Inconsistent? Average? A lot of factors contributed to success, or lack of. A Spring bite on walleyes was short, the midsummer bite for walleyes never really got going. Fall came around, area lakes Potato and Fish Hook always produced consistent fall action on walleyes in the past. This season, a good bite that happened but short in duration. Long, a lake known as a go to lake for fall walleyes, produced outstanding October fishing success.
If the packed-house attendance at the recent St. Paul Ice Fishing & Winter Sports Show a few weeks ago is any indicator, ice fishing has to be the fastest-growing segment of the fishing recreation industry. The show, held the first weekend of December every year at the St. Paul River Centre, features the latest in gear, especially for ice-fishing enthusiasts, along with the best in places to go and stay this winter.