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Hit-or-miss success on Minnesota's Fishing Opener

Fauchald caught this bluegill only moments after dipping his bait in Belle Taine Lake.

Historically, Minnesota fishing openers are best described in two words: hit or miss.

This year, history repeated itself. The 2018 fishing opener with the annual Minnesota Governor's Fishing Opener held in the central part of the state at Green Lake in Spicer. Every year it's in a different location highlighting a local community as prime spot for tourism.

"We had a great time," Gov. Dayton said, "I caught three bass, which made my whole day, made my last Fishing Opener very special."

Success depended on who you talk to. For Josh Severtson from Smokey Hills Bait and Tackle, opener was a hit.

"Families came to the lakes, spent time on them and loved it. Veteran walleye anglers on Saturday, hearing of the forecast of clear skies, no wind, cold water temperatures, didn't have much to be optimistic about. Putting odds in their favor, they fished the low-light situations, early morning and late evening. Mid-day conditions, with clear, calm waters found walleyes hard to catch. Crappie and northern pike were a much better alternative. That helped make for a great opener in my opinion," Severtson said.

Dealing with the scarcity of shiner minnows, anglers made do. Mike Lien of Delaney's Bait Tackle, while fishing with his father, boated a 31-inch walleye and his father landed with a 30-inch fish. Lien's fish came on an artificial, swimming jerkbait; his father's a leech. Both fish were caught and released out of shallow water, about four to five feet in depth.

Lien said, "It's important to be open minded and try readily available live bait choices, including leeches, night crawlers and fathead minnows. Swimming pencil-length jerkbait lures have proven time and again to be a top alternative to live bait my opinion."

He added, "This week, shiner minnows are becoming plentiful for anglers. Live baits, such as leeches or night crawlers, will get only better with the water temperatures on the rise.

Greg May from Northern Bait reports, "Fishing was good, weather superb and it seemed everyone got a few fish. Some did better than others, of course."

May was busy Monday at the bait shop dolling out shiners from a recent shipment. He advises that "conditions for crappie fishing are perfect. They are an abundant alternative, in contrast to the trying for mid-day walleye."

Premier walleye waters, like Red Lake, did not disappoint many anglers on Saturday or Sunday. Fisherman boasted getting their limits in short order.

As in the past, I spent opener with fishing partner Dave Shefland on Leech Lake, with a lot of other company. Reports ranged from spotty to good. Our fish came from shallow water — less than eight feet. Every spot was feeling the pressure. Walleyes were cooperative. Shefland managed to find a couple dozen shiner minnows, which proved to a good choice, as was a jig tipped with a shiner or with a twister-style tail. Premier walleye water, such Mille Lacs, limited fishing pressure. Mille Lacs is catch-and-release only for walleyes this season, and the lake still had a lot of ice on it as of Saturday morning.

Hubbard County AIS access inspectors commented that anglers were cooperative, friendly and optimistic.

Unsuccessful on Saturday? You're not alone. The best fishing action lies ahead. It could be one of the fishing seasons memories are made from. Get out and enjoy the superb fishing Park Rapids area lakes have to offer. It's out there just waiting for you.