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Expect to find hungry walleyes this warm opener

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.

The St. Cloud area is hosting the Governor's Fishing Opener this year and the forecast is for warm, summer-like temperatures in that area also. Surely, those out early will be shedding layers of clothes by mid-morning.

Expect any of the lakes in the Park Rapids area holding walleyes to be a potential hot spot.

Leech and Red Lake, the state's preverbal favorites, are teeming with fish and will be on the top of the list of go-to lakes again in 2017.

Of course, there is Mille Lacs, which is certain to produce walleyes, based on the winter reports. But don't go there if you want a fish fry; anglers aren't allowed to keep any this season.

If you do go to Mille Lacs, it might be a good idea to do as one Mille Lacs guide I know is doing. He is buying frozen walleye fillets to give to his clients from Morey's in Motley, therefore guaranteeing those that fish Mille Lacs with him that day a fish meal to take home.

Want to land more of the white-tip-tailed walleyes this weekend? Try a jig and a shiner minnow; fish it slow along the bottom, of course, where walleyes frequent. For example, 6 to 8 feet water is a good place to start. You may have to move deeper. Duplicate color of jig, speed and area if successful. Casting works well. Shiner minnows die quickly after a couple of casts though. To insure a longer lively minnow, hook the shiner through both lips and lower to the bottom and fish it almost vertical. Have crawlers and leeches available just in case. If the wind picks up try a bobber and leech on the windy shoreline. Live bait rigs work, too. Keep trying until you find what works.

Local area fishing expert Dean Christofferson likes to change it up for his walleye fishing, meaning artificials. Christofferson says, "Tough to beat a jig and live shiner minnow for open day walleyes. Artificials are a good alternative to try. As far as baits go, smaller soft plastics 3-to 4-inch grubs, minnows or swim baits. Start here and then go to classic hard baits like the rapala, shad rap, or similar baits will work, too, trolled or casted along a shoreline. One of the tricks is speed. Work artificials slow enough so the fish knows it's there, but fast enough so they can't get a good look at it."

Christofferson adds, "Confidence is the most important attribute to be successful with artificials. People give up too soon, without giving them a fair chance."

I don't know what to expect for the 2017 fishing opener. Not guaranteeing any fresh walleye dinners just yet. One thing is for certain, there is plenty of walleyes in our region to be caught. For this angler, that's reason enough to be out once again for the day we cherish in Minnesota called "the fishing opener."