Excitement fills the air as the 2019 Minnesota Fishing Opener approaches! Nearly all lakes in Minnesota will be free of ice by the May 11 fishing opener. DNR Fisheries Staff expect most walleye to have completed their spawn and be eager to bite.
Anglers continue to take nice panfish from the warm, shallow bays. Large sturgeon and northern pike are still being pulled from northern border waters with open seasons.
Main lake water temperatures remain extremely cold so anglers need to use caution and wear a life jacket. Please review Cold Water Kills before heading out.
Minnesota fishing opener dates for the 2019/2020 fishing season for most inland waters are as follows: walleye, sauger, northern pike, bass and lake trout, May 11; muskie, June 1. The fishing season for crappies, sunnies, perch and catfish is continuous. For rules, regulations and other helpful information on fishing in Minnesota, consult the DNR’s Fish Minnesota web page.
International Falls – Rainy Lake & the Rainy River
The Rainy River tag season for sturgeon starts April 24 and runs through May 7 when anglers are allowed to keep one sturgeon with a previously purchased sturgeon tag. To keep a sturgeon, it must be 45 to 50 inches in length or over 75 inches. All Rainy River accesses are open, and the Ron Hall access in International Falls, located just a mile or so downstream from the dam, is always a good choice. The swifter waters in this area are usually hold an abundance of sturgeon. If you catch a sturgeon, but cannot tag it, please handle it carefully and release it quickly. Sturgeon should always be held in a horizontal orientation, holding them vertically can damage internal organs. The Rainy River is a success story in the efforts to restore sturgeon fisheries in North America. 800-325-5766; www.rainylake.org
Lake Kabetogama and Crane Lake are on track for an ice-free fishing opener. The ice that once was locked tight on the north shore of Kabetogama and towards the east has now melted. Even though it has been cool, the wind combined with poor ice has done its work and we are ice free all the way to Namakan and beyond Ash River. The entire lake chain should be ice-free for opening weekend anglers.
Anglers have been out fishing for crappies but no reports are available. Once the sun shines, this bite should heat up nicely. Loons and pelicans made their first appearance the last week of April, and locally nesting waterfowl have arrived. Water levels are about 18 to 20 inches higher than this time last year. 800-524-9085; www.kabetogama.com
Duluth – Lake Superior, St. Louis River and inland waters
Lake Superior has been busy this week as smelt start to show up in the North Shore streams and rivers. According to the DNR, popular smelting waters include Lester, Knife, Stewart, Gooseberry, Split Rock, Beaver, Baptism, Cross, Temperance, Poplar and Cascade. Learn more at Smelt on the North Shore.
Anglers are taking lots of salmon when trolling the North Shore shoreline. The best tactic has been to troll stick baits in a variety of colors to learn which colors are most productive.
Stream anglers continue to report success with steelhead trout, a few salmon and an occasional brown trout. Some are taking a few suckers as well. The most successful technique is to drift spawn under float indicators. Patience is key. Anglers need to remember that these are migratory fish and eventually one will swim by.
Docks are going in on the St. Louis River. Expect to see anglers testing their boats and trying their luck with panfish prior to the May 11 opener. The MN DNR recently surveyed the spawning walleye up river and the results were very positive.
The inland lakes are giving up lots of panfish in the shallows where the water is warming rapidly. In fact, water temperatures as high as 52 degrees have been recorded. The shallow bays with decaying plants, bug larvae and/or new vegetation are generally the best fishing sites. For the most fish, use a 32-ounce jig tipped with a wax worm or soft plastic under a bobber. A few crappies are also being caught in the shallows by anglers using crappie minnows.
Please remember, that populations of fish can be very vulnerable this time of year. Please release the larger fish and harvest the more plentiful smaller fish. By doing so, we all win! 800-438-5884; www.visitduluth.com
The Grand Rapids area offers many early season panfish opportunities once lakes are free of ice. Most anglers target crappies, but there are also great opportunities for bluegill and perch. As the shallows warm and forage increases, look for panfish in water as shallow as 2 to 3 feet. You will need to quietly sneak up on the fish since they are so shallow. A small slip bobber with a jig in soft bottom areas with old stands of pencil reeds are great spots for early season crappies. Instead of anchoring, try a trolling motor to move freely with a bit of control. Four pound test line is ideal and very manageable, even for the largest crappies and bluegills. www.visitgrandrapids.com
Baudette – Lake of the Woods & the Rainy River
Northern pike and sturgeon reports have been excellent on the south shore of Lake of the Woods. The bays on the lake and the river are open and full of pike. Large dead baits, as well as slowly rolling a spinnerbait, spoon or crankbait are the best methods. Numerous trophy-class northern pike are being caught. Please remember that all pike 30 to 40 inches in length must be returned to the water. There is a 3 fish limit with one over 40 inches allowed.
The annual Zippel Bay Resort Ice Out Pike Tournament will be held May 4-5, a bit later than usual due to later ice-out predictions. Pike anglers are already pulling nice northern pike from various bays on Lake of the Woods and Zippel Bay is usually a hot spot. Part of the appeal of Zippel Bay is that it’s more secluded, easier to hide from cold winds, and anglers will not require the larger boats like on the main lake.
On the Rainy River, sturgeon fishing has been excellent. The ideal presentation a 3 to 6 ounce no-roll sinker, a sturgeon rig and a few nightcrawlers or combination of crawlers and frozen emerald shiners. The keep season for sturgeon continues through May 7. If you intend to keep a sturgeon, you must purchase a sturgeon tag ahead of time.
Up at the Northwest Angle, open water areas are increasing rapidly. 800-382-FISH; www.lakeofthewoodsmn.com
Bena – Lake Winnibigoshish
As of May 2, nearly all of the ice had melted on Lake Winnibigoshish. Time to prepare for the fishing opener May 11! Learn about recommended fishing techniques for Lake Winnibigoshish during the Minnesota Fishing Opener. www.lakewinnie.net
Hackensack Area Lakes
The majority of lakes in the area are wide open, however, as of April 29, Ten Mile still had some ice on the main lake, as did Leech and Woman lakes. All should be free of ice shortly. 800-279-6932; www.hackensackchamber.com
Glenwood Area Lakes
The Starbuck Marina on Lake Minnewaska has been the giving up lots of sunfish and crappies. For the most action, use a small jig tipped with a waxworm or minnow. Other good locations have been Fish Hatchery Bay, and Pocket, Reno, Rachael and Mary lakes. www.glenwoodlakesarea.org
Brainerd Area Lakes
North Long, Hubert and all of the smaller lakes within the Gull Lake Chain are producing good numbers of panfish. The best depths and techniques depend on the day. On sunny days, crappies are preferring minnows in depths of 2 to 5 feet. On cloudy days, bright-colored plastics have been best in depths of 6 to 10 feet. The larger bluegills are schooling at the new weed growth, with plastics and live bait both working well. 800-450-7247; www.visitbrainerd.com
Isle/Onamia – Lake Mille Lacs
The walleye are hungry on Lake Mille Lacs, with accidental walleye coming in on small plastic crappie baits. Ice out on Lake Mille Lacs was declared April 29, and many docks are already in for the season! Check out the Lake Mille Lacs webcams to view the progress.
Mille Lacs is known to be an excellent fishery for walleye, as well as bass. Consider attending the Bronzeback Blowout at Izatys Resort on May 4. This event helps to maintain Mille Lacs’ world-class trophy smallmouth bass fishery status. Free beer and wine will be offered during Happy Hour, followed by a wonderful buffet meal by the chefs at Izatys. Evening fun includes a silent auction, live auction, raffles and door prizes galore. Special industry guests will also attend. Last year’s event sold out get your tickets soon.
Anglers fishing Mille Lacs may keep one walleye from May 11 through May 31, but the walleye must measure between 21 and 23 inches, or be more than 28 inches long. 888-350-2692; www.millelacs.com
Minneapolis-St. Paul Area
Consider participating in the Family Fishing on the Opener on May 11 at Cedar Lake Farm Regional Park. Learn about different types of fish, preparing equipment, baiting a hook and handling fish once they are caught — make memories on the lake with your family! Pre-registration is required.
Stillwater Area Lakes and Rivers
Opening day for walleye and sauger on the St. Croix River is May 4. According to Turk Gierke, fishing should be very good for opening weekend despite high water levels. Live bait and crankbaits should both be effective. 651/351-1717; www.discoverstillwater.com
Lanesboro – Southeast Bluff Country trout streams
As of May 2, most southeastern streams and rivers were clear with normal to slightly high water flow. Dark Hendricksons were being observed. Several species of caddis were hatching intermittently for the past week or so. Blue-winged Olives would considered a possibility by DNR fisheries staff. Some anglers were having success with streamers. Learn more at the DNR’s Trout Streams page. Before you go, check out the “Area Highlights” section of the Lanesboro Area Fisheries web pagefor stream maps. 800-944-2670; www.lanesboro.com
Albert Lea Area Lakes
The 72nd Annual Minnesota Governor’s Fishing Opener will be held May 9-12, 2019 on Fountain Lake, one of the largest lakes in the Albert Lea area. Located about 75 minutes south of the Minneapolis-St. Paul area, Albert Lea is nestled between Fountain and Albert Lea lakes. There are 13 lakes in the area, many offering fishing, boating, kayaking and canoeing. In the heart of the city, the 521-acre Fountain Lake features several great fishing bays and is home to 20 species of fish, including largemouth bass, northern pike, walleye, crappie, catfish and yellow perch. 800-345-8414; www.albertleatourism.org
Ortonville – Big Stone Lake
The bite seems to improve each day the water warms on Big Stone Lake. Anglers having the most success are casting jigs into 1 to 5 feet of water on the rocks. The water is dirty and high so plastics have been best for walleye. The walleye season is continuous on this border water. 800-568-5722; www.bigstonelake.com
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