For some anglers, “the opener” is like a holiday. It could be the first trip to the lake place in quite some time. Or maybe it’s a chance to finally target the ever popular walleye with family and friends. Whatever your thoughts are about the opening of walleye and pike fishing, each year presents a new puzzle that needs to be put together. Kinda like a game of hide and go seek. The anglers have been counting with their eyes closed since late February and the fish have been finding a place to hide.
Here’s what we are expecting for the 2019 opener.
- Cold Water Temps – The good news is all lakes in the Otter Tail County are ice free. We checked a smaller lake in the county Tuesday evening and found surface water temps ranging from 47ºF to 53ºF. Lower than normal, but not too far behind last year. What this means for you is be prepared to NOT fish memories. Sure you can check your favorite spots first, however, don’t be afraid to look super shallow. Fish could be in less than 10 feet of water and maybe even less than five feet of water. On the flip side, don’t be afraid to look deeper. Point is, the fish are somewhere, you might have to spend more time in search mode than years past. The cold water also means that a safety first approach is required. Wear a life jacket and be sure to have a throwable handy. Even strong swimmers don’t thrive in 48ºF water.
- Busy Boat Ramps- The good spots can go early. You can reduce the chances of gridlock by getting there a little earlier than everyone else. We’ve launched on Otter Tail Lake on opener at 5:30am and have been the third boat at the landing. Fished for four hours and when we got back to shore, it was packed. Be prepared to be patient and lend a hand if you can.
- Finicky Fish- The walleye spawn began a couple weeks ago. You can expect some fatigue. The smaller males should still be aggressive, but the larger females might not be in a feeding frenzy yet. It might be better to start with a slower presentation and work your way to more aggressive ones. Sometimes a bobber presentation can be hard to beat. The most common presentation is likely to be a jig and a minnow. But don’t be afraid to think outside the box. Maybe it’s a jig & plastics. Or maybe pulling cranks. Trial and error can teach you a lot.
If the walleyes aren’t cooperating, you can always target panfish or pike. Otter Tail County has world class bluegill and crappie fishing as well as plenty of willing pike. We’ve been catching crappies in 6-10 feet of water on a slip bobber and minnow. We usually set the bobber about three or four feet below the surface. This allows us to search the shallows if we choose.
If you are targeting, or accidentally catching pike, be sure to check MN DNR regulations for special restrictions.
In short, our advice is to try to get on the water before the opener if you can to do a little scouting. You obviously can’t fish for walleye, pike or bass, but you can make sure everything works and to check water temps. That way, you will have a game plan come go time.
Best of luck this weekend and stay safe.
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