By PATRICK SLACK
Although it could certainly change at a moment’s notice, it appears that the seemingly never-ending winter weather will have finally faded by the time the state fishing opener rolls around.
However, the drawn-out cold weather and delayed ice-melt will have a noticeable impact on which types of fish are likely to bite, said Stephen Quinn, senior editor of In-Fisherman.
Quinn, who has lived in Brainerd and fished throughout the area for 25 years, outlined when and where to look for various species when the fishing season gets under way.
Panfish and bass
One of the top catches once the water warms figures to be panfish, Quinn said.
“The panfish bite will be outstanding once ice melts and waters warm to about 50 degrees,” he said. “We could see those temperatures within three days of ice-out, provided typical late-April and early-May sunny days prevail.”
Another good bet later on in May should be bass fishing, with bass expected to be in a prespawn mode and eager to eat.
“Once bass season comes around on Memorial Day weekend, I expect outstanding fishing for the largemouths in particular,” Quinn said. “Like the panfish, they will rush the shorelines, hanging in emerging vegetation, cutbanks and fallen trees, stumps, etc. Remember to release the bigger bass to spawn and grow bigger next season.”
Crappies, bluegills and pike
Another good strategy may be heading for shallow water, where crappies, bluegills and pike may turn up.
“The crappies and bluegills will pack into small black-bottom bays, canals and protected coves where the water will be warmer,” Quinn said. “They may be a bit lethargic at first, but will bite small jigs with softbaits and crappie minnows fished under a float.”
“The crappies will go on a tear toward evening, after the water has warmed up several degrees in the afternoon,” he said.
The cold weather could be a possible boon for pike fishing, aided by a late ice-out.
Look for pike to be in shallow bays and marshes, with spinnerbaits, swimbaits and spoons the best options to reel them in, Quinn said.
However, the cold weather will create some challenges by virtue of a later-than-usual spawning period.
“I hope that once things warm up, we will have warm and stable weather,” Quinn said. “This will provide the fish with a good spawning season and hopefully good survival of the fry. In years that turn cold in June, the spawn is poor and some females don’t drop their eggs, which yields poor fishing for big fish for most of the summer.”
“As for walleyes, I understand that they are only starting to run into tributaries, with males primarily leading the way,” he said. “The fishing opener will be occurring right around the walleye spawn or shortly after it, in all likelihood. This will make it more challenging than usual, as they are not eager to bite then.”
Regardless of the weather, participation will likely remain strong, with Minnesotans treating the opener like a holiday, Quinn said.
“As far as fishing participation goes, I expect people to come out in droves, eager to taste a little bit of spring,” Quinn said. “Of course, if it snows again, there will be a lot of frustrated anglers out there. But I expect when this weather finally breaks, it will turn decent if not mild. I do recall several walleye-pike openers when some snow flurries pestered us.”
“For the first time in my memory, you will be able to ice-fish in May in some lakes in the north-central region,” he said. “I have never seen this much snow and ice at this time in the calendar. We are all eager to get our boats out.”