Minnesota

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Minnesota Releases Information on Fishing Opening Days, Conditions

3 May, 2019


Minnesota 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.

[Northeast] [Northwest] [Central] [Minneapolis-St. Paul Area] [Southern]

Northeast Minnesota

International Falls - Rainy Lake & the Rainy River

The Rainy River tag season for sturgeon started 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

Duluth - Lake Superior, St. Louis River and inland waters

Nice, moderate temperatures are speeding up the ice-out process for lakes that are still covered in a sheet of ice. Expect soft water opportunities on all area waters by next weekend. Soon there will be sucker runs and smelting opportunities as well. 

Lake Superior is starting to see a wave of fishing boat traffic. Most anglers have been trolling long-lined stick baits behind planer boards for coho salmon, with some reporting success.
Stream fishing has been slow due to swollen, dirty waters. Fishing should heat back up once the flows return to normal. A few lake-run brown trout and winter hold-over fish have been reported recently. A fresh crop of Lake Superior steelhead may also head up the rivers in the near future.

The St. Louis River remains very quiet. This will certainly change next week as anglers head out in search of spring panfish and rough fish.  

Daily ice-out reports for inland lakes are received each day, and anglers will soon hit the water for some great shallow panfish action. Concentrate on the old vegetative areas in depths of 1 to 5 feet of water while using soft plastics on small jigs. Hair jigs tipped with a wax worm should also work well. It is very important not to spook the fish when working the shorelines. It can be far more effective to fish from shore as opposed to fishing from a boat. The warmest parts of the day, generally late in the afternoon, will be the most productive. 800-438-5884; www.visitduluth.com

Northwest Minnesota

Baudette - Lake of the Woods & the Rainy River

While many walleye anglers are staying put until the May 11 Minnesota Fishing Opener, some anglers are taking advantage of the great northern pike and sturgeon action. The back bays are opening up and pike are staging for the spawn. Lake of the Woods has a very strong population of trophy northern pike measuring over 40 inches, and the pike season is open year round. Please note that all pike measuring 30 to 40 inches must be returned to the water immediately. 

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. The tournament still has spots available and all are welcome.   

On the Rainy River, sturgeon fishing remains good despite cloudy water conditions since sturgeon are bottom feeders and rely more on smell versus sight to feed. Most successful anglers are using a 3 to 4 ounce no-roll sinker with an 18 inch sturgeon rig. Some adding a colored bead before the 4/0 to 5/0 circle hook tipped with a gob of crawlers, frozen emerald shiners or both. The sturgeon “keep one” tag season started April 24.  If you intend to keep a sturgeon, you must purchase a sturgeon tag ahead of time. Learn about fishing for sturgeon at When the Rainy River Gets Dirty, Go Prehistoric

Up at the Northwest Angle and Islands area, most anglers are waiting until to head out until May 11 due to a fair amount of rotting ice. 800-382-FISH; www.lakeofthewoodsmn.com

Bena - Lake Winnibigoshish

The shorelines are open and open water seems to expand daily on Lake Winnibigoshish. Time to prepare for the open water season!  Learn about recommended fishing techniques for Lake Winnibigoshish during the Minnesota Fishing Opener.   www.lakewinnie.net

Detroit Lakes Area Lakes

Many of the smaller lakes in the Detroit Lakes area are free of ice, and most of the 412 area lakes will be ice-free by the end of this weekend. Some anglers are already catching panfish in the shallows on lakes and ponds that had early ice-out dates. The walleye have completed their spawn and be eager to feed on May 11! 800-542-3992; www.visitdetroitlakes.com

Central Region

Brainerd Area Lakes

It appears that lakes in the Brainerd Lakes Area will be entirely free of ice by this weekend. Most of the smaller lakes are wide open, and are giving nice bluegills and crappies. Crappies are coming from 4 to 10 feet of water. The most successful anglers are using minnows or plastics suspended about halfway down the water column below a bobber. Casting plastics and swimming them back are also turning fish. The larger bluegills are being caught on crawlers or wax worms worked along the shorelines down to 8 feet of water depending on the lake. 800-450-7247; www.visitbrainerd.com

Isle/Onamia - Lake Mille Lacs

According to one area resort and guide service, ice-out for Lake Mille Lacs is expected roughly the first week of May, perfect timing for a great fishing opener! 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

Willmar

Most area lakes are now free of ice. Only Green Lake still has remaining ice. Anglers are already finding lots of active panfish near the bay on Elkhorn Lake, by the culvert and race track on Foot Lake, and under the bridge and near the bay on Nest Lake. Anglers having the most success in 5 feet of water or less. Most species of fish are beginning to or about to spawn. 800-845-8747; www.willmarlakesarea.com

Minneapolis-St. Paul Area

Attend the next Twin Cities Chapter of Trout Unlimited meeting on Tuesday, April 30 at Dodge Nature Center in West St. Paul.  The featured speaker, Julia Steenberg, Geologist with the Minnesota Geological Survey, will present the findings from an investigation on the geologic controls on groundwater and surface water flow in southeast Minnesota, and its impact on our trout streams.  

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.   

Southern Minnesota

Lanesboro - Southeast Bluff Country trout streams

The season for stream trout fishing in streams opened Saturday, April 13. Learn more at the DNR’s Trout Streams page.  

As of Thursday, April 25, fisheries staff at the National Trout Center reported that the water temperatures continued to improve with recent sunny days, and stream conditions south of I90 were generally very good. The streams and rivers to the north of I90, however, were still clearing as a result of heavy rainfall a week earlier. Reports had been good in the smaller streams, and fish in the larger streams were expected to be very hungry once the water cleared.

Unfortunately, a cold front will arrive Saturday which will cause overnight lows to drop to around freezing, as well as bringing cloudy skies and rain. Anglers should still be able to catch fish.
Here is a Spring Fishing Tip courtesy of the National Trout Center: Remember that trout are primarily sight feeders and with a foot or more of water clarity they will see you long before you see them. If possible, wear camo-colored clothing or at least subdued colors that match the background when trout fishing. Florescent orange, red and white are not acceptable if you want to sneak up on the fish.

Before you go, check out the "Area Highlights" section of the Lanesboro Area Fisheries web page for 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

At the time of this report, many Big Stone Lake accesses are open with docks in place: Ortonville City Access, the Rearing Ponds, Meadowbrook, Cramers/Kassuske and Hartford Beach. No dock was available at Mallard’s. Due to high water, boaters are asked to voluntarily recognize a no-wake zone within 300 feet of all shorelines to minimize erosion that may occur to property along the lakeshore. 800-568-5722; www.bigstonelake.com

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