Ice, cold, blah, blah, blah. I don't think anybody wants to spend time babbling about the cold. Instead, how about we take a look at what this cold weather will mean for the start of our fishing season?
In short, I believe this cool spring will bring good fishing. Walleyes thrive in cooler water. Opening day might be slow, but it won't take long for things to heat up. The next month or two should be solid. In the metro, the walleyes are spawning as we speak. They spawn when the water is between 42 and 48 degrees. After the fish spawn, there is a heavy "feedbag" window when they seem to eat everything in sight. The cool water keeps walleyes active longer, and many times they remain in shallow, easy to find locations.
On a warm water year, this "feedbag" window often occurs before our season even starts. Last year the walleyes in the metro spawned 6 weeks before the opener. Their peak feeding period occurred 4 weeks before opening day. This year, we should see the peak feeding window occur within the first two weeks of our season. On a typical year the best walleye fishing generally runs through May, then slowly fades into June. This year we could be looking at a solid bite that drags into July (if we are lucky).
Considering our conditions, you could target this peak window for over a month. If you had nothing but free time for the next 5 weeks, you could start out in southern Minnesota on opening day, then each week trek north until you hit Lake of the Woods. The prairie lakes of the south will be prime for opening day. The metro waters will be at peak the week after opener. Mille Lacs should be prime in about 2 weeks. Leech should be on fire in 3 and Lake of the Woods will be slamming in 4. Timing this bite according to the spawn will give you the chance at an incredible year of walleye fishing, maybe the best you've ever had.
I will be starting my season in the metro. Waconia and Minnetonka to be exact. I believe we will find active fish come opening day. As of today, the water temps are in the mid 40's and the walleyes should be spawning. Come Saturday, we will be on the early fringe of their heavy feeding window. If it starts slow, it will only increase as we progress into the end of week one. I believe the walleyes will be shallow. I don't expect to fish any deeper than 7 feet of water.
Here are some things that I will look for to help me find metro walleyes. First and foremost, I'm going to search for green weeds. Most metro walleyes are stocked fish. They spend the first year of their life in a small weedy pond. When transplanted, they go to what they know - weeds. Finding the first green shoots of the year will be key. The minute the walleyes finish their spawn, they go straight to the green stuff. Baitfish will use this area, and so will the walleyes. To get more specific, I believe the inside weed edges will hold the greatest numbers of active fish. On Minnetonka and a handful of other metro waters, this weedline runs at about 3 to 6 feet of water.
To catch them, my first choice will be to pitch a jig and minnow, followed by casting Rapala's. Most people think you have to fish deep water to catch walleyes during the day. I have found the walleyes to be aggressive all day when they are in the shallow weeds. When darkness falls, they come out of the weeds and roam on the nearest hard bottom flats. 1 to 2 feet of water is not out of the question. Casting Rapala's on these shallow flats after dark can be lethal. This tactic should last at least 3 weeks this year. On a warmer year, I've seen it die in less than 1.
Lake Minnetonka is an obvious gold mine, but there are a pile of small walleye factories nearby. Small lakes with heavy walleye stocking programs provide some incredible fishing opportunities within a 30 mile radius of the cities. The past 5 years I've made it a point to try these smaller waters right away. I've been blown away by the success. The first 2 weeks being the best. This year, I think they will all be hopping for a good month.
Thanks to this cool spring, we will be able to fish walleyes throughout their entire peak feeding period. Ice up north might force you to stay home, but you can be thankful for the bumper crop of fish that await you. I wish you a safe and prosperous fishing season. If there is anything I can do to hook you up with more fish, please don't hesitate to ask. Until next time, keep chasin' your dream!