The open water season is here! This is rare for us to have open water like this before April 1. This will extend the pan fish season available to us before the official gamefish season opener of May 14.
A few anglers have been out as soon as the ice came off and experienced mixed results. It is easy to fall into the habit of checking the typical early season spots you have had success before right away. It may take a week or more for the water to warm, the baitfish to move in and the fish to follow. It is not uncommon for the lakes to be free of ice for a week or more before the fish move to the shallows in any numbers.
As always, nature is the big key in the migration of the fish. Many times the fish will move in and back out based on the warming and cooling of the water with the spring cold fronts. Until they start to set up for the spawning ritual in the shallow water weed areas, they are keying in on the baitfish locations. If they have moved out of the shallow weed area due to a cold front, look for them on the first closest break to deeper water. They may hold tight to the edge, or suspend off the break at a depth that has stability and comfort for them.
When it warms, the baitfish move shallow, and the fish will follow. Most of the time in the early season they will key in on minnows, but not always. Bug imitators may trigger fish when minnows or minnow imitators don’t.
The north ends of the lakes are always the first to warm as they receive the most early season sun. The sun is powerful this time of year, comes up earlier and stays later now. Even if the temps are cool, but the sky is clear and the sun is shining, the water will warm.
Shallow dark bottom lakes will warm more quickly than larger, clear, deep lakes. Dark bottom shallow bays on the larger, deeper, clear water lakes will be magnet areas for baitfish and early season pan fish. Look for green weed areas in the shallow water, and pockets in the weeds. Very early like we are now, most weed areas you will look for will be submerged. It doesn’t take long for the emergent weeds to start showing themselves, and when they do, they can be great areas for fish desiring to nest in preparation for spawn.
A week ago, the DNR put the framing up for the walleye nets at Dunton Locks. With water temperatures in the shallows hovering in the low 40 degree range now, it won’t be long before the walleyes move into the area to participate in the donations for the stocking programs. Walleyes look for current areas like the river at Lake Sallie to deposit their eggs. When the water temperatures get stable in the 45-50 degree range, they are ready to do their thing. The process will last several days as they don’t all do their thing at the same time. They move in shallow at night, and that is when the DNR can coral them for harvesting the eggs from the females, and the sperm from the males. They mix them together in the stripping operation, and then nurture them to fry or fingerling size for release in many lakes as part of the stocking program. If you haven’t watched the operation, now is the time to check it out. It is impressive to watch, and fun to see the range of year classes of walleyes participating.
We are at least 2-3 weeks ahead of our norm for ice out and these spring rituals. I love this time of year.