Yes, I know we can fish walleyes all around us long before the official Minnesota walleye fishing opener. Anglers have already been fishing in North Dakota, South Dakota and border rivers along our state but there is just nothing like the Minnesota walleye fishing opener to really kick off the fishing season.
The excitement of getting family and friends together for the opener really makes this time of the year special. It is wonderful catching fish, but really that is secondary to the fun and anticipation of being back in the boat with the old gang and making new memories.
I have been opening the walleye season on Leech Lake for over 30 years and some of those years have been great, some not so good and some just awful. The year we had 5 inches of snow and 35 miles per hour northwest winds goes down as probably the most miserable fishing opener that I have experienced! Then there were the four years where Leech Lake fishing just collapsed and hardly anyone caught fish. During one of those years my son-in-law and I were fishing near Sugar Point Resort on the north end of Leech in Portage Bay and we counted four boats on the entire east side of the Lake. We never caught a walleye but the weather was perfect and we still had a great day on the water. The good news today is that Leech Lake is once again producing nice walleyes and the boats are back!
Another memorable opener was about three years ago when Leech Lake was still mostly ice covered. My fishing party decided to go south and fish open water. My grandson, my son-in-law and I went fishing with our good friend Steve Pennaz, a TV host of a fishing show on the Outdoor Channel. We fished on a little lake west of Minneapolis near Orono. The wind was gusting over 35 miles per hour. We had to fish behind hills so we could maneuver the boat. We caught one walleye and, even though the bass season was still closed, we caught and released some really nice bass. It was a very non-traditional walleye opener but still a great fishing adventure with wonderful memories.
I now look back at my old photo albums of fishing openers and realize how much our fishing industry has changed. The little two and three horse motors are mostly gone as are the 16-foot cedar strip boats. Our clothes were different, our hair styles were different, our rods and reels were different and many of the little resorts we fished from are gone. Even our lakes have changed with the addition of invasive species. But through all these changes much has stayed the same. The fish still look like and act like they did a thousand years ago and it is still a great thrill to catch them.
Minnesota is blessed with the best collection of lakes and rivers in America. We are so fortunate to live here and be so close to so many great outdoor resources.
Arguably the most exciting time of the year for fishing is here. Get those poles ready and go make some memories!