BEMIDJI, Minn. — An unusually warm March created a stir in the walleyes and prompted the Bemidji Area DNR Fisheries officials to make preparations to capture mature fish during the annual spawning run on Big Lake Creek.
As quickly as spring apparently had arrived, however, the winds turned wicked, the temperatures dropped and the walleyes decided to put their annual urges on hold.
“This year it looked as if we would have a very early walleye spawn but then we had a cool down and it pushed the spawn back to what was an almost average date,” said Bemidji Area Department of Natural Resources Fisheries Supervisor Gary Barnard.
“The peak of the spawning run at Big Lake usually is April 20 and this year we were two days either side of that date. And it looks like the rest of the spring is setting up for a pretty good year.”
A stretch of extreme cool weather or storms can impact the hatch and the survival of the walleye fry but if the rest of the spring is normal, 2016 should be remembered as a successful recruitment year.
“Everything depends upon the spring warm-up,” Barnard said of the spawning success, adding that a warm spring results in abundant zooplankton swimming in the water just in time to provide ample food for the walleye fry.
“It is shaping up to be a typical spring and typical is a good thing,” Barnard said.
Anglers also welcome a typical spring, especially fishermen who plan to hit the water on opening day.
“A late spring can affect early-season fishing but that shouldn’t be the situation this year,” Barnard said. “The walleyes should be in their usual post-spawn locations and normal early-season spots. And the best thing about a typical spring is that we don’t expect any closures of the rivers (to protect spawning walleyes). That is good for the fish and good for the people who like to fish from shore.”
Barnard and his staff also have been busy stripping eggs from the Leech Lake strain muskies in Lake Plantagenet. State DNR officials hoped to secure most of the needed muskie eggs from fish in Lake Rebecca in the Twin Cities but the early ice-out in southern Minnesota altered those plans. Those eggs now will come from among Bemidji’s three brood lakes — Plantagenet, Big Wolf and Elk.
“Collecting eggs from Lake Rebecca was a struggle this year and we are the back-up,” Barnard said. “This year we will need 400,000-500,000 eggs to fill the state’s needs and this year we will focus on collecting those eggs from Lake Plantagenet.”
If everything works as planned, Barnard and his staff will need only 10-15 female muskies to collect the needed eggs and fill the quota. Those eggs should produce about 30,000 fingerlings which will be stocked into the various muskie lakes throughout the state.
Area trout anglers also may take advantage of the DNR’s stocking efforts. Since mid-April, the Clearwater River, west of Bemidji, has received 2,600 rainbow trout yearlings and 1,000 brown trout yearlings. Long Lake, north of Itasca State Park, has received 14,500 yearling rainbows and Deep Lake, near Clearbrook, has been stocked with 4,700 yearling rainbows.
Benjamin Lake, south of Blackduck, also received 3,000 yearling rainbow trout plus 40 adults from the retired broodstock at the Lanesboro hatchery. The adults are worth pursuing as they range from 5-8 pounds.