The Free Press, Mankato, MN

News Ticker


May 12, 2012

Fishing opener is Minnesota's May holiday


Minnesota’s weather on the opening day of the fishing season can be notoriously fickle.

In some years, anglers have had to brush the snow from boat seats before setting out across wind-whipped lakes in search of the wily walleye.

But when anglers pushed away from the dock Saturday morning to celebrate Minnesota’s own unique May holiday, they were blessed with bright sunshine and gentle breezes.

And in some locales, probably discovered the vaunted walleye, our state fish, sometimes can be just as fickle as the weather.

Locally, Ryan White, owner of White’s Corner Bait in Madison Lake, figured area anglers did “a little bit above average” for walleye.

Allowing that angling reports usually trickle in a couple of days after the opener, he said early reports suggest Lake Washington may have been the hottest area lake, followed by Frances and Madison Lake.

This weekend’s most visible angler, Gov. Mark Dayton, found walleyes pretty elusive.

Participating in the 65th annual Governor’s Opener, this year held on 3,000-acre Lake Waconia west of the Twin Cities and guided by Waconia favorite fishing son, Travis Frank,  a professional angler and guide who knows the lake like his own backyard, he managed to land a single bluegill Saturday morning.

But like most of the 270 or so guests who fished with more than 100 local hosts/guides, he failed to land a walleye.

Dan Thomas, a retired contractor from Chicago who now blogs for the Great Lakes Sportfishing Council, and I were paired with Waconia resident Tom Barrett as our host/guide at the event.

One of the 110 or so local civic-minded residents who owned boats and answered the call of the local organizing committee for people to host/guide media and other participants during the event, he professed to be less than a hard-core angler and expert fishing guide.

Most of his fishing knowledge of the sprawling lake, he modestly said, was during lake time logged with family and friends.

That he began pointing out the clusters of boats about on the lake as we motored from his slip located on the south side of the lake, reeling off the various reefs and structures they were fishing, all to suggest he was sand-bagging his fishing acumen just a bit.

During the course of several hours of searching for walleye, we concentrated on reef edges that fell off into deeper water.

Alternating between fathead minnows, leeches and ’crawlers, all we managed were a few small perch.

But it was a similar story for the boats around us.

Instead of catching walleye, most were catching rays beneath high, blue skies on the nearly calm lake. Only once did we see a net flash in the sunshine before dipping into the water.

A few moments later, a young lady proudly held up a walleye before slipping it back into the water: Lake Waconia walleye must measure 16 inches to legally be kept.

Eventually, we tossed in the towel for walleye and motored to a bay where a smattering of cabbage grew in 10 feet or water.

There, we salvaged the rest of the morning tossing tub jigs to obligingly hungry crappies.

Many were small but enough pushed the 9-inch mark that had we chose to, we could have caught a couple of meal’s worth of the tasty panfish.

By  late morning, it was time to motor back to the county park where we would learn of the success, or lack thereof, of the Governor and his entourage.

And fortunately, where a shore lunch of deep-fried walleye, obviously from other sources, awaited to salve all of our bruised egos.

John Cross is a Free Press staff writer. Contact him at 344-6376 or by e-mail at

Text Only | Photo Reprints
  • Paying homage to the turkey hunting gods If there were a Minnesota Turkey Hunter Hall of Shame, I could be a prime candidate for induction. It's been so long since I've wrapped a tag around a Minnesota bird's leg that I can't remember exactly the last time I've pulled the trigger on a gobbl

    April 20, 2014

  • No Headline Provided Key City Conservation Club to hold Youth Day MADISON LAKE -- The Key City Conservation Club will hold a 12th Annual Youth Day, 10 a.m.-2 p.m., Saturday, May 3, at its club property at 23370 Blue Earth Co. Rd 188, Madison Lake. A variety of outdoor ac

    April 20, 2014

  • Eileen Factor-O.jpg Eileen Factor

     Eileen Factor, 85, from Le Center passed away on Monday, April 14, 2014.

    April 18, 2014 1 Photo

  • cross, john.jpg Cross column: Exorcising winter's demons ... finally

    Can't beat fresh fish for a meal

    April 6, 2014 1 Photo

  • Know Your Lakes: Series maps

    Missed out on the weekly lake preview Wednesday's in the print edition? That's ok, we have you covered here. View the series thus far and download a printable PDF.

    May 24, 2011

  • Trout opportunities available Saturday Trout opportunites available Saturday WATERVILLE -- Anglers looking for a little open water relief from this extended winter might consider heading to one of the area's trout fishing venues next Saturday when the Minnesota stream trout season begins.

    April 6, 2014

  • mfp sports jccolumn 3-30 Cross: Focusing on future of Minnesota's deer herd Minnesota deer hunters are never short of opinions. Put a bunch of them in the same room, ask them how the state's deer herd is doing, and you're sure to get an earful of divergent views. But that was the point Thursday as the Minnesota Department of

    March 30, 2014 1 Photo

  • Searching for spring -- and open water We all can agree: It's been a long, long winter. If you're an ice angler, then maybe you're quite happy that that your knuckles are scraping by the time your auger breaks through the thick mantel of ice. But the rest of us? Winter weary, we pine for

    March 24, 2014

  • cross, john.jpg Cross column: Free guns with truck makes good business

    To suggest that the promotion to give away guns with a truck purchase tweaked media interest would be a significant understatement.

    March 9, 2014 1 Photo

  • Muskie group to meet in Owatonna

    March 9, 2014

Press-Plus Subscribe
Sign In
Featured Ads
AP Video