The Free Press, Mankato, MN

Outdoors

May 12, 2012

Fishing opener is Minnesota's May holiday

WACONIA —

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 jcross@mankatofreepress.com.

1
Text Only | Photo Reprints
Outdoors
  • mfp sports-jc outdoor column-7-27 Singing the praises of the prairie When pioneers first traveled through Minnesota, they marveled at the seemingly endless, inland sea of tall grass prairie that greeted them.It is estimated more than 18 million acres of grasslands stretched from the southeast to the northwest corners

    July 27, 2014 1 Photo

  • mfp sports jcross outdoor column 7-20 Chasing walleyes in South Dakota nice We slowed to a crawl the other day on the dusty Day County township road in northeast South Dakota, a courtesy to the farmer who was baling ditch hay south of Webster.Otherwise, we would have enveloped him as he drove his open tractor in the choking

    July 20, 2014 1 Photo

  • Fishing report Outlook on area lakes

    July 6, 2014

  • Cross column: No wake, no fish ... no problems on the water Patience is always a virtue when fishing.

    July 6, 2014

  • 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

  • Cross column: Where does the buck stop in your home?

    Displaying your trophy catch can be debatable

    June 29, 2014

  • Storms came at horrible time for pheasants For pheasants and pheasant hunters, there were no silver linings to be found in the storm clouds that inundated the countryside with heavy rains this week.A foot of rain falling in just a week is never good, but for pheasants, it came at precisely th

    June 22, 2014

  • Early morning is beautifully lonely Benjamin Franklin was on to something when he extolled the benefits of "early to bed, early to rise." While I can't vouch for its effect on health, wealth or wisdom, rolling out of the sack certainly seems to pay dividends for outdoor activities. The

    June 15, 2014

  • mfp sports cross column 6-1 Cross: Take a kid fishing, no license needed A few years ago, while cruising with a co-worker through an area community on a steamy summer day, we passed a vacant lot. There, oblivious to the heat and humidity, a group of kids were playing a game of pick-up baseball, racing down well-worn paths

    June 2, 2014 1 Photo

  • Cross: Once upon a time, when fishing was simple... Once upon a time, fishing was a pretty simple affair. A rod-and-reel, some bait and tackle, perhaps a rowboat if you were lucky, and you were in business. While the basic premise of angling -- to catch fish -- remains, it sure seems to have grown mor

    May 25, 2014