The Free Press, Mankato, MN

Outdoors

May 11, 2014

Almost too nice to catch Leech Lake walleye

LEECH LAKE — Opening day of the Minnesota fishing season on Leech Lake arrived Saturday, cloudless and with nary a breath of wind.

It was the nice weather one might expect all winter-weary anglers to embrace as we motored away from harbors, resorts and other access sites around the sprawling 111,500-acre walleye mecca.

Then again, perhaps not.

Not to complain here, but the weather Saturday morning in this neck of the woods was just too nice for walleye angling.

High skies, flat water ... they can be any walleye angler’s recipe for snake bite.

In the clear waters of Leech Lake, such conditions can make it tough to hook a few of the fish at just about any time of the year. But this spring, with the last ice having gone off days earlier and the water still cold, the walleyes likely would be shallow and especially skittish.

Nevertheless, Brian Fowler of Eagle Lake, Larry McCreary of Faribault, Gary McCreary and Tim Suhr of the Twin Cities, still were optimistic as we motored out of the harbor at Brindley’s Resort on Trader Bay.

After all, Leech Lake has in recent years been restored to its previous glory, once again a prime Minnesota destination to catch walleye.

For a while, the lake had fallen on hard times. While it has always been possible to catch walleyes on Leech Lake, it had grown increasingly difficult.

But over the last several years, thanks to a restrictive slot limit, some cormorant control measures and intensive stocking programs to supplement natural reproduction, the lake is back, teeming with fish.

More significant, the protective slot limit which previously had required that all walleye measuring 18- to 26-inches be released has been relaxed a bit this year. Anglers are still limited to four fish, with one measuring over 26 inches permitted, but the slot has been narrowed to 20- to 26-inches.

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