MARSHALL - Anglers will be headed for the water in hopes of catching walleye and northern pike this weekend, and the signs for success look good.
The National Weather Service forecast for this weekend calls for sunny skies, temperatures in the 60s and 70s and just enough wind for produce the "walleye chop" the fish like.
And for good measure, a mild winter means high survival rates for fish.
Photo by Per Peterson
Jack Parker of Walnut Grove returned to his hometown of Balaton on Wednesday to do some shore fishing on Lake Yankton. Parker was fishing on the spot he fished when he was a kid — where they used to catch about 20 bullheads in a day. “They tasted a little better back then, too,” he said.
"Typical of this area we get problems of winter kills," said Ryan Doorenbos, Minnesota Department of Natural Resources conservation officer in the Jackson area. "When you get so much snow on the ice, light doesn't get through and photosynthesis doesn't occur. You get a bunch of oxygen consumption and no production. It was an easy winter for fish, but the last two were a different story."
And on top of this, the area boasts some good walleye fisheries such as Lake Benton, Lake Shetek and Lake Sarah, which hasn't needed to be restocked since 1991. Most lakes of southwest Minnesota have to be restocked because they lack the gravel bottoms that walleye like for spawning.
For northern pike, Doorenbos said Lime Lake near Avoca and Island Lake in Lyon County offered good fishing.
"There are some northern pike in Lake Shaokotan as well as Lake Benton," Doorenbos said. "Lime Lake is self-sustaining, we use it as brood stock. We have some small ponds we fill with water and put pre-spawn adult pike in. They reproduce and at the end of May, beginning of June we start to drain and capture the fingerlings to put some back and restock local lakes."
Doorenbos said northern pike can grow up to 15 to 20 pounds in the area. Because the winterkill threat is less than the northern part of the state, there are no regulations on size locally. Fishermen can't have more than one northern pike over 30 inches in their possession, and only one walleye over 20 inches. They can take up to six walleye less than 20 inches per day.
Fishing licenses are not needed for bodies of water that are entirely within a state park.
DNR officials caution though the weather is nice, the water hasn't had a chance to warm up yet and there is danger of hypothermia.
Matt Loftness, conservation officer at the Marshall DNR office, advises fishermen to check their equipment to make sure they are in compliance with all safety regulations and invasive species rules.
"The boating laws require a life jacket for everyone on board, and throw cushions if the boat is longer than 16 feet," Loftness said. "If the boat has enclosed fuel tanks you need a fire extinguisher. Make sure you check all equipment before going in the first time, a lot of people wait till the fishing opener and that's when we get the violations."
Loftness also said every time a boat is transported from one body of water to another, the boat, live wells and bait wells must be drained and the plugs left out while the boat is going down the highway.
"Bring a gallon jug of water to refill your bait container," Loftness said.
Anyone planning to go fishing on East Twin Lake near Florence should be aware there will be no dock, Loftness said. Because of high water from recent rains the DNR decided to replace the roller dock with a floating dock, which it estimates may be in place by Memorial Day.