With Minnesota's annual holiday, the statewide opener, coming this weekend, it seems like a great time to jump into a lake-by-lake walleye season preview. With as difficult as the ice fishing season was around the area, this spring is going to be unpredictable.
The question is whether both walleye populations and baitfish populations survived the winter well enough to form a strong spring presence. With that in mind, this preview is designed to help you put more fish in the boat when you head out. Some of these lakes are well-known and often-visited for walleyes, and others are more hidden gems, but all of the lakes on the list contain one important featurewalleyes, and lots of 'em!
Lake Sarah Still the crown jewel of walleye fishing in southwest Minnesota, even though populations have fallen a bit in recent years, Sarah is still the hot spot for reeling in big walleyes along with a good number of eaters. Much will depend on how the younger walleyes fared over the winter, and if they've eaten enough to reach keeper size this summer. If you are looking for walleyes over 3 pounds, this lake should definitely be on your list of lakes to target, as walleyes over 20 inches are the norm on this supercharged walleye factory. When you cast out your line at midnight, expect a sizable pull as one of these hungry beasts devours your bait.
East Twin After a couple of years with a large population of small walleyes, this should be the year all of them reach keeper-length. Relatively low pressure during the winter and a solid forage base of small perch should have provided some excellent growing conditions for walleyes, and anglers will start to see decent numbers of walleyes between 15 and 20 inches. Overall water quality is crucial in this lake to sustaining a walleye bite, as heavy rains wash a lot of pollutants into the lake. While East Twin doesn't experience the mid-summer algae blooms as much as other area lakes, controlling run-off is becoming more of an issue here.
Rock Lake Although the bite this winter wasn't outstanding, there appear to be a fair number of young walleyes that should feed aggressively this spring. While a young population thrives, this lake features a variety of walleye sizes. That diversity of sizes, along with a historically low northern pike population, should make this a popular walleye destination this spring. If you are taking kids fishing, you have the added bonus of some sizable bullheads to keep things interesting! The DNR has noted some natural reproduction occurring in this lake, so anglers should be aware of this and release all females in the spring in order to continue to keep this fishery strong.
Lake Shetek Shetek was one of the few lakes around the area that seemed to have a few fish biting all winter, and populations of both baitfish and keepers has been on the rise the past few years. This is another lake that features some natural reproduction, and anglers should release any pre-spawn females, as hopefully that natural reproduction will continue to bolster the walleye population. Strong populations of both crappies and perch support a lot of bigger predators, and walleyes continue to show good health and great size. Anglers looking for steady action and a few 'eyes for the frying pan should head over to Shetek on the opener.
Lac Qui Parle As this lake has experienced heavy stocking for walleyes the past few years, along with a record high naturally-occurring spawn in 2011, anglers can look forward to catching larger-than-average walleyes here. Walleyes larger than 24 inches are approximately 20 percent of the overall walleye population, a percentage that is unsustainable over the long term, but can make some excellent fishing in the meantime.
Even though the weather is still a bit in question for opening day of the walleye season, expect to see a huge number of anglers out chasing the state's most sought-after fish.
So take a half-day off work, stock up on bait and bring on the walleyes!