Jarrid Houston column: Wisconsin opener was great; Minnesota's should be too
Lake Superior angling traffic increasing as warmer days arrive.
DULUTH — It is here! Wisconsin is open for business and now it is Minnesota's turn.
It seems we went from winter to summer in a short period of time. I think the fish are as confused as the rest of us with such a change. As of this report the DNR is conducting walleye surveys on our Lake Superior/ St. Louis River stock. Usually this is completed well before opener, but we are at the mercy of the water temperatures dictated by mother nature. At any rate, we are onto the most hallowed of holidays for the great state of Minnesota. A weekend that should be full of "first time this season" and dreams of big fish hooksets. I speak on behalf of all anglers when I say, "nothing is better than fishing, nothing.” We of course are fortunate that we will have open water in most all areas of the state. It wasn't a couple of weeks ago, we all had some doubts (including me). Nevertheless, we are onto the start of fishing once again, so let's dive into this special report.
Here is what's happening:
Lake Superior angling is picking up as we have finally experienced some suitable days to fish. Most mornings we have been seeing plenty of boat traffic hugging shorelines around the Twin Ports. These vessels are in search of beach trout lakers and some scattered coho salmon. According to our good friend Capt. Marty Running of Happy Hooker IV, "water is really cold and the Coho's are scattered." Most anglers, including many of the charter boats, are trailering flasher/fly combos near the bottom in whatever depths of water they are targeting. A good starting point is around 100 feet of water. Not too many reports of bonus kings, rainbows or browns, but that could be because the smelt are certainly keeping them well fed. Every night we are hearing reports of smelters taking to the shorelines both in Minnesota and Wisconsin. It has not been a high-volume success rate, but most are getting a few. The run should stay consistent for a week or so. Over in the Chequamegon Bay area, anglers are getting a nice mixed bag of pike, walleyes, whitefish, perch and cohos. If you're looking for a mixed bag, it’s hard to beat Chequamegon Bay. Stream anglers are also seeing waters turn more fishable this last week. A few nice fish are getting tagged in the slack waters casting or drifting flies and/or spawn.
The St. Louis River Estuary opens up for targeting game fish Saturday. Just a couple of reminders make sure you have a license for the state you reside from. With that license, you can fish from either shoreline as it is a border water. Also, the river is a two-line fishery, meaning anglers can fish two lines per person. Also, remember that some areas of the river are off limits to angling, more reason to check the fishing rules before heading out. Our game plan will mostly be in the realm of live bait rigging given the water temperatures. With that said, the last few days have warmed up the water quickly, so fish certainly could be scattered. Looking for the warmest water will be key.
Inland waters of Wisconsin have provided a great opening week of fishing. The flowages and lakes of Northwestern Wisconsin have had some great walleye and pike bites going on. We have found fish in the 10-foot, hard bottom areas. Water temperatures have already crept above 50 degrees in many areas. On sunny days it is important to use shade to your advantage. So, fishing under any canopy, like a bridge, will turn some midday fish. Our presentation this last week has been mostly slow jigging 1/16 oz Northland RZ's tipped with a fathead minnow. Slip bobber fishing has also been good in said areas. We have not been casting shorelines or trolling crankbaits, but I would imagine some action could be had using these techniques. Especially for willing pike, who are always very active in these spring water temperatures. Panfish are still settling into moving shallower, but we should start to see spawning colonies forming in the near future.
The fishing opener is no doubt a very busy time of year for our lakes. We want to remind everyone to please practice patience with others. These waters are all of ours to share. If you see someone struggling with something, maybe lend a helping hand. Don't be the disgruntled person showing negative colors. Also, because of the tremendous amount of fishing pressure we have seen the last several years, maybe think about not being the greedy live-well hungry angler. I know I would much rather release a nice fish to see a youngster catch it. After all, that is what it is all about. The memories that are made on this all-important holiday weekend. We are so happy the fishing opener(s) have arrived and couldn't be more excited to start our 13th year guiding the waters of our beloved area. So, as always, be courteous to each other, and we will see you on the water.
Jarrid Houston of South Range is a fishing guide ( houstonsguideservice.com ) on Minnesota and Wisconsin inland waters, the St. Louis River and, in winter, on Lake Superior.