I thought this was a nice photo of 7 yr old Alex holding a nice “release” walleye. I love how the dorsal fin is standing just in front of his smile. Last week brought challenges to Ottertail Lakes Country fishermen. While some anglers on smaller lakes maintained pretty steady fishing—for most species, including walleye—the larger more popular “walleye” fisheries in the county have been difficult. Why? The cool down. Our water temps were very accelerated around the MN walleye fishing opener and crappie were spawning on many lakes, bass and sunfish were even beginning to crowd the shallows, and the shiner minnow spawn was well past the half way point (all of which were about 2 weeks early), and then suddenly, we had 10 days of below-normal temps and overcast skies and rain and everything went to heck. Most species held on for a week, but by mid-last week things really unraveled. Patterns for many species went adrift. I have 25 walleye rods laying out and ready in my boat because things are crazy all over the lakes—I never know what they’re going to want next so I’m constantly switching. Keep an eye out for rapidly changing patterns, and for sure, don’t refer back to last season’s calendar for help! This year is it’s own year, for sure. Despite the difficult changes and challenges of the peat weeks and it’s ugly weather, I saw some very nice walleye catches and a lot of upper-class release fish—too large to keep. The northern have been feeding well too. Shiners are still trying to spawn on several lakes in the county which draws predator species to shore lines and river mouths to feed on them. In the mean while, there are a lot of walleye and northern out and away from the shore lines using middle lake zones and really don’t need to feed on shiners anymore. Be sure and have leeches, crawlers, and minnows with this week. The weather sounds good and I anticipate positive changes and steadying patterns for all species. Once the water temps warm 2 or 3 more degrees, there will be a big up-swing in fishing and catching all around Ottertail Lakes Country. Good luck on the lakes this week. By Ross Hagemeister, meisterguideservice.com.
Holly cow! Look at the size of the crappie in photo! Nice fish Audrey. To catch this crappie—we had to go to a lake where the water was cold. We had tried a couple “traditional” spring crappie spots–lakes with bays and shallow shorelines, and they didn’t work. They were void of crappie and even the sunfish were small. When ever I try traditional seasonal patterns that don’t work, I tend to flip my brain over and try opposite tactics. In this case (last week), I had an easier time finding good sized panfish on straight shorelines on cooler lakes. I didn’t change my bait or tackle approach, just my location. Right now, many shallow bays throughout Ottertail Lakes Country seem to be “past-prime.” As of last night, I was fishing bays that were 64 degrees—and full of lilli pads. Lilli pads are often a cue that crappie may have already migrated out? I prefer bays that are a bit deeper. Lilli pads don’t bother me if they are clumpy/sporadic throughout a bay or shoreline. If entire areas a choked with pads, then it seems the area is too shallow or the bottom isn’t quite right. I tend to do better in bays that have some contour/grade/drop-off towards the middle of the bay. While some crappie may linger in “mature” bays, most have wandered back out onto the lake in search of suitable spawning grounds (unless there is suitable spawning in the lilli pad zones). I’ve been seeing a lot of bays with out crappie—and even good sunfish lately. If you’re struggling with sunfish and crappie, change your location. When I take people on panfish outings right now, they are wondering why I’m not sitting still for very long. The simple answer I give them is because the panfish are biting right now so we shouldn’t have to wait to get a bite—no waiting. Once you find panfish anywhere around the county, you should be able to catch them quite rapidly. For bait—Gulp is the best choice. The fish love it and you can cast it 1,000,000—it doesn’t fly off your line like live baits do, especially when you’re casting in wind or from shore. Be selective—let the large crappie and bull sunfish go. The large crappie that Audrey is holding in the photo was released right after we took the picture. It feels as good to release large fish as it does to catch them. Keep an eye on your equipment when you’re taking your boats in and out of Ottertail County lakes—be sure to check for weeds and any other critters that might be hanging from your boat or trailer and drain all of the water from your boat hull and live wells. We all appreciate your efforts to keep our lakes free of aquatic invasive species! Have a great week on the lakes!
Fishing is happening in Ottertail County! The lakes have seen a perfect warm-up this spring. We’ve had enough warm and sunny weather to fully heat the lakes and bays through out lakes country. As I mentioned in my last report, the water has taken on enough warmth this spring to get us through cold snaps. Cold or not, the panfish that are situated in bays and along shallow shorelines on small lakes keep on feeding. However, the recent cold snaps have slowed main-lake warm ups, so finding good fishing along the shorelines of larger lakes around the county will be difficult for another week or two. I’ve been having good action for both crappie and sunfish using Berkley Gulp “fry.” Be sure and have several different colors with because individual colors change depending on light levels and water clarity. I typically use bright colors like white, pink, silvers, oranges and a few mixed color combos. A key to early panfishing is to manage your lure and weight sizes. Small baits and lures (1/64) work well, but can invite small panfish, and large presentations like 1/16 oz lures or lures with lots of mass (lots of extra hair, twister tails, blades) can dissuade the fish all together. Stick with mid-run jigs and keep hair and rubber add-ons respectable. We are in for a super nice late week and weekend so get your boats out, or find a classic bank to fish from and catch a meal of panfish—they’re a true spring time treat. Also, it’s a great time to get kids out fishing, because the fish are using shallow water, all you need is a decent casting outfit and a bobber set a foot or two deep—that’s it. For best and easiest casting for kids, rig up a slip bobber. Check out the accompanying photo: here’s a couple spring fishing kids with a nice crappie. Way to go guys! Be sure to drain your live wells and pull the drain plug—and give your rig a look over. Lets continue to keep invasive species out of non-infested lakes. Good luck on the lakes this week!