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Open water, warm temps for fishing opener

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Most popular fishing lakes throughout the area have plenty of open water for the Saturday, May 10, walleye and northern pike fishing opener, and the forecast is calling for low- to mid-60s.

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But will there be bait for the average angler?

Last year many bodies of water were still frozen for the fishing opener. This year is different.

“Last year, it didn’t even open until the Sunday of opener. I know they are going to catch 100 percent more fish than they caught last year on the opener at Pine Mountain Lake,” said Dave Sheley, owner of the Corner Store and Gun Shop in Backus.

Sheley said shiner minnows are usually the most popular walleye bait during the early fishing season. Fake lures are more successful later in the season.

In addition to keeping anglers off the lakes last spring, the weather also made minnows hard to come. The weather is much better this year, but Sheley said he might not have shiners Saturday.

“We’re still waiting for tomorrow to find out the shiner situation. Last year, because of the late spring, we didn’t really have any shiners, but we didn’t have an opener. This year, it’s nip and tuck as well. We find out tomorrow (May 7) if we are going to have much for shiners,” Sheley said.

Sherree Wicktor, owner of S&W Bait north of Brainerd, expects to have a real shortage of shiners.

“The water temperatures are so cold, that it’s too cold for the bait to trap real well,” she said.

If unable to get a hold of shiners, Wicktor recommends picking up fathead minnows, pike suckers or rainbows, if you can find them. She said leeches also work well at this time of year. If you can’t get a hold of any live bait, she recommends trying out Northland Fishing Tackle’s Mimic Minnow or some Powerbait lures.

In spite of potential bait shortages, Sheley said walleye will likely be the fish of choice for opener.

“We need some warmer weather, of course, but I think they’ll catch a few walleye. I don’t think panfish will be too good yet,” Sheley said.

Jim Tuller, owner of Swanson’s Bait and Tackle in Hackensack, predicted broad success across many surrounding lakes, including Woman, Pleasant, Birch and Webb lakes.

“Leech is a little bit of a second guesser. It should be open, but the local area lakes are all open right now,” Tuller said.

Tuller said leeches, night crawlers, plastic baits and crank baits could reel in some fish. Tuller also said panfish might be biting for those who aren’t interested in walleye.

“There’s a lot of good panfishing and a lot of people that like to panfish, but the major species everybody is after is walleyes,” Tuller said.

Carol Ottoson, owner, and Peter Christenson, manager, of the Bait Box in Crosslake, said they’ve been hearing that the walleye will be in the shallows.

“When you’re thinking opener, the shallows, channels and below the dam has always been very popular,” Ottoson said.

“It looks like the water is warming up a little bit, very slowly. After we get some sun it will be a gorgeous weekend. I think it’s going to be sunny on Saturday. It looks like it will be great,” Tuller said.

When asked whether she planned to fish this weekend, Wicktor replied, “I am hoping; I am so busy, I can’t even think about leaving the store.”

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