Bait may be hard to find for Minnesota's fishing opener

Crappie fishing may be the best bet in the chilly waters

Lake Hubert anglers May 7, 2023.JPG
Anglers trolled Lake Hubert in Nisswa on Sunday, May 7, 2023.
Nancy Vogt / Echo Journal

Ice is out on area lakes, and the 2023 fishing season is set to begin Saturday, May 13.

However, a late ice-out and still-frigid waters mean anglers may struggle during this weekend's walleye and northern pike fishing opener, especially when it comes to finding certain bait.

“Ice-wise it is pretty good, but bait sucks,” said Sherree Wicktor, owner of S&W Bait north of Brainerd. “We have had some leeches come in, and they are decent. We have some rainbow and golden shiners, but I don’t know if spottails will be here yet. We need a lot of warming up of the water.”

This does not seem to be an isolated occurrence, as colder waters have made minnows harder to find throughout the area, which may be the case for a while.

“We got rid of the ice, which is actually a miracle in itself, but water temperatures are not good,” said Dave Sheley, owner of the Corner Store in Backus. “We did have a lot of loss on stock ponds for minnows. Minnows in general are going to be pretty tough (to find) for a little while. Everything is going to be pretty short … I’m guessing for a few weeks.”


Though several types of bait may be in short supply — if available at all — in the early weeks of the season, many others may not be too hard to come by.

“We might have a better chance at some shiners than our fat heads and crappie minnows, like we normally have,” Sheley said. “It’s usually the other way around, but some of those ponds might be in a little better shape than some of the others … I know I'll probably get a little bit of all three, but how much and how long it lasts — that's another story.”

Sheley and Wicktor both had the same advice for opening weekend anglers: Go for panfish.

“That is going to be your best shot,” Sheley said. “There will probably be some northern and a little bit of walleye action, but it is going to be a little deeper than what they are normally expecting."

The weather for opening morning looks overcast with a high chance of rain in the forecast.

“That actually doesn’t hurt, unless there is lightning,” Sheley said. “Lightning and thunder booms will send them deep, but if it’s just a slight rain, that will be fine.”

Wicktor reminds anglers to be patient as the season begins, and maybe have a few different strategies in mind if the items you want for fishing cannot be obtained.

“It is going to be hard to get bait,” Wicktor said. “You may want to have two things in mind when you walk into a store. We don’t take the bait off the shelf. We have to raise it and find it.”


Sheley, meanwhile, reminds all anglers to take care to avoid coming in physical contact with the waters that just lost their ice.

“It’s going to be awfully cool water, so be safe,” Sheley said. “Make sure that you are paying attention. You can’t sit in there for very long … you need to be thinking in terms of safety.”

Fishing forecast

  • Friday night, May 12: Showers likely before 8 p.m, then a chance of showers and thunderstorms between 8 p.m. and 2 a.m., then a chance of showers after 2 a.m. Mostly cloudy, with a low around 52. Breezy, with an east wind around 15 mph, with gusts as high as 25 mph.
  • Saturday, May 13: Showers likely, mainly after 8 a.m. Mostly cloudy, with a high near 62. Breezy, with an east wind around 15 mph, with gusts as high as 25 mph.
  • Saturday night: Showers likely, mainly before 8 p.m. Mostly cloudy, with a low around 44. Breezy, with a northeast wind around 15 mph, with gusts as high as 25 mph.
  • Sunday, May 14: A slight chance of showers. Mostly sunny, with a high near 68. Breezy, with a north wind around 15 mph, with gusts as high as 20 mph.

Dan Determan, sports writer/staff writer, may be reached at 218-855-5879 or . Follow him on Facebook and on Twitter at .

Dan Determan has been a reporter for the Echo Journal since 2014, primarily covering sports at Pequot Lakes and Pine River-Backus
What To Read Next
Get Local


Must Reads
Members Only