Fish active in warmer watersPublished 12:29pm Tuesday, May 7, 2013
Last year’s early spawn is throwing many anglers off this year. However, this spring is playing out similar to years prior to 2012, which means fish will be found in their traditional shallow, warmer lakes on fishing opener May 11.
The warm weather across the state prior to last year’s fishing opener was not the norm. Instead, this year’s harsh winter and slow-to-arrive spring weather means the male fish will be more active than the females, which is typical of what area fishers are used to.
“It’s closer to average,” said Howard Fullhart, assistant fisheries supervisor with the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR), Fergus Falls. “Last year was record ice-outs, and that’s what everyone’s gauging off of still.”
Unlike 2012 when most of the walleyes were done spawning by the time the opener rolled around, this year is likely to be different and the weather certainly is a factor in the timing for walleye spawning.
Right now, the long-term forecast shows below normal temperatures, plus there’s still six to 12 inches of snow on area lakes, lots of slush and 30-40 inches of ice below the snow pack, according to Henry Drewes, regional fisheries manager for the Minnesota DNR.
“Things are probably going to be a week behind normal,” Drewes said. “Our spring is not going to advance very fast. Water temperatures are anticipated to be cold. I would be surprised if we’re out of the 40s on a lot of waters.”
A lot of the fish will still be in traditional spawning areas, and the female fish will be recuperating from the spawn, according to Fullhart.
“They’re going to be in a very different pattern than what they were last year at this time,” Fullhart said.
Area anglers might want to venture to South Ten Mile Lake, Dead Lake and North Lida Lake for some productive fishing. Those waters turned in some above average walleye numbers in 2012, Fullhart said.
“It’s not universal that a cold spring means tough fishing, but on some lakes, it can certainly make it a lot harder,” Drewes said.
Walleye spawning begins when water temperature is in the mid to upper 40-degree range. It takes about two to three weeks for the eggs to hatch at water temperature of 50 to 55 degrees.
After the eggs are hatched, they are called fry. Some are stocked in walleye rearing ponds. Those fish (also called fingerlings) are harvested in the fall and stocked in area lakes.
Every spring, Minnesota walleyes are spurred by instinct to migrate into creeks and lake shorelines to reproduce. Triggered by water temperature and the length of daylight, males and females congregate to spawn.
The females deposit their eggs, and the males fertilize them. Within 10 days tiny walleyes emerge. The numbers that survive depend on water temperature and preying from other fish.
“This is just going to be one of those years where it’s just going to be a later spring,” Fullhart said. “They’re going to be really close to that post-spawn mood. They’re not really into their summer routine yet.”
As for new regulations, the experimental one regarding slot limits for walleyes on Little Pine and Big Pine lakes near Perham was reviewed and is now a permanent regulation. There are also some slightly modified regulations on Norway Lake and Annie Battle Lake as well.
No matter if rules have or have not changed however, Fullhart recommends everyone check the regulations on the individual lake you plan to fish on before heading out. It’s also good to be conscious of the invasive species rules, he said.