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Time-honored tips for springtime fishing

Fishing Columnist Brad Laabs

Nature is amazing! We went from concerns about enough lakes open by opener to having them all open by the first few days in May. As I mentioned last week, wind, rain, sun, and warm weather can do damage very quickly.

Fortunately, we got good doses of all of those factors this last week. Water temps (by Wednesday) already ranged from 48-52 degrees and they are climbing. A number of anglers got boats out this week and had some success catching early season crappies.

Most fish were holding off spawning areas in six to 12 feet of water. As the water warms, those fish will move up shallower and be tighter to submergent weed growth. Look for those crappies to be suspended at about half the depth of the water you are fishing. They feed up, so keep your presentation above them.

Hooks with small minnows or small jigs with minnows or plastics under bobbers, or casting jigs tipped with minnows or plastics will get the job done. Look to shallow bays and north shorelines to warm first and have these fish moving shallow and being active. That bite will just keep getting better over the next couple weeks.

The opener is setting up well, and it looks like nice weather in the forecast. As we know, that can change in a hurry. Walleyes have been done spawning for a week or so now, and the northern pike were done before that. Crappies and bass will follow in the next week or two.

Remember, you can target bass to catch, but the keep season for them does not open until Memorial Weekend. Look for northern to be extremely active with the warming water at opener. The new zone regulations are in play at opener this year for northern pike. In our area, you are allowed up to 10 northern with only two being over 26 inches. Any northern between 22 and 26 inches must be released. The special regulations that exists for a few of the lakes in our area for northern still apply.

The most sought after fish for the opener will be walleye. With the water temps climbing, look for the eating-size males to still be shallow. Focus on the 4- to 12-foot water, and then move deeper if you don't contact fish.

Most fish will still be relating to shoreline breaks, and the first break. Very few will be holding on mid-lake structure. Some of the bigger fish may be shallow early and late.

Jigs and minnows/plastics are an early season staple for prying walleyes from the lake. Shiner minnows should be moving up shallow to spawn with the warming water, and are an early season favorite for walleyes.

Live bait rigs (Lindy rigging, Roach rigging) are a favorite presentation for many, and have a history of producing. Hooks can be tipped with minnows, leeches, and nightcrawlers.

This opener, all these baits will be in play. A slip bobber is a classic presentation that works well to present bait to shallow fish. Leeches and minnows under the bobbers will have the most success. Stay out away from the weed bed or rock pile and cast to the fish. The shallow dark bottom or stained water lakes warm the fastest, and will have fish shallow.

Some of the deep, clear lakes will have colder water, so look for the warmest water in the lake to be holding the fish shallow. If the shiners have not moved up onto the flats on the cooler lakes (water temps still in the low 50-degree range) look off the edges for walleyes looking to eat. Keep in mind, crappies will be active at opener also.

Good luck, have fun, stay safe!

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