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Cold water can produce hot bite

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outdoors Willmar, 56201
Willmar Minnesota 2208 Trott Ave. SW / P.O. Box 839 56201

SPICER -- It's a certainty that anglers will be facing colder-than-normal water temperatures when they venture out on the walleye and northern pike opener.

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Don't worry. The fishing can still be hot, according to Duane Ryks, who along with his wife Sandy offer North Country Fishing Guide Services in the Spicer area.

During the 1980's, Ryks did most of his fishing in the Brainerd area, where cold water temperatures were a certainty on the opener. He remembers some of his best fishing ever.

"The conventional wisdom out there is you should fish shallow lakes on the opener if the water is cold,'' said Ryks.

Think before you follow the other lemmings to shallow lakes, he urges.

Ryks advises anglers to watch where the air temperature is headed, not the traffic. If the air temperature is moving upward, then shallow lakes with warmer water can definitely be the place to go.

Join the crowd, he says.

But if the mercury is dropping faster than your stock portfolio, he recommends fishing bigger, deeper lakes. The waters in these lakes are less subject to temperature fluctuations caused by changes in the air temperature.

Dropping temperatures can shut down walleye activity in shallow lakes. In deeper lakes, the walleye aren't likely to even notice.

Fishing deeper waters can be more challenging, no doubt about it. Oxygen levels at this time of year are equally distributed in the water column. Consequently, walleye might be found deeper than otherwise expected.

Cold water temperatures were the case during the 1995 Governor's opener on Green Lake, noted Ryks. Gov. Arne Carlson was skunked of course, but Ryks said his brother Dale hauled in a nine-pound walleye from 30-feet of water. Ryks caught his own limit of walleye while fishing in 25 to 30 feet of water.

That said, Ryks will be focusing much of his early-season attention on shallow waters, no matter the depth of the lake.

Ryks said some of the best opening weekend action be found in the shallow waters along shorelines where the walleye come to feed. The best fishing time is during the low-light periods of dawn and dusk and best of all, night.

A good night-time strategy is to cast or troll artificial baits along the shorelines, said Ryks. Often times he will position himself no more than casting distance from the shore. There are times he'll drop his lure right on the shoreline and retrieve it. He's had hungry walleye snap it up just as it hits the water.

During the day time hours, live bait and jigging are more often the better bets.

"Absolutely no doubt, shiners are the prime bait,'' said Ryks. Leeches tend to ball up and not be active in the cold waters of the opening weekend. Night crawlers are his last choice, but then, he does recall one fishing opener on Green Lake when they were the only bait that produced.

"Be flexible,'' he said.

That advice carries over to more than your selection bait. Ryks said the successful anglers on the opener are often those willing to be mobile. Sometimes the fishing is better on the other side of the road. Don't be afraid to try a different lake when you discover the fish aren't biting on your favorite waters.

And, Ryks is among those who believe fishing should be fun. Be flexible in what you pursue, too.

If the walleye are not biting, he recommends that anglers consider moving to the shallow waters and enjoying what is sure to be a hot day for crappie.

"I'll tell you what. The panfish will be biting if the walleyes are not,'' he said.

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