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Could this be the year for a great opener?

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outdoors Willmar,Minnesota 56201
West Central Tribune
Could this be the year for a great opener?
Willmar Minnesota 2208 Trott Ave. SW / P.O. Box 839 56201

Two weeks earlier than normal, lakes in the West Central Tribune area shirked their icy coverings and opened their waters to beautiful sunlight.


About a week later than normal, Minnesota's walleye and northern pike fishing season begins.

Logic would tell us that means two of our favorite game fish have completed the annual spawning, have had some rest and are ready to attack minnows, worms and all sorts of fancy artifical bait.

The season opens just after midnight on May 15.

"By the opening of fishing, we will have had an additional two weeks of open water," said Bruce Gilbertson, manager of the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources' Fisheries office in Spicer. "If I were to make a guess at it, which many are proven to be wrong, I would suspect it would be a really good opening of fishing. The weather on any given day has the potential to shut it down. I would guess it would be better than most years."

Experienced anglers know how to read the fishing opener's tea leaves: water temperature, time of spawning and the external temperature.

Gilbertson, whose office runs the New London hatchery and is in charge of collecting walleye eggs and milt to raise walleyes for stocking lakes in the state, said they are way ahead of schedule.

"The walleyes spawned early and we began the local egg take right after Easter," he noted. "This week, we expect to have the rest of our walleye eggs hatched and typically we won't have that done by the opener."

Water temperatures have varied since the ice melted away in late March. April brought about consistent temperatures in the 60s, which helped warm the water. It helped spur an early panfish bite.

"There had been a good crappie bite this spring, but it's slowed down now," said Paul Lines of DJ's Sporting Goods in Montevideo.

Entering May, the weather has cooled and so have the fish. But the long-term forecast for next weekend looks promising with temperatures in the mid 60s with chances of rain.

It could be the best opener in years. Everyone's looking forward to it.

"There's always anticipation, but that's every year," Lines said.