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Fish 'spooked' in a T-shirt opener

Morning broke over Green Lake 5:30 a.m. Saturday with an orange glow silhouetting an angler and his boat just off Saulsbury Beach at Spicer. A great bite and stunning spring weather were too much to expect in a single weekend. The fishing start seemed slow up and down Kandiyohi County on Saturday. Tribune photo by Rand Middleton

Little seemed normal for the 2010 walleye opener at the halfway point in May.

A bright sun hovered over calm waters and the mercury nudged 70.

Sunburn, not hypothermia, was the primary danger to anglers who swarmed to the prairie lakes.

"This is not a normal opener," said Gary Anderson of Danube as he loaded his boat with provisions at 6:30 a.m. Saturday at the Norway Lake public access. "It's often rain or sleet. The weather was so dreary this week, I wasn't very excited. Then my wife told me 'It's going to be nice on Saturday.' Still, it's a surprise to see it like this."

A great bite and stunning spring weather were too much to expect in a single weekend. The fishing start seemed slow up and down Kandiyohi County on Saturday.

By 7 p.m. the Norway public lot brimmed with 30 pick-ups and SUVs.

Two clusters of boats hovered over separate troughs in the middle of the lake.

"It's a good fishing lake," said Mike Dahlberg of New London, who usually opens on Norway. "Those troughs are about 17-feet deep."

By 9 a.m. the boats were dispersing with some landing to try another lake or wait till evening.

A few walleye in the 25- to 29-inch range were reported but released.

"Too big for good eating," said Randy DeSchepper of Spicer, who boated a 27-incher.

Over at West Norway, Dean Heiny of New London and friend Dick Leimbek of Rochester fished for three hours before pulling anchor midmorning. They caught and released a 24-inch walleye, which would be about a five-pounder.

"It's too calm, too nice," said Heiny.

Henry Hall and his two pals from New London had to be pulled in by Heiny after their small outboard wouldn't restart. Hall caught a five-pound walleye but it was slow otherwise, except for landing one of West Norway's infamous sheepheads.

At Lake Solomon, only five miles northwest of Willmar, the public ramp at mid-morning was jammed with 25 empty trailers. Few anglers could be spotted on the sprawling, coved lake rimmed by greenery. One report said the Solomon lot was still overflowing at 9:30 p.m. Saturday.

Farther south, Big Lake Kandiyohi was gray and glassy. County Park No. 1 manager Bud Groen had reports of "a few small walleye and bass practically jumping into boats," noting that opener is still two weeks ahead.

At the landing, Dennis Kodet, who farms between Olivia and Redwood Falls and was on the lake with son Shawn, found it "just dead" out on the lake. "It's so clear, the fish are spooky."

Nearby, brothers Lyle Docken of Maynard and Doug Docken of Waconia, relaxed at their campsite on Saturday afternoon.

"We'll have fish before the weekend is over," Lyle said confidently.

Lake Elizabeth and Lake Ella, nestled in the glacial ridges south of Atwater, were hot spots of activity.

Roger Buboltz and Ken Cano of Redwood Falls landed several "eating-size" walleyes using fathead minnows and a jig on Lake Liz. Buboltz had started at Kandi but had no luck there.

"With the (warm weather in April) things are two or three weeks ahead of time," said Buboltz. "The walleye are spawned out."

Ella, just across the township road lined with boat trailers, was also giving up small walleyes and 10- to 12-inch crappies.

Kent Damhof and his son, Andrew, were casting Rapalas toward shore to bring in four walleye keepers in the 15-17-inch range plus nine crappie over nine inches.

Up at Diamond Lake, Willmar High School alumni Michael Vigil of Minneapolis, Mike Nagel of Brooklyn Park and Lafe Scholten, who had driven over from South Dakota, were registering for a campsite at Diamond Lake Community Park.

"We got a deal," said Vigil. "It's a $14.99 fishing-opening special. We got only perch today, but with this weather nobody loses."

Brad Foshaug at 71 Bait and Sports on Eagle Lake confirmed on Sunday that "Fishing was spotty" for the opener. "Water temperature need to come up five degrees for fish to turn on," he said. "The night bite has been very good in shallow prairie lakes, like Foot, Willmar, Ringo and Solomon, especially where water is moving. Overall, most anglers were getting one or two fish but few seemed to fill a stringer."

Rand Middleton
Tribune photographer/videographer. Began working in radio and at weekly newspaper in Munising, Michigan, in 1972. Started parttime at West Central Daily Tribune Sept. 1974. Fulltime news/sports beginning Feb. 1979. Married to Tribune news clerk Donna (Miller) Middleton, formerly of Kerkhoven. 2 grown children. 
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