SPICER — Here’s the dilemma for area anglers making plans for the Minnesota Fishing Opener on May 15.

Ice out has occurred two weeks earlier than normal, and the opener is coming later than normal, leading many to ponder: This might be the year to forgo the conventional wisdom of starting out on the shallow, early-to-warm lakes in favor of the deeper lakes known to harbor some of the best walleyes.

Or, have the cool spring temperatures we’ve been experiencing put a monkey wrench into that idea?

That’s the dilemma that Dave Coahran, Spicer fisheries supervisor with the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources, points out as he offers his suggestions on where to go for the 2021 opener in the area. Coahran and his staff manage 40 lakes from Games and Norway in northern Kandiyohi County to Cottonwood Lake in Lyon County.

Before we start the drum roll on his suggestions, know this. Anglers have every reason to be excited about the coming season.

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Sure, the COVID-19 pandemic put a crimp in management activities last year. DNR staff were unable to conduct the walleye egg take last year, and consequently there were no fry for stocking.

But the lack of winterkill in 2019-20 meant area rearing ponds carried over lots of walleye that grew to adult size. The local staff harvested the walleye and stocked the adult and yearling walleye in Cottonwood, Elkhorn, George, Henderson, Green, Long (near Hawick), Norway, Point, School Grove and Tyson lakes.

There’s also this: There was good natural walleye reproduction last year on a variety of area lakes.

Coahran points out Long Lake north of Willmar as one of the lakes. There was a “tremendous naturally reproduced year-class of walleye” in the lake, he stated. Fisheries staff reported a catch rate of 172 per hour, which takes some fast dip netting, he said.

These are not keepers, most averaging about eight inches or so, but it’s apparent, said Coahran. “Walleye did not socially distance last spring, making up for the missed stocking year in at least some area lakes.”

For those ready to bet that the early ice out and late start make this year the one to fish the deeper lakes, Coahran offers these “best bets” for the opener: Koronis, Eagle, Norway and Diamond.

He adds: “Some non-traditional opener lakes not often thought of that may score you some bragging points in 2021 would be Point, Willmar and Foot with traditional opener Ringo Lake also being worth a try. Lakes in the Spicer area south of Granite Falls with good Walleye populations would include Wood and Cottonwood (also nice perch!).”

As for those who believe the slow to warm spring means it’s best to stick with the shallow lakes, Coahran recommends these: Long (by Willmar), Ringo, East Solomon, Swenson, Willmar and Foot. And if the walleye aren’t biting, he points out that these lakes also provide good fishing for numbers and sizes of black crappie, northern pike, bluegill and yellow perch.