Fishing opener was chilly and quiet for west central area anglers

Temperatures in the 30s forces those on area lakes to bundle up for the walleye bite

Isaiah Bennett casts his fishing line at the Games Lake Public Water Access site Saturday morning near New London during the 2020 Minnesota Fishing Opener. Erica Dischino / West Central Tribune

Anglers around west central Minnesota were greeted with the occasional walleye and northern pike, along with some morning snowflakes during the 2020 fishing opener.

Temperatures at sunrise hovered in the low 30s, forcing anglers to bundle up like it was ice fishing weather.

“The weather kind of kicked our butts,” said Jayson Estum, co-owner of J&J Highway 71 Bait and Tackle at Eagle Lake. “Friday was a busy day for us. People were gearing up pretty hard Friday night and Saturday morning. We still had people coming through here pretty heavy up until 11 and midnight on Friday night getting ready to head out. … I heard a few people did all right.”

Corey Edman, assistant manager at Pete’s Surplus in New London, said the fishing around the area was touch-and-go.

“It was spotty with the weather as cold as it was,” Edman said. “Some people had real good luck, some not at all.”


On Lake Minnewaska, water temperatures in the mid-to-upper 40s slowed down the walleye bite.

“We had a couple of real nice weeks where the water temps got to the mid-to-upper 50s,” said Larry Jensen, the owner of Minnewaska Bait and Tackle. “Then we had this cold spell. … That was the big change and walleyes don’t like change.”

While walleye and pike were harder to come by, Jensen said panfish and bass fishing thrived.

“The bass went crazy, and you’re able to catch-and-release bass until Memorial Day weekend,” Jensen said.

Bass can be kept starting May 23 while sunfish, crappie and perch season is continuous.

“That was a lot of fun, especially for those fishing for panfish,” Jensen said.

With Gov. Tim Walz urging anglers to stay closer to home, that added another element to a slower fishing day as people were hesitant to go west of the Twin Cities. That also helped bait shops around the area practice safety measures in the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Business was pretty consistent; we did the best we can,” Edman said.


“Normally, when people come in, it’s in waves; we’ll fill up all at once and get a big rush,” Estum added. “This year, one or two cars would pull up and we didn’t have that many folks at once.”

Jensen joked: “They behaved themselves pretty good. I didn’t have to kick anyone out.”

Anglers test their luck at Nest Lake Saturday morning in Spicer for the 2020 Minnesota Fishing Opener. Erica Dischino / West Central Tribune

Joe Brown is a sports reporter for the West Central Tribune.

He can be reached via email at: or his office number: 320-214-4332.
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