Changing Conditions Required A Flexible Approach For Opening Day Walleye

BEMIDJI, Minnesota — For the 9th consecutive year my fishing group has opened the Minnesota fishing season on Lake Andrusia, a moderately sized Minnesota lake located just west of Cass Lake connected by the Mississippi River flowage. Our past experience has found this lake generally proves to be productive for the opener as we have never failed to achieve enough fish for our much anticipated opening day evening fish fry. Fortunately, this year was no exception. 


IMG00088-20100515-0544Pleasant early morning conditions greet 2010 Minnesota fishing opener anglers.

The day started off wonderful with nary a cloud in the sky and only a slight breeze barely creating a ripple on the lake surface. Perfect morning to head out on the lake with only a light coat and no need for the usual opening day rainwear or gloves. What proved to be comfortable conditions for early spring fishermen eventually gave way to walleye on the move and fishermen guessing what strategy to try next. Techniques that seemed to work 30 minutes earlier suddenly would turn quiet. The key to success seemed to be fishermen willing to be flexible in their presentation keeping a watchful eye to the ever changing conditions. 

At daybreak fishermen were finding walleye in 5’ to 8’ depths by drifting over rock points and sunken island areas. Lindy rigs tipped with a shiner seemed to work well early for some fishermen.

As the sun became more intense, plenty of fish were then later marked at depths ranging from 16’ to 22’ most prevalent around the steeper structure drop-offs. Vertical jigging was productive, but nothing worked with any predictable consistency. Throughout the day wind speeds varied greatly and the direction was constantly shifting. The early morning clear skies later turned partly cloudy and at times offered a brief respite from the bright sun.


IMG_0522Short-sleeve t-shirts, not parkas or rainwear, was the preferred attire for the day.

There were some fish marked on the sonar at depths exceeding 30’, but they did not appear to be active. Later in the day most fish were caught from depths ranging 10’ to 16.’

About the only thing that seemed to be consistent throughout the day was the choice of bait. Shiners were in and leeches were definitely not the ticket—at least not for our group of 20 fishermen. Chartreuse was a productive color, but by no means was this the only effective jig color.

A common complaint among several fishermen were the missed bites which either means angling skills are a bit rusty coming off winter or the walleye bite was a bit light — or possibly both.

The day ended almost the same way it started with near glass-smooth water and clearing skies. Again, with the changing weather conditions the walleye bite tailed off and one-by-one the boats started heading toward our Finn’n Feather Resort cabin. That action didn’t necessarily signal the end of our first big day of fishing in 2010. Nope, instead it meant the fishermen sensed it was soon supper time and once again for the Minnesota fishing opener we were blessed to have fresh-caught walleye as our group’s featured menu item.


IMG_0548Few things in life taste better than freshly caught fish from a northern Minnesota lake.

© 2010 Jim Braaten.   All Rights Reserved.   No Reproduction without Prior Permission.

Twitter: R U Fishing This Wknd w/a Cell Phone?

We tried this last year for the Minnesota fishing opener with good success so let’s give it another shot this year. I’m talking about using Twitter to share fishing reports and pictures with fellow anglers across Minnesota. The beauty of using Twitter is the communication is almost immediate—right from your boat, provided you have cell phone reception.

Setting up an account is easy, free and takes just a few minutes of your time. Go to and click on the “Get started now” button. Enter your name, a user name (this is how you will be seen on Twitter) and a password, plus a few other details and soon you’ll be in business. If you’re worried about privacy…just use a nickname and that will work, too.

Once you have a Twitter account communication is like a two-way street. You have the ability to share brief 140 character messages with the world. Brag about the fish you are catching…complain about the miserable weather…share a funny experience at the boat landing. The point is using Twitter on the fishing opener is like virtual coffee shop chatter. Best of all, you’re not talking about the experiences the next day or when the weekend is over. Nope, on Twitter you can describe the action as it is happening.

If you are using a cell phone that doesn’t have “smart phone” technology (BlackBerry, iPhone, Android, etc.) don’t despair. You can still have most of the mobile Twitter functionality, it just takes a few more steps. Once you have an account—click on “settings” and then click on “mobile” for details on how you can send a “tweet” simply by sending an ordinary text message.


IMG_0483Share your weekend fishing success with the world as it happens by using Twitter.

Now, if you want to send a picture from a non-smart phone it gets a bit more involved. Provided your phone has a camera, to send a picture to Twitter on a basic phone you will need to go to a website, such as This site automatically coordinates with Twitter so if you already established an account on Twitter you simply use that same login information for TwitPic. Again, once you logon for the first time go under “settings” and you will see an Email address which you can use to upload pictures. A picture that is uploaded to TwitPic will automatically appear on your Twitter updates, too.

The process I’ve just described is usually made a lot easier if you use one of the many applications available for a smart phone. Still, if everything sounds way too confusing don’t despair…you can also have fun reading other peoples’ tweets and you don’t even have to sign up for anything.

Within a few days will be aggregating all tweets using the hashtag #MNFishOpener. What this means is out of the millions of tweets made daily only the ones pertaining to the Minnesota fishing opener THAT ALSO INCLUDE THE #MNFishOpener copy will be shown. That’s why it’s important that when you tweet about the fishing opener somewhere included in that 140 character Twitter message it must also include the #MNFishOpener characters (not cap sensitive).

If you have questions or comments about any of this send me a message on Twitter (@jim7226). You can also follow my fishing tweets by clicking on: Now, rumor has it that Dennis Anderson will also be using Twitter this coming weekend. You can follow all of Dennis’ tweets by linking to:

Oh, and by the way…a quick word of advice. If you just landed a lunker and you happen to be fishing at your favorite honeyhole…be sure to turn off any geotagging features that might be enabled. If not, you might just suddenly discover a lot of fishing company appearing out of nowhere around your boat.

© 2010 Jim Braaten.   All Rights Reserved.   No Reproduction without Prior Permission.

Kenyon Smelt Fry Celebrates A Longstanding Outdoors Tradition

Have a hankering for a good old fashioned smelt fry? Then check out the Kenyon Volunteer Fire Department’s Annual Smelt Feed being held this coming Saturday, May 1st. As this area’s oldest and biggest charity smelt feed, the Kenyon event could be one of the last chances this year to sample this unusual springtime delicacy.

Once a widely popular fish in areas stretching from Minnesota to Maine, smelt were often dipped or seined by sportsmen using nets from tributaries throughout the Great Lakes region. The spawning fish on their “smelt run,” as it was commonly known, no longer appear in the same numbers as they once did back during the ‘70s and ‘80s.

While several theories exist as to the disappearance of the Great Lakes smelt, most folks agree the heyday for this springtime fishing ritual appears to have come and gone…at least for now. Today, most smelt gathered in quantity are purchased through commercial fishing operations.

The Kenyon smelt feed has a reputation for attracting large crowds from throughout southern Minnesota so plan accordingly by getting there early. Kenyon is located within an hour’s drive of Rochester, Mankato and most areas of the Twin Cities. I urge you to come out and support my hometown fire department and their continuing effort to keep the smelt eating tradition alive.




© 2010 Jim Braaten.   All Rights Reserved.   No Reproduction without Prior Permission.