Here we go. We’ve launched into another walleye season. The walleye fishing reports in Otter Tail Lakes Country came slowly this weekend. Normally when fishermen do well, reports are easy to come by. Anglers plugged away all day Saturday desperately trying to catch something worth reporting. By mid-day Sunday, some reporting was occurring but still not much. It seemed many prideful walleye enthusiasts struggled, and quietly drove home Sunday to spend the day with their moms—a wise choice by any virtue. All in all, the walleye populations in the Otter Tail Lakes County area continue to thrive after very little harvest this weekend. Sunday was stronger than Saturday, which is normal as some anglers put a pattern together. It seems the greatest struggle was not necessarily the walleye or lack thereof, but more so a lack of shiner minnows. Shiners are ready to come to the shorelines of our area lakes and spawn, but the water temps have them situated away from shore and are, therefore, inaccessible to anglers and bait wholesalers alike. Walleye and other predators on most Otter Tail Lakes Country lakes eat perch, young panfish, and shiners early in the season. We can’t use panfish and perch for bait, so that leaves shiners as the bait to have/buy/use. Without that valuable minnow in hand and on hook—it’s very difficult. Most boats this weekend had about 3, 4, or 5 walleye per boat on Saturday—that I surveyed. Had they had shiners, they probably would have tripled those numbers. The water temps on nearly every lake in the county are 45.7–48.5. The shiners won’t come to shore until the sun comes out and warms the water. Once walleye angler get these minnows, the fishing will certainly pick up. I imagine that will happen no later than Thursday/Friday this week, which is good news to fishermen this coming weekend.
The panfishing on area lakes and shallow bays continues to be stalled by the crappy weather, but is sure to really get good as soon as the sun stays out for more than a day. My best panfishing, so far, has been in deeper bays as opposed to shallower ones, and it’s going to be at least two weeks before we see “shoreline” action for panfish, because the main lake and lakes that don’t have bays need more time and less rain fall to warm enough to get the sunnies and crappies in. As for the walleye fishing “how to”: the fish are very scattered and tough to pattern even with shiners on the line. Try deeper areas first because it’s easier to “mark” and locate fish on electronics in deeper water. If you struggle to find fish after looking and fishing on 7 or 8 spots, then they’re probably in a different depth zone. Try shallow next 8-12 ft, and then very shallow shoreline-8 ft. And if those areas don’t work, try another lake. Live bait rigging is a strong and safe bet right now—just watch your boat speed. Keep it around .2—.8 mph most of the time. For jigging, try two ways: stay very vertical and use small jigs 1/16-3/16 in all depths, or try 1/8 jigs in a more or less horizontal fashion as you troll 1.1–1.8 mph in shallow water (you need a lot of line out). I’ve caught walleye with all of those methods so far, so they are working. Slip bobbers are also a strong bet right now. Don’t forget about shore fishing. It doesn’t get better than right now to stand on a bank and catch walleye, and Otter Tail Lakes Country has a huge selection of productive shorelines and river mouths, and current areas to choose from. Good Luck in Otter Tail Lakes Country this week—it’s going to be a good one!