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I just received a video on Facebook from friends on my favorite fishing lake, Vermilion Lake in Minnesota’s arrowhead region in the Boundary Waters area. The ice has already melted off the lake, which makes the “ice off” almost three weeks early. That means the walleye will probably have already spawned by opening day, which is Mother’s Day, and started to move to their spring time staging areas, making for a much more challenging bite this year. Closer to home (by some 600 miles) the walleye bite is just beginning on our area rivers – the Illinois, Mississippi, Rock, and Fox.

I thought a refresher was in order on ways to improve your catch by paying attention to these few items:

1) Walleyes will be moving upstream looking for their spawning sites, so look for areas where there is a current break like a tributary inlet with slightly warmer water.

2) Because of the rapid current your bait will be moving past the strike zone pretty quickly, for the most part.  I recommend the use of a bucktail and plastic combo to get the most fish in the boat. It’s far more durable than a minnow.

3) You should present your lure by drifting upstream just a bit faster than the current is pushing you back.

4) When drifting isn’t getting you results, try casting the jig and plastic combo into shallow, slow current areas (less than 10’ of water) usually around sand bars, clam beds, or rip rap shorelines. Some of the biggest walleyes are available in that very shallow water.

The reports on our area lakes have been pretty good if you like panfish. A report from the Fox Chain of Lakes is that the crappie bite is quite good in the channels. You may have to move around some, but the numbers are good. Delavan Lake was reporting really good bites on bluegill, crappies, and white bass, all in shallower, warmer water. The Wolf River reports no white bass run yet, and the Illinois River has been reporting very high and muddy water with lots of debris, not very good or safe conditions for fishing.

Enjoy this early start to fishing season, and until next time…keep a tight line.