Fishing opener... What happened?

The week before the walleye opener I was driving to our family cabin on Leech Lake and passed through Walker. The temperature gauge on my truck read 91 degrees. Wow, I thought, what an opener this was going to be. Finally, some real nice weather with a good bite. I should have known better. 

The walleye opener is almost always Mother Nature’s way of pulling tricks on anglers. But 28 degrees with a 30 mile per hour wind? Well, that’s what greeted us on the day of the opener and I was wondering if my fishing partners were even going to step outside and brave the elements for the family tradition of fishing the walleye opener. But we did and fishing was, well, let’s just say “uneven”.

We fish the southeast end of Leech Lake on the opener and where the water is deeper, colder and more unpredictable than the north side of the lake. That turned out to be the case again this year. While the water temperatures a few days earlier were in the mid-fifties that cold Arctic blast dropped them down to 48 degrees where we were fishing and the waves on the south end of the lake were big, nasty and very cold. We had to hide behind Bear Island and Battle Point just to keep from freezing our body parts. It wasn’t until midafternoon that the howling waves started to slow down and make it possible to start moving around the lake. 

There were distinct feeding periods on the opener. We managed to find some real nice size fish but most were too big to keep because they were over 20 inches long. Anglers who were patient on Partridge Point had a major feeding period around three in the afternoon and for about two hours fishing was really good. 

The north end was also good in spurts with Big Hardwood, Little Hardwood, the Mounds and Goose Island producing good numbers of fish. It seems that the general feeling from anglers on the north end of Leech Lake was that the opener was very good while many anglers working the south end found fishing more disappointing.

With water temperatures in the low 50’s it was surprising to see that walleye were being caught out on the Annex. This is an area of rocks about three miles from the eastern shore. One report had 45 boats fishing there Saturday afternoon. One of my friends counted 31 boats on the Annex atfter dark fishing with lighted bobbers. Another friend saw the same phenomenon Saturday night on Big Hardwood at the northern end of Sucker Bay. 

For those of us who have fished the lake for decades this is almost unheard of. Historically hardly anyone fishes Leech Lake at night with bobbers. So what is going on? 

My guess is that these are Mille Lacs Lake anglers who have finally decided to move north until the big lake allows folks to keep fish. Without a doubt there were more boats on Leech Lake than there has been for many, many years. 

Good to see the boats are back.

Ray Gildow, Staples, is the author of “Legends & Legacies, A History of the Nisswa Guides’ League” and is owner of Gildow Guide Service. More information can be found at

Staples World

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