|"The Bait Shop"|
... (5-19) The 2016 opener is in the books now, and as fishing goes it was a pretty good one - lots of walleye spread out over numerous year classes. It started strong at midnight with some solid trolling action, mostly across the north end due to the high wind. The trollers found fish from 4 to 10 feet of water using Husky Jerks and Rattlin' Rogues. The air temperature dipped below freezing, making conditions resemble "openers-of-old" where snowsuits and gloves were standard attire. In spite of the weather, the fish cooperated and nearly everyone we spoke with had fish - some had lots of fish. The daytime bite ranged from 10 to 20 feet with nearly all the angling effort focused on the north end of Mille Lacs. High winds made fishing anywhere else REALLY uncomfortable. Smallmouth acton was slower than expected. Most people agree that the big drop in water temperature pushed the smallies deeper and slowed the bite. Only a handful of northern were reported, likely (also) because of the rough conditions along the south end. The "elephant in the room" was the lack of anglers who chose to open on MIlle Lacs - some say it was the temperature, some say it was the wind, some chose other waters in hope of bringing home a meal of walleye. Whatever the reason, if you like to catch walleye Mille Lacs is the place to be now. Going forward, expect the walleye bite to remain good in 10-20 feet on rock reefs or sand around the perimeter of the lake. Shiners and leeches are the top baits. Smallmouth are showing up in the shallows, as the water temps are recovering. Look for the northern to feed in 6-12 feet over the next few weeks as the weeds begin to establish. Suckers are the best bait.
Surface temps remain in the high 50's.
The "night ban" is now in effect.
...(5-12) This is the weekend that tons of Minnesotans wait for - The Opener! The hazard markers have been placed and all the docks are in at the public accesses... we're set to go. Look for most of the fish to be in 18 feet or less water. Traditional opening day favorites like the north end, Vineland Bay and Big Point will certainly be worth a look. Toward evening you might look to some shallower water on the rock reefs for some bobber fishing - 6-10 feet should be good here. Leeches have become the "bait-of-choice" on Mille Lacs. A modest-sized leech will often out-perform a jumbo during the early weeks of the season. Don't overlook minnows either - if you're ever going to run minnows, now's the time while the water is cool.
The surface temperature has been in the mid-50's.
If you didn't read this last fall, it deserves your attention this week. Here a link to the DNR'S Hooked on Mille Lacs fall newsletter. You can check out some of the results of the 2014 fall netting survey. Of particular interest is the summary on page 4: "There is nothing in this data that suggests tribal fishing is affecting reproduction". If you're left with a shred of doubt after this compelling analysis, PLEASE contact the Aitkin Fisheries Office of the Minnesota DNR.