Ministry expecting good walleye fishing

With the walleye season-opener arriving Saturday, the area biologist with the local Ministry of Natural Resources office is predicting another good season of fishing this year.
Darryl McLeod said the earlier ice out and above normal temperatures should increase the walleye feeding activity and make them more aggressive.
“Generally across the area, we expect it should be another good season for walleye,” he noted. “Traditionally, the opener is pretty slow because the fish have just finished spawning or are still spawning right up until the opener.”
He noted the cold water temperatures, normally still prevalent at this time, also hamper fishing.
But McLeod said water temperatures in most lakes are up around 13-14 C compared to just seven or eight C around this time last year. And he noted the walleye have had enough time to spawn, making this year’s season “two or three” weeks ahead of last year.
McLeod also said most lakes are experiencing an “upswing” in walleye fishing due to good year classes in the 1990s (particularly 1991, ’94, and ’95). And that bodes well for a strong future, he added.
“Rainy Lake, in particular, had an exceptionally strong class in 1994 and now those fish are four years old and fit into the [necessary] harvest slot size,” he remarked.
“There should be lots of fish out there that average 14 inches.”
On Rainy Lake, the daily catch and possession limit for anglers is three walleye between 13.75 and 17.75 inches. They also can keep one “trophy” fish over 27.5 inches.
All other lakes and rivers in the area have a six-fish limit, with only one of those being over the 19.5-inch maximum size limit.
McLeod said the reduced limit on Rainy Lake for resident anglers (the limit is zero for non-resident “day-trippers”) was introduced in 1994 amid concerns for the walleye stock. Since then, the lake has seen a resurgence and he expects that trend to continue.
“Walleye fishing appears to be getting better every year. We’re on the road to recovery although we’re not quite there yet,” he stressed.
Meanwhile, local guides also are predicting this walleye opener should be one of the best ever.
“It should be really good if the weather holds out,” said Scott Hamilton, who started Jackfish Hammy’s Guide Service here last May. “The warm weather gets [the walleye] more active than usual–it should be an exceptional opener.
Hamilton said the early ice out and warmer weather also should make for what he expects should be a good summer although his business has started off slow so far.
“I’ve had three [groups] cancel on me due to a death in the family and they couldn’t get vacation time but I expect it will get busy later on,” he noted.
“I expect it should be a really good opener,” agreed Dave Byrnes, who has guided for several camps for the past seven seasons. “With the early ice out, we should be about two weeks ahead of schedule.”
Byrnes said he already has experienced some excellent fishing for northerns on Lake of the Woods, and expected the fishing to be good throughout the year.