Opening day fishing fun because it’s never the same

The upcoming weekend is full of tradition for many anglers across Sunset Country as walleye season opens for another year.
Regardless of the weather (because usually it isn’t very nice), the third Saturday of May is a date most walleye anglers really look forward to because they can get back on the water to chase the most sought after fish in the region.
There is a lot of anticipation because we all have spots we like to fish, but the fun part about opening day is that usually the fishing is never the same from year to year.
There are many factors—like the ice-out date, the water level, and the weather—that all have influence on the water temperature, and this will dictate how far along walleyes are in their seasonal cycle.
The reason the season closes for a month before it re-opens in mid-May is that walleyes are spring-spawning fish. Water temperature usually will dictate when walleyes spawn.
After they spawn, fish begin the process of moving back to main basin locations where they will spend the summer months.
Along the way, walleyes stop at predictable locations, where they can be exploited by anglers.
My favourite spring walleye water usually has a sand bottom. Sandy shorelines, with weeds and boulders mixed in, are sure-fire locations early in the year.
As are sandy humps and bars.
Neck down areas with some current are usual hot-spots on big waters in the region, like Lake of the Woods and Rainy Lake.
When deciding what to tie on the end of your line, stick with tradition here, as well. The classic jig and minnow combo is deadly when you know where fish are located.
If you are not sure exactly where the fish are, trying trolling a spinner rig behind a bottom bouncer over shallow flats and along likely-looking shoreline just outside of spawning areas.
You will find walleyes sooner than later.
Tip the spinner rig with a minnow, crawler, or a plastic worm.
I caught up with Ministry of Natural Resources conservation officer Matt Brooks this past week and he shared some of the most common violations area COs come across on opening weekend and throughout the open water season.
Brooks reported the three most common violations made by anglers include retention of illegal-sized fish, failure to carry a fishing licence on their person, and possession of fish cut or packed so that the species, number, and size limits cannot be readily identified.
Brooks further explained that size limits are intended to ensure the primary breeding size fish are returned to the waters in order to maximize reproductive capacity.
If anglers keep illegal-sized fish, they are doing harm to the waters they wish to enjoy.
Know the size restrictions for the waters that you fish—always carry a measuring device and measure your fish.
Anglers also should know it is an offence to go fishing without carrying their fishing licence with them. Failure to produce a fishing licence to a CO upon request can result in an angler being charged with a violation even if you have a licence, so do not leave it at home or in a vehicle.
Always ensure you carry a valid fishing licence with you on the water!
Finally, Brooks explained that every year, COs across the province seize a lot of fish from anglers who fail to properly package their fish for transport.
If an officer cannot easily determine the species and numbers of your fish, it is impossible to determine whether or not you may be in compliance with the regulations and you may needlessly lose your fish.
Brooks reminds all anglers that if they witness or suspect any act of resource abuse, to take note of as much information as possible and call the MNR tips line at 1-877-TIPS-MNR (847-7667).
This reporting line provides direct access for the public to report resource abuse to the ministry 24 hours a day, seven days a week across the province.
Take note of things like boat or vehicle licence plate information, the make, model, or colour of vehicles or vessels, the location, the date, and time, as well as a description of any people involved.
If you have a cellphone, my advice is to save the MNR tips number on your phone and if you see any violations taking place on the water, call this number to report them.
Remember, the regulations in place on our waters are to there to protect the world-class fisheries we have here in Sunset Country.

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