A day or a week to waitWORTHINGTON — A week or a day is the wait depending on what you’re waiting for. Saturday is the one and only firearms safety range day in Worthington. It starts at 1 p.m. and runs until 5 p.m. It is for all of the students that have completed the 12-hour online course at hunterexam.com. The Worthington Gun Club is the host location and parents are required to stay for the first half hour. Call me at (507) 360-6027 if you have any last minute questions.
By: Scott Rall, Worthington Daily Globe
WORTHINGTON — A week or a day is the wait depending on what you’re waiting for. Saturday is the one and only firearms safety range day in Worthington. It starts at 1 p.m. and runs until 5 p.m. It is for all of the students that have completed the 12-hour online course at hunterexam.com. The Worthington Gun Club is the host location and parents are required to stay for the first half hour. Call me at (507) 360-6027 if you have any last minute questions.
A week is the wait if you are anticipating the Minnesota fishing opener. The most common question I get asked this week is which lake I am going to start my season fishing. For the past several seasons I have bounced around to different lakes with differing success rates. I know people who can tell you the exact location, temperature and wind speeds they encountered for the last 25 fishing openers. This I cannot do.
I am on record that fishing in Minnesota is better within 60 miles of Worthington than anywhere else in the state if you desire it to catch big fish. Upper Red Lake will produce many more fish if total numbers is the game. Lake of the Woods and Mille Lacs Lake will also outproduce for numbers. In the six years I have been fishing Upper Red Lake, I have caught hundreds of walleyes but none over four pounds.
I have three picks for the opener next week, and just as soon as I put them to paper they might very well be wrong. Picking a lake on opener is like forecasting the weather — you really can’t get in trouble for being wrong.
So, here goes my predictions anyway. Day in and day out over the past 20 years, Lake Sarah has been one of the most consistent lakes in southwest Minnesota. One interesting fact is that it has not been artificially stocked by the DNR for about the past 15 years. Lake Sarah has a unique strain of walleyes that are genetically different than walleyes in nearby lakes. This strain has been researched and it is my understanding that more potential research might be in the works as to how to expand this self-sustaining walleye.
One other possible reason for the success of Lake Sarah walleyes is that the lake has larger amounts of better overall walleye spawning habitat than most neighboring lakes. The bottom has more rock rubble and gravel areas. Walleyes need this to allow the eggs they lay to fall into the crooks and crannies so as not to be eaten immediately by every other fish that is larger than a fish egg. Lake Sarah will have tons of traffic so it is not a good choice if you hate a big crowd. It is one of the best big fish lakes in Minnesota. I know a fisherman that fished it for a week one fall a few years back and, under perfect conditions, caught 15 walleyes over eight pounds and several of them were over 10 pounds. This is a great choice for next weekend.
Lake Okabena, located within the city limits of Worthington, used to be listed in every fishing magazine as a Top 10 lake in the state of Minnesota. It held this position for many years. People from all over the state would drive here for the walleye and catfish fishing that it offered. Over the past 20 years, the fishing pressure that Lake Okabena receives and the resulting increase in overall harvest, has pushed Lake Okabena from the pinnacle position that it once had. It also had the largest crappies in the area, but that distinction is now gone too. Lakes with little fishing pressure grow big fish. Lakes with heavy pressure get their fish populations cropped off just as soon as those fish reach a keeper size. I have a saying that “a keeper walleye is directly related to when the last time was the angler caught one.”
Most anglers with fish in their freezer will almost always release 12- to 14-inch walleyes. That same angler with an empty freezer will keep and kill 12- to 14 inchers without giving it a second thought. To me, a keeper is 15 inches long. Lake Okabena is better known for higher numbers of keepers than it is for big fish. This is due to the higher harvest by anglers on this lake. Very few fish live long enough to get big. It is a great choice for opener. It has several different boat landings that allow you to get on and off without much trouble. All of the accesses are deep enough for most fishing boats and there is enough parking. I have had many good opening days on this lake. In my opinion, it is better early in the season than later. Keep this in mind.
My last pick is a little bit of a drive from Worthington. It is Lake Benton, located in Lincoln County. It will take an hour and 15 minutes to get there, but the area fisheries manager was overheard at the recent Southwest Minnesota Fishing Club banquet that walleye numbers in the lake are almost off the chart. When the DNR surveys a lake, they count the number of fish in each net every day of the survey. In most area lakes, that total is seven to 10 fish per net per lift; and that is considered an average walleye population. When the survey was completed on my third pick, it totaled more than 40 fish per net per lift. This is four times the average. When this news gets out, this lake is going to get mobbed.
Get there before the rest of the world finds out and you should have a good chance of starting out your season with a bang. Round Lake in Jackson County had this same population spike a few years ago and it took about two years of intense fishing pressure and it was back to a lake just considered average.
These unusual population spikes can result from super successful stocking efforts in years where the weather really cooperated. Get to this lake while it lasts, because it will certainly not last for very long.
The weather forecast into early next week is to have temperatures in the 60s. What it will be like on the Saturday fishing opener is yet to be determined. Anything with no rain and limited winds will greet happy anglers.
Be safe and wear a life jacket.
Scott Rall is the Daily Globe’s outdoors columnist. His column can also be read weekly at www.dglobe.com.