Bernie Schnieders hoists a first-ice winter walleye!
|The long winter is over and the opening weekend of walleye fishing is almost upon us. Does it get any better than this? I donít know about you, but itís one of my favorite weekends of the year. They say you shouldnít enjoy just the destination, but the journey there as well. I certainly enjoy the anticipation and getting ready for the opener, including the trek out to the lake or river. Of course the fishing is always great, and the shore lunches of tasty, pan-fried walleye, shared with family and friends; well need I say more! Here are a few items and ideas that will help you have a super weekend during the walleye opener.|
You donít need a lot of fancy equipment for walleye fishing. Youíre going to be using a lot of rigs and jigs during the opening weekend. Lead-head jigs from 1/8 to 3/8-ounce will catch most walleye. Fuzz-E-Grub, Lip Stik, Fireball, and Whistler jigs in a variety of colors from yellow, white, chartreuse, pink and white, root beer all produce well. I like to carry some plastic twister tails, shad bodies, grubs, tubes and scented Berkley Power Grubs during the spring. Bulking up jigs will make them fall slower, and scented plastics or tipping the jig with a small minnow will increase your productivity.
For rigging, use #4 octopus hooks such as VMC or Gamakatsu. Slip sinkers such as the Lindy walking sinker, egg sinkers or the new No-Snagg sinkers in the ľ to Ĺ-ounce weights. A straight hook, small green or chartreuse bead, Phelps floater or Lil Corky and hook baited with a lively minnow is a surefire, spring walleye producer. I also like to troll spring shorelines using a spinner rig, and numerous brands like Lindy Little Joe, Wordenís Spin-n-Glo, and Blue Jay meet the bill. Two-tone colors with chartreuse, orange, pink and white, green and chartreuse can all produce great spring catches.
A 6 Ĺ -foot rod with a spinning reel loaded with 8-pound test line will suffice for most walleye fishing. You can rig, jig and bounce with such a rod. Many rod and reel combos will handle walleye, and I enjoy using a medium action, graphite rod such as a Fenwick HMX or Berkley Lightning rod, along with a Abu Garcia Cardinal or Agenda reel, loaded with limp Trilene XL or Trilene Premium Strength line.
Make sure you service your outboard motor; a tune up including new plugs, changing the bottom end oil, lube and grease and I recommend changing or at least conditioning last years gas by adding premium fuel to top it off. And donít forget to inspect the pull cord, recoil and prop.
Good, lively bait can make the difference between a poor trip and a great one. And with the cost of bait, it makes sense to store and transport bait efficiently. Oxygen pack your minnows, several dozen to a bag. Larger minnows require more oxygen, so donít overpack them. I like larger 4 to 6-inch dace, chub and sucker minnows for livebait rigging, while smaller 2 to 4-inch red and yellow belly dace and fatheads work great tipped on jigs. Pack the minnows in a cooler on ice, and keep the coolers out of the sun, and chances are the minnows will stay lively for up to several days. If you start to see minnows going belly-up or gulping for air, then put them in a troller-bucket in the lake. Lively bait is a key to catching opening season walleye. I also like to bring a few worms and leeches along in the spring, however, minnows are usually the best producer at this time of the year.
Shore Lunch Essentials
Whatís a spring walleye opener without a fantastic shore lunch? The fanciest restaurants in the world canít compete with the taste of fresh, pan-fried walleye on the scenic shoreline of a Canadian Shield lake or river. I recommend cooking the walleye in a large frying pan over an open fire. If the fire ban is on, then a Coleman or propane burner will do nicely. There are many recipes, however, I like to coat my fillets in Gary Roachís, Fish Crisp or Shore Lunch batter, and fry them in low fat Canola oil. Put a good Ĺ-inch of oil in the pan and make sure it is popping hot. Getting the oil to the right temperature (not too hot or cold) takes a little practice. Be careful around hot oil; I like to use a long handled flipper or tongs. Have small dry kindling around to add to the fire. A couple of cans of pork and beans, fried potatoes and onions, fresh buns, pickles, sliced tomatoes, cheese, and coleslaw, all makes for a great shore buffet.
Last, but definitely not least, play it safe on this May long weekend. It seems I read about anglers that drown each year. Donít forget to wear your life jacket (PFD), and because the water is very cold at this time of the year I wear a floater coat, complete with hood and beavertail. That old seat cushion no longer passes as a life jacket. In a small boat without an inboard engine or fixed fuel tank, you will require a buoyant heaving line of not less than 15m (~50 feet) in length. This is generally the yellow Polly rope with a float, or a water ski type rope. Youíll also need 2 oars or one paddle, or an anchor with not less than 15 m of rope, bailer, flashlight and a whistle.
Play it safe while fishing and boating this year and use common sense. Wear your life jacket at all times if you can, and remember that alcohol and boating/fishing donít mix. Save the festivities for back at camp, at the end of the day! And leave only your footprints behind! Have a great opener!