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Water, fish look promising for walleye opener

This year, Gov. Mark Dayton should have a better chance of catching a walleye, or even a few walleyes, when he fishes Lake Vermillion Saturday for the inland walleye/northern opener.

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Gov. Mark Dayton should have a good chance of catching a walleye, or even a few walleyes, when he fishes Lake Vermillion in far northern Minnesota on Saturday for the inland walleye/northern opener.

Last year, on Gull Lake near Brainerd, Dayton was shut out because spring was late and the water was unusually cold. The year before, when spring was also late, it was just about as bad.

Not this year.

"The early spring I think is going to help things," said Duane Williams, the Department of Natural Resources large-lake specialist for Vermillion. "The fish are done spawning, the water is warming up, conditions are setting up for a pretty decent opener."

The inland opener is a huge celebration for about a half million anglers who will be fishing for walleyes, saugers (a smaller cousin of the walleye) and northerns. Also this year, bass can be legally fished but have to be released immediately. The season when they can be legally caught opens May 23.

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Some waters on the border, such as the Mississippi River and Lake Pepin in Southeast Minnesota, are open year-round or have different opening dates.

But the biggest opener, the granddaddy of openers, will be Saturday when the forecast is for sun and warmth.

The early spring might actually be a bit of a problem for some boaters, Williams said.

"The lake is lower than average for this of year," he said of Vermillion. That means a few accesses might be harder to launch boats, especially bigger boats, he said. But Williams didn't think it will be hard for anglers to find at least one place to launch on most lakes.

For those fishing more in the central part of the state, conditions are also looking favorable, said Rick Bruesewitz, area fisheries supervisor in Aitkin, Minn.

"I think the conditions are looking pretty good," he said. "The conditions for a decent bite are pretty good."

He also cited the early ice-out, which means warmer water.

His area also covers Mille Lacs, which has special limits because it has too few fish in the prime spawning size, meaning upper teens to low 20-inchers.

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Marc Bacigalupi, a fisheries official in Brainerd, said the opener should be much better than last year's dismal performance. In fact, water temperatures should be in the low to upper 50s, which is often very good for walleyes.

The only drawback from the weather is water is low and many rivers and streams aren't flowing strong into the lakes; where streams enter lakes is often a good place to fish walleyes, he said.

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