Rainy Lake is one of the last lakes in the country to thaw, which means that, come spring, everyone has a serious case of ice-out fever that reaches its peak May 12 with the Minnesota fishing opener. Although this is one of the best times to fish for most species, the primary game is walleye, Minnesota’s state fish. After a long winter and the rigors of spawning, they’ve worked up an appetite and are looking for a meal. Here’s all you need to know to make the most of this exciting weekend on Rainy Lake.
Everyone 16 years and older must have a fishing license issued by the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR). A variety of both Minnesota resident and non-resident fishing licenses are available, such as 24-hour, 72-hour, three-year, family and more. You can purchase licenses from most bait shops, by phone at 1-888-MN-LICEN (665-4236), or online at licenses.dnr.state.mn.us. Once you are licensed, be sure to read the state’s fishing regulations, which include limits on the number and size of fish you can keep.
You don’t have to spend a lot of money to have a successful – and fun – opening weekend. You’ll need: a spinning rod and reel; monofilament line; a variety of jigs ranging from 3/8 - 1/8 ounce; sliding sinker rigs (also called "Lindy" rigs); slip bobber rigs and a tackle box with tools like clippers and scissors and extra spools. Perhaps the most important gear for spring fishing is warm and water-proof clothing. Being comfortable on the water can ensure a happy trip.
To maximize your chances of catching your limit, stay shallow. Spring walleye fishing is most often successful in 6-18 feet of water. In fact, plenty of early anglers catch walleye off the dock or from shore at night. Other locations to try include river mouths, areas with current, rocky shorelines with emerging weed lines and windward shores as opposed to leeward. And, once you catch one, remember that walleyes school, so more are likely lurking. If you prefer a more scientific approach, check out the DNR website’s Lake Finder feature, which provides species-specific fish survey results and stocking reports by lake.
Bait and Technique
During this time of year, angling experts recommend using either jigs or Lindy rigs tipped with live bait, preferably minnows. The best piece of advice is to think slow: because the water is cold, fish aren’t moving very fast, so neither should bait. Jigging is the most common technique for catching walleye this time of year. Keep your line vertical into the water (hanging straight down). Once the bait has dropped to the bottom, jerk or lift it up a couple inches before letting it drop again. This motion can take some practice, and you may have to try some different variations to see what the fish are attracted to.
Professional and amateur anglers alike promote the practice of catch and release, which ensures the future of fishing in Minnesota. Be sure to use release methods that avoid internal damage caused by hooks, stress and being pulled from deep water.
With all of the things that go into make a successful day in the boat, perhaps the most important are a sense of adventure and patience. Watch what other anglers are doing, and don’t be afraid to ask questions about what is working for them. Most will be happy to share their advice, if not the location of their secret fishing hole.
Minnesota Fishing Facts
Do you have any fishing opener tips or tricks that we missed? Let us know in the comments down below!
Plan your fishing trip on Rainy Lake
Although most of Voyageurs National Park trails are maintained throughout the year, becoming snowshoe and cross-country ski attractions during the winter months, Spring is perhaps the best time for a hike through the forest. Delicate, lime-colored leaves are just beginning to appear, pairs of mating geese can be seen – and heard – over nearby lakes, and cool breezes keep temperatures mild.
All you need is a comfortable pair of shoes, drinking water and a map in order to immerse yourself in nature and witness the emergence of a new season. And, with a variety of trails to choose from, hikers can easily find one that suits their individual skill levels, from 20-minute jaunts to hours-long adventures.
Voyageurs is known for its acres of water (84,000) and miles (more than 600) of undeveloped shoreline. But that doesn’t mean you need a boat to explore and enjoy the park, which features close to a dozen land-accessible trails.
In addition to providing varying degrees of difficulty and lengths, park trails also provide the opportunity for people with disabilities to experience Voyageurs’ singular scenery.
Trails with Views
Make time in your trip to the Ask River Visitor Center to enjoy theses little-known gems:
Before you begin a journey on any of the park’s trails, be sure to pick up a map at one of the visitor centers.
Interested in hiking at Voyageurs National Park? Let us know in the comments below!
Rainy River access in International Falls, Pelland Junction, and Birchdale are all open.
Rainy River provides some of the earliest and best open water fishing in the upper midwest as walleye head upstream from Lake of the Woods. Walleye season on our border weaters remains open until April 14, and you might also pull in one of the huge sturgeon lurking in the river. The swifter waters below the dam at International Falls are almost always good for a few walleye and smallmouth bass. Kuttes Landing at Pelland Junction is just upstream from the confluence of the Little Fork River, which is another great hot spot. Nelson Park at Birchdale is just below the Long Sault Rapids where you can find concentrations of walleye and sturgeon.
Related: What Fishing On Rainy River is like.