RAINY LAKE: RATED BEST SUNSET
If you're looking for a family vacation or an endless supply of fishing holes--we have you covered. In the heart of Voyageurs National Park, the Rainy Lake area offers houseboat vacations, family resorts on the beach, and quick lodging stops if you're just passing through.
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As the monochromatic landscape of snow and ice begins to transform into color with delicate tree buds and determined flowers, Northern Minnesota welcomes back its feathered residents. Spring is a prime time for viewing – and hearing – the state’s large variety of birds, from waterfowl to raptors. Whether you are a seasoned birder, or curious naturalist, spring on Rainy Lake hums with possibility, as dozens of species of migratory birds return to nest and raise their young. The following is month-by-month guide to the season’s variety of spectacular color and song.
March: While snowstorms are still likely, Northern Minnesota also experiences melting during this time. As pussywillows begin to open and hepatica blooms, butterflies emerge from hibernation. Waterfowl, including swans, begin returning. Canada geese are common, and it’s possible to see a Ross’s goose within flocks of snow geese. American kestrels appear, as do Eastern bluebirds, American robins, killdeer, great blue herons, red-winged blackbirds, tree swallows, American woodcock, and common grackles.
During this time, bald eagles follow the progress of melting lakes. And, because their population has grown over the years, there are now unparalleled opportunities to see the majestic birds on Rainy Lake throughout nesting periods and while raising their young.
Another returning resident during this time is the wood duck. Males are covered in iridescent chestnut and green feathers with accents of purple, blue and red, as well as striking black and white patterns. A distinctive ornate crest flips off the back of their heads, and their eyes are ringed in bright red.
April: As trees begin to fill with leaves, migrants and nesting birds make their return, filling the forests with a riot of color. Some of the most anticipated sightings are the spectacularly hued warblers, which include yellow-rumped, common yellowthroat, Tennessee, yellow, American redstart, palm, orange-crowned, black-and-white, Nashville and chestnut-sided.
Adding to the kaleidoscope of color during this time is the Scarlet Tanager, a famously gorgeous bird with a blood-red body set off by jet-black wings and tail. When trying to spot the elusive bird, listen for its unique chick-burr call it makes. Also visible now is the Northern Cardinal, rare worldwide, but thriving in Northern Minnesota. The male’s song can be heard throughout the spring as a cheer, cheer, cheer or birdie, birdie, birdie. Their rich, red-hued bodies are set off by a crest on their heads and black on their faces.
May: The color continues as the season progresses, with the inclusion of ruby-throated hummingbirds, red-eyed vireo, northern parula, rose-breasted grosbeaks and Baltimore orioles. Bright orange with black and white on head and back, the Oriole winters in Central America, but is a common Minnesota favorite.
In April and May, Minnesota’s most iconic bird, the common loon, returns to Rainy Lake to nest and raise their young. Minnesota has more common loons than any other state except Alaska, and their distinctive, haunting calls can be heard across the lake throughout the spring and summer.
Whether you’re hoping to add to your sighting list, or are content simply seeing a variety of color, the area around Rainy Lake during the spring is a bounty of bird-viewing opportunities.
What is your favorite Rainy Lake birding memory? Let us know in the comments down below!
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 road 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 DRN 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 you 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