WACONIA, Minn. (WCCO) — When your job is keeping tabs on the state’s walleye population you go to work when the walleye do. And an early ice out for most Minnesota lakes means the fish are laying eggs a full month ahead of normal.
Standing in his chest waders along a rocky shoreline, DNR Central Region Fisheries Manager Brad Parsons said, “They’ll head to deeper water and right into the pot.”
Parsons and his area fisheries crews are checking trap nets in Lake Waconia, site of this year’s Minnesota Governor’s Fishing Opener on May 12.
The test netting is effective on hundreds of Minnesota lakes this time of year because as water temperatures warm immediately following ice-out, walleye come into shallow, rocky shorelines to spawn.
“It tells us the health of the adult population — it tells us there are big fish out here,” Parsons said.
That’s what the Governor and his party want to hear, a healthy population of adult fish will almost certainly guarantee success on opening weekend.
As the test nets are pulled into the DNR work boat, Assistant Area Fisheries Supervisor Taylor Polomis yells out, “26 inches, that’s a very big male.”
Crews will determine the sex, length and weight of each spawning walleye they find in the test nets. That information is quickly recorded in a computerized database, which is later used to determine how much stocking might be needed to keep an individual lake healthy.
“Ice-out netting is meant for the big fish, the trophy fish or spawning stock,” Parsons said.
Ice-out test netting is done on hundreds of Minnesota lakes, but it’s of particular interest here, the site of this year’s fishing opener.
“I’ve been a fishing guide for 12 years,” professional fishing guide Travis Frank said.
He fishes Lake Waconia a lot and says the netting is key to maintaining a healthy fishery and keeping his customers happy.
“This lake is 100 percent stocked and they don’t do very well producing on their own. So if we don’t have the DNR out here doing what they’re doing, we don’t have walleye in this lake,” he said.