Looking Ahead to the 2022 MN Fishing Opener on Lake of the Woods

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 May 1st, 2022 by Keith Worrall 

Modified May 1st, 2022 at 11:10 AM

For some, it’s almost like a holiday. The Minnesota fishing opener is fast approaching and this tradition is one many look very forward to. Lake of the Woods resorts and hotels are open, prepared and looking forward to welcoming anglers for the 2022 MN Fishing Opener.

As happens quite often in the north country, people are asking, “when is spring arriving?” It has been a cold spring and ice still remains on the lake. We have had a lot of rain which has greatly increased current and water output of the Rainy River through Lake of the Woods. This increased flow, combined with the rain, wind and sun and most are confident the ice, or vast majority of it, will be in the form of soft water come the opener.

The Rainy River, bays, current areas up at the NW Angle and much of the south shore adjacent to the Rainy River and Bostic Creek are open. This open water will spread and when things happen, they happen quickly.

There are a few observations pointing to an epic MN Fishing Opener on Lake of the Woods and the Rainy River on Saturday, May 14th. First off, in past years when there has been a late ice out, anglers have done extremely well catching good numbers of nice walleyes. Second, during the spring walleye season, walleye anglers who caught windows of stable weather did excellent. Third, walleyes for the most part have been left alone since mid March. Finally, the walleyes will have just spawned and that means they will be hungry.

Some anglers will focus on the Rainy River. With a colder spring, walleyes will still be in the river. We also know there are walleyes from sturgeon anglers who are catching them unintentionally. Anglers who have fished the river understand they need to go a bit heavier with their jigs as there is current in the river.

Others will target the main basin. Big schools of walleyes will be staged at various spots off of the south shore. Some anglers will catch them shallow along Pine Island. Others will be in front of Morris Point, Zippel Bay, Long Point and Rocky Point. Wherever you like to fish out of, the fish should be there and have not seen a lure in some time.

Don’t be afraid to slide up into shallow water as many years, that can be the ticket. Also don’t be afraid to slowly troll crankbaits. This is a great way to find fish and on some days, despite the cold water, actually out fishes the anglers using jigs.

As far as presentations for the 2022 MN fishing opener, most will be using a jig and a minnow or frozen emerald shiner. Some go to colors are gold, glow, pink, orange and chartreuse, or a combination of them. When hooking your minnow, if you are missing fish, try putting the hook of your jig through the mouth and out the gill of the minnow. Then slide the minnow all the way up to the jig head and place the point of the hook half way back on the minnow. With the stained waters of the Rainy River and Lake of the Woods, walleyes don’t seem to mind. Some make it simple and use a stinger hook.

The NW Angle is actually also poised for a great opener. Ice fishing up there this year was excellent. The fish are there and for those who want to get an early start by fishing the northernmost point of the contiguous U.S., it will be good fishing. Target shoreline structure such as points, neck down areas between islands and transition areas along shore. There are good numbers of fish, an angler simply has to hit a few spots to see what the pattern is.

For some, the MN Fishing Opener is tradition. For some, it’s a holiday. Whatever it means to you, the “opener” is a celebration of fishing for everyone who appreciates fishing in MN. The season on Lake of the Woods is an extended season, so we only had to be not fishing walleyes since April 14th. This year due to COVID -19 this year, many anglers never had the chance to fish the river. That almost makes this opening day even more of a holiday.

For some anglers, pike will enter the conversation. Up at Lake of the Woods, the pike season is open all year long and the limits stay the same. You can keep three pike per day, must release everything between 30 – 40 inches and may keep one fish over 40″. The possession limit is three, the same as the daily limit.

Lake of the Woods is managed as a trophy pike fishery by the MN DNR. This was quite evident many big pike over 40 inches have already been caught through the ice this spring. As bays have just opened in most cases, we believe many will be targeting pike in the shallows into the opener. A 40″ pike is considered a trophy in most circles.

Sturgeon are going strong. The catch and release season is on through May 15th. The season then closes until July 1st. On July 1, it opens again through September 30 and is the “keep” season meaning you are allowed to harvest one for the calendar year from 45-50″ or over 75″. Remember to purchase a sturgeon tag prior to going sturgeon fishing if your intent is to keep one.

The 2022 MN Fishing opener is almost here. For many, it is like a holiday. It is the start of something very special in the state of Minnesota.

There is lodging available if you still want to experience an opener tradition on Lake of the Woods. Good luck to all anglers wherever you might fish. Take in a deep breath, relax and enjoy, walleye season is almost upon us!


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