If you’ve been following the chatter over in our Mille Lacs forum I’m sure you already know that fishing on Mille Lacs this year has been very very good.
This year marked the 24th year that my HS friends and I have been fishing “The Pond” for opener and while our preferred techniques have changed from lighted bobbers with minnows or leeches to Rapalas or plastics the one thing that stayed the same was that each year we always caught fish. However, to just say that we caught fish this year would be a massive understatement as it was perhaps the best opener I’ve experienced in nearly a quarter century of fishing my home body of water for opener.
As shared in a previous post in the Mille Lacs forum to help folks to get ready for opener here is a quick summary of approach to chasing early season walleyes – Mille Lacs Opener GamePlan:
My secret weapon for targeting shallow spring walleyes, especially in warmer water temps, is to troll Rapala SSR bent-lip shad raps in blue/silver or natural perch colors. I love using shad-profile baits! The SSRs allow me to troll them back from 100-130′ behind the boat — this is key as it allows us to keep it far enough behind the boat to avoid spooking fish while fishing in water as shallow as 3-5′. We will also be running more traditional shallow water trolling baits such as #10 and #12 Husky Jerks but I have a hunch that with warmer water temps the shad style baits are going to win out this year.
A couple key tricks that I’m hoping will help make our game-plan successful will be trolling in stealth mode using our Minn Kota Terrova. Trolling with the Terrova also allows me to have very precise speed control because sometimes even changing speeds up or down by 0.1 or 0.2 mph can make all the difference in the world. Then once we find an active school we can also use Spot-Lock to quickly anchor.
As it turns out the only thing that didn’t go as planned was the weather which left us with cold, windy conditions and water temps that had dropped back to the 49-50 degree range. Easily taking care of the cold conditions was my Striker Ice Predator suit which kept me warm and dry. As for the cooler water, the fish quickly let us know that they had a preference for the slower wobble of the Husky Jerks trolled at 1.4-1.6 mph with the new UV pink and green being the hot colors for the weekend.
Overall we boated 131 walleyes and dozens of smallmouth in between in only ~ 11 hours of trolling meaning that our catch rate for the weekend was an insane one fish every five minutes. In fact it was so good that the only way we were able to keep track of our totals was to actually use a counter. As hard as it is to believe over the past 2 weeks since opener the fishing may actually have gotten better with 40-50 evenings being the norm and tournament weights at the recent MTT using CPR (Catch, Photo, Release) format requiring over a 5 lb average weight just to crack the top of the leader board.
In spite of all the great reports the pressure has still been very low this year as compared to previous Springs. Not only are the walleyes biting like crazy, but the smallmouth, for which Mille Lacs is now has been rated as a top 10 national destination, are really beginning to feed as well. So if a successful trip for you is measured in the number of fish caught and smiles made, then I can’t think of a better place to spend a few days this summer than Mille Lacs. Just make sure to pick up plenty of bait and have enough room on your camera for pictures!
See you on the water!