For Clear Lake’s Most Popular Game Fish – the Bite is On

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CLEAR LAKE – One of my annual outdoor goals is to hook a walleye on the very first cast of the spring fishing season. Although I’ve never been successful at achieving the dream, I came pretty close this year.

I didn’t begin fishing until last week, and the walleye spawn was approaching its peak as I waded into the chilly waters of Clear Lake. The sky was overcast and the shoreline was littered with rock — prime conditions for shallow water, early season spawners.

Other anglers were already on the scene, including my son Matt. Wading in that direction I was pleased to discover that, in less than 15 minutes of fishing, he had already taken two legal walleye and had just released a sub-legal, 13-incher.

Hooking a lively fathead minnow unto a 1/16 ounce jig head, I made the season’s first cast. Nothing. Second cast, ditto. Third cast, same result. On the fourth cast I felt a hard rap just as the bait hit bottom. The pull felt good and, within seconds, the season’s first walleye — a not quite legal 13 ½-incher — was firmly in hand.

Returning the fish to the water, I quickly resumed the quest. Three casts later, the rod bent again. This time the fish measured 15 inches. Hungry for a meal of fresh fish, I lost no time in stringing the walleye up.

Almost immediately, Matt hooked another keeper walleye. A minute later, the guy standing to the right of me [we hadn’t had time for proper introductions yet] tied into a very nice 19-incher. While distracted by the activity surrounding me, I had another hit but missed the fish. A half dozen casts later, I hooked and landed another 15-incher.

People were getting off work now and the angling crowd was growing rapidly. Everyone was catching fish. I could tell it was going to a rough night for the walleyes.

“Although the open water season is just beginning, it’s already been a good year at Clear Lake,” says DNR District Fisheries Biologist, Scott Grummer. “It was a late spring, and as soon as the ice was out anglers began catching fish. From ice out until present, angler success on walleye has been excellent.”

The scenario is pretty much typical for this time of the year at Clear Lake. Fish are concentrated into shallow rocky habitats with male walleye [bucks] comprising the lion’s share of the harvest. Although artificial baits will produce fish, most anglers are currently sticking to the fail safe, no frills jig & minnow combo.

“Although there have been some bigger fish taken, most of the walleyes being caught are in the 14-inch to 18-inch class, which is very typical during the spawn,” says Grummer. “Once the spawn is over and fish disperse to other habitats, we’ll start to see some of the larger females come into the bag.”

With a harvest of 11,000 legal walleyes, the 2007 open water fishing season was “above average” for Clear Lake. Biologists say anglers can expect more of the same during 2008.

“Right now, Clear Lake has very good populations of ‘keeper’ walleyes from multiple year classes. There is another strong year class of sublegal fish that should hit fourteen inches sometime toward the end of this year’s growing season. We’re predicting another very good summer of walleye fishing at Clear Lake,” said Grummer.
 – by Lowell Washburn –