Late spring could mean delayed spawn, active bite for anglers
Saturday is forecast to be wet and unseasonably cold when walleye, sauger and northern pike season opens on the rising St. Croix River.
In other words, the perfect weather for anglers to try their luck catching walleyes and other fish.
In fact, the big concern among many with the St. Croix River has been this week’s rise in the river level that approached the 83-foot mark that brings automatic no-wake rules on the river.
“We’re on the borderline of wake or no wake. We’re still watching that,” said Matt Wiseman of Matt’s Lucky Bait & Tackle in Lakeland.
But Joel Stiras, fisheries specialist with the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources, does not think the St. Croix River will reach the no-wake mark by Saturday.
“I was looking at the most recent forecast and it doesn’t look like it’s going to make it,” he said. “It looks like it’s not going to make (83 feet).”
The St. Croix River was at 82.24 feet at 6:15 a.m. today, according to the National Weather Service office in Chanhassen. That is less than one foot from the 83-foot no wake level. However, the NWS forecasts the St. Croix to reach 82.5 feet by Saturday before slowly receding.
And while many people are complaining about the cold spring, Stiras said anglers might find the cool conditions perfect for catching walleyes that have not moved into shallow water to spawn.
“They may have better luck this year with the late ice out,” he said. “Spawning is late this year. These fish might be more active. They might be more willing to bite.”
Stiras reminds anglers that six walleyes is the creel limit on Minnesota and Wisconsin border waters and there is a size restriction on walleyes.
“There is a 15-inch minimum size limit for walleye. There is no size limit for sauger,” he said.
Wiseman said anglers fishing the St. Croix River since ice out are catching some fish species currently in season.
“If you can get to crappies, they’re biting good. You just have to get to them,” he said.
But other fish, such as catfish, have been slow to bite, Wiseman added.
One problem anglers might experience is finding some live baits such as leeches, Wiseman said.
“We have a tough time getting leeches,” he noted.
Despite that problem, Wiseman is excited about his shop’s first St. Croix River fishing opener since he opened the store in April. He plans to remain open 24 hours today through Sunday to take advantage of the 12:01 a.m. Saturday walleye opener on the river.
And with a weekend forecast calling for showers, but a warmer day Sunday, Wiseman expects he will be busy selling bait and other supplies to anglers anxious to fish the St. Croix River for walleyes one week before walleye season opens on Minnesota lakes.
“If the weather holds out, it looks like a great weekend,” he said.