Game on, anglers; it’s time to hit the open water!
The Minnesota and Wisconsin fishing opener is a treasured time for friends and families to get together over one thing: fishing. After a long and cold Midwest winter, Minnesota and Wisconsin residents are eager for an early ice-out on the northern lakes and a warmer opening weekend.
Celebrated annually since 1948, Minnesota’s fishing opener is nothing short of a big deal across the land of 10,000 lakes. Each year in May, on the Saturday that falls two weeks before Memorial Day, half-a-million Minnesotans venture out to the lakes, rivers, and streams in hopes of having a successful start to their open water fishing season.
For many, the Minnesota fishing opener is viewed specifically as walleye opener. Nick Linder, Striker pro staffer and outdoor media personality, is one of those Minnesotans that will be after the walleye come May 13th.
Linder says, “I’ll be chasing walleyes on Mille Lacs Lake this year during the MN Fishing opener. I think it's fair to assume water temperatures will be quite cold in most parts of the state. That means I'll primarily be fan-casting jigs tipped with shiners across shallow flats, adjacent to key spawning areas.”
The use of electronics is also important during the spring season, because the walleyes will be spread out. Linder explains, “You don't want to waste time fishing dead water. Side-scanning sonar and forward-facing sonar can help you eliminate fruitless water in a hurry.”
In the Midwest, we know just how unpredictable the weather can be. Opening weekend is no different. Linder says, “I'll pack a rain suit even if the weather doesn't call for any precipitation. The Adrenaline Rain Suit is my go-to for most conditions, but if temperatures are looking frigid cold on opener, I'll bring my Denali Insulated Rain Suit instead.” Linder continues, “In a perfect world, the rain doesn't rear its ugly head and I'll wear a comfortable softshell like the Renegade Pullover, paired with Striker's new fingerless Wool Gloves.”
2023 MN Fishing Opener Dates:
|Walleye, Sauger | May 13|
|Northern Pike | May 13|
|Lake Trout | May 13|
|Largemouth & Smallmouth Bass (catch and release) | May 13|
Largemouth & Smallmouth Bass | May 27
|Musky | June 3|
|Catfish | Channel: continuous, Flathead: April 1|
Minnesota offers two free fishing weekends throughout the open water season. Since fishing opener falls over Mother’s Day weekend, Minnesota wanted to ensure moms were celebrated the right way. May 13-14 is Take A Mom Fishing Weekend, where Minnesota resident moms may fish without a license.
The second free fishing weekend in Minnesota is Take A Kid Fishing Weekend, June 9-11. This weekend allows for Minnesota residents ages 16 and older to fish without a license if they are with children younger than 16.
Purchase your MN fishing license here.
Just across the St. Croix and Mississippi River, the Wisconsinites are preparing for an even sooner start to the open water season.
Traditionally falling on the first Saturday of May, Wisconsin will officially begin the 2023 open water fishing season on Saturday, May 6th. Tyler and Sara Trampe, hosts of Sportsman’s Journal TV, can’t wait to get in the boat this Saturday. Tyler expresses, “For Wisconsinites who enjoy the outdoors, only opening deer season shares more family traditions than the opening weekend of fishing in the Dairy State. Sara and I typically like to make the 4-hour drive from Southern WI to the famous waters of The WI Northwoods!”
Northern Wisconsin is full of small natural lakes, ranging in size from 300 to 800 acres. As Tyler would say, “These lakes are loaded with the perfect eater walleyes!”
With average water temperatures in the low 40s, walleyes will be fresh off the spawn and looking to heavily feed.
Tyler explains, “Sara and I lean towards clear water lakes because opening day weather is typically crummy. Crummy weather means cloudy and windy, which is an ideal weather pattern for clear glacier lakes, where hungry, roaming walleyes will be using a shallower structure. On most of these lakes, the cold-water periods are the only timeframe where large numbers of fish will be found on or near shallow habitats.”
Walleye seems to be the go-to species when it comes to fishing opener, but there are a few other angler favorites. Tyler says, “A few years ago, WI opened up a year-round catch and release season for largemouth and smallmouth bass, so we start fishing for bass right after the ice is gone now.”
Besides walleye, the Trampe’s also enjoy catching spring crappies. Tyler explains, “When we fish for slab crappies, we are searching out shallower, warm water close to their spawning grounds.”
Trout fishing is also a fan favorite, with Wisconsin holding over 13,000 miles of Trout streams throughout the state. You could say Striker Pro Staff, Kimber Schultz, is a trout fishing enthusiast.
For Kimber, opening weekend in Wisconsin is nothing special. “I typically forget it is opening weekend, because I fish a lot of bodies of water with special regulations year-round,” says Kimber, who will be spending her opening weekend wet wading trout on the fly rod. Located in the greater Milwaukee area, Kimber will be trying out some different areas this year. “I love exploring new areas to fish trout, specifically new streams in the driftless area,” says Kimber.
You can always count on two things for the opener in WI: fast changing conditions and poor weather. Tyler says, “I always have my Insulated Denali Suit packed for the first line of defense and Sara is packing her lady Prism Bibs with a Renegade Jacket. Both of our Adrenaline Rain Suits will be packed in the rig to maintain comfort if the sun decides to shine. The fingerless Wool Gloves are also a must for opener for dexterity in cold weather situations like these.”
2023 WI Fishing Opener Dates:
|General Inland Trout | May 6|
|Largemouth Bass Northern Zone | May 6|
|Largemouth & Smallmouth Bass Southern Zone | May 6|
|Musky Southern Zone | May 6|
|Northern Pike | May 6|
|Walleye | May 6|
|Musky Northern Zone | May 27|
|Smallmouth Bass Northern Zone | June 17|
|Lake Sturgeon | September 2|
Not sure what zone you’re in? Check it out here on the DNR website.
Wisconsin offers one free fishing weekend throughout the open water season. June 3-4 you can plan to hit the water with family and friends at no cost.
Still have questions about the WI fishing opener? Check out the WI DNR website.
Purchase your WI fishing license here.