Ice out on Mille Lacs expected for opening fishing weekend 

Joel Stottrup / Union-Eagle Jeremiah Hanson tries out his boat in Green Lake last week as he prepared for this weekend’s walleye fishing opener.
Joel Stottrup / Union-Eagle
Jeremiah Hanson tries out his boat in Green Lake last week as he prepared for this weekend’s walleye fishing opener.


The water may be cold, but anglers heading for Mille Lacs Lake should expect to find much better conditions during this Saturday’s walleye season opener over last year’s, said Aitkin Area Fisheries Supervisor Rick Bruesewitz.

When the May 11 opener arrived last year, the ice was still on Mille Lacs Lake and it didn’t leave until five days later, Bruesewitz said. That makes this opener “absolutely better,” he said by phone this week.

Bruesewitz also noted some changes in the fishing regulations for northern pike and bass. The daily bag limit for northerns has been upped to 10 now, and the bass season, which has always opened later, will open concurrently with the walleye opener this year, Bruesewitz noted. The bag limit for bass will be six daily and not more than one small mouth bass over 18 inches.

Bruesewitz pointed out that resort owners around Mille Lacs Lake had a rough time in the past 12 months. First the ice was still on the lake during last year’s opener, and then the ice formed very late there this past winter, he explained. Ice was poor quality when it did form, slushy and difficult to get around on, he said.

Bruesewitz predicted that the walleye, for the most part, will be done spawning by this Saturday, meaning they will be in shallower water.

Closer to Princeton at Green Lake, located halfway between Princeton and Cambridge, there should be walleye to catch because the DNR stocks the lake with walleye fingerlings, said Deb Sewell, assistant area fisheries manager at the Hinckley office, which covers the counties of Pine, Isanti, Chisago and Kanabec.

Tom Murray, owner and operator of Backwoods Sports, located along Highway 95 about a mile east of the entrance road to the north public access on Green Lake, said he couldn’t predict but said the colder water should make fishing slower this weekend. The fishing for crappies, walleye, perch and northerns was good this winter on Green, and some people did well on Blue Lake, Murray said.

Jeremiah Hanson was seen last week launching his boat onto Green Lake to test it.

“I go to Mille Lacs,” he said of his choice of lake for the fishing opener. “I think it’s a good lake no matter what they do to it. It’s definitely got problems.”

Mike Haehn, proprietor at ACE Hardware in Princeton, which sells fishing supplies and minnows, said last week that he is a little concerned how the cold water will be for opening fishing weekend. Isaac Jenson, the store manager, said he thinks the best fishing will be either closer to shore or near an island on most lakes this weekend.

Both Haehn and Bruesewitz said that the fish are hungrier after they have completed spawning.

Nick Kraemer, with Ken’s Bait Service out of Chaska, was asked about the fishing outlook as he was bringing bait minnows to ACE Hardware in Princeton last week.

“The fishing opener should probably be good,” he said. “They’re starting to spawn right now.”

Tony Zens, part owner of Prince Bait & Marine, 5 miles north of Milaca, wasn’t so sure how good the walleye fishing will be on Mille Lacs Lake, Zens also worrying that the water may be too cold.

“A lot of times it is slower when it is this cold,” he said, referring to the temperature of the water affected by this year’s slow spring warm up.

Zens added that live bait may be in less supply because of more difficulty in harvesting minnows and leeches this spring due to the colder weather.

Businesses that rely on fishing depend on the weather just like farmers, and “there’s not much else we can do,” Zens said.