The opener

What to expect on the water this weekend


May 10, 2024

The Minnesota fishing openeris Saturday and local Department of Natural Resources Fisheries staff have provided some advice on having a fun and successful opening day of fishing.

The web

The DNR has a fishing page to help answer angler questions. The page links to LakeFinder, which provides maps, special regulation information for individual lakes, other detailed information on lakes throughout the state, and the StreamFinder tool that provides a description, species list, regulations and access information for trout streams throughout Minnesota. The fishing page includes the online versions of the Minnesota fishing regulations booklet in various languages.

The regs

A regulations booklet is available in print anywhere DNR licenses are sold.

Protect waters by following state aquatic invasive species laws. Clean, drain, dispose and keep all plugs out while transporting boats. Find information on aquatic invasive species on the DNR website. Look for inspectors at boat landings.

Anglers can find fish consumption guidance on the Minnesota Department of Health website. Anglers should check for site-specific advice that pertains to the water they’re fishing. If eating fish from a variety of waters or a specific water isn’t listed, anglers should follow the statewide guidelines. The MDH website has both site-specific and statewide guidance on eating fish. Safety

Cold water is dangerous and unexpected falls can quickly turn tragic. About 30 percent of fatal boating accidents each year happen during the cold-water period, and many involve victims who weren’t wearing a life jacket. The most effective way to survive a fall into cold water is to wear a life jacket and make sure the jacket is buckled or zipped.


Angling opportunities on Lake Superior typically begin well before the walleye opener and with a warmer than usual winter anglers have been fishing the big lake for a few months already. Early spring boat anglers targeting nearshore lake trout and coho salmon near Duluth have done well trolling stickbaits near the surface.

Steelhead anglers will be swinging egg patterns or spawn sacs with the lower shore streams warming up first and progressing up the North Shore as the air and water temperatures increase.

Smelters using seine nets along Park Point in Duluth and dipnets in the tributaries should see decent smelting opportunities as water temperatures slowly increase to the magic 40-degree mark. Non-native smelt populations have declined substantially since the 1960s and 1970s with the resurgence of lake trout. Many more smelt become fish food instead of ending up n the buckets and coolers of anglers, but with lake trout back as the top native predator in Lake Superior the overall health and stability of the lake is much better.

Due to a large 2022 year-class of cisco (also known as tullibee or lake herring) the non-native salmon should be larger than usual for a typically preyfish-limited Lake Superior. As spring turns to summer the lake trout fishing is anticipated to be great again this year with DNR surveys showing near record-high abundance.

Anglers may notice more sea lamprey wounds on Lake Superior lake trout and salmon this year due to deferred treatments by U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service in 2020 due to the Covid-19 pandemic. Increased treatments the past few years should push back against higher than normal sea lamprey abundance.

To the river

The St. Louis River Estuary continues to provide exceptional fishing opportunities for walleye and other species such as muskellunge, smallmouth bass, black crappie and channel catfish. The 2018 walleye year-class is very strong, and these fish now exceed the 15-inch minimum size limit.

Walleye will spawn early this year, which may result in excellent post-spawn catches, but they may be more dispersed so consider targeting areas well downstream of spawning habitat.

For anglers without boats, the St. Louis River offers shore-fishing opportunities at Rice’s Point, BoyScout Landing, Perch Lake as well as several spots along the Waabizheshikana Trail, in west Duluth.

The popular Munger Landing boat launch has reopened to watercraft, vehicle and pedestrian traffic following the completion of extensive habitat remediation and restoration.

The St. Louis River, downstream of the Minnesota-Wisconsin border cable, is managed as a border water and has different regulations than other inland Minnesota waters.

Lastly, anglers should be aware that there is a seasonal fish sanctuary from the border cable downstream to Minnesota Highway 23, which does not allow for any angling until May 19.


There are plenty of lakes to check out in Carlton County, but it may be a bit too early for a consistent bite.

For better luck, if you choose to travel a bit farther, try the excellent angling opportunities among the reservoirs north of Duluth. Wild Rice and Boulder Reservoirs are shallow and warm quickly and may provide more consistent early season action than some other larger and deeper lakes. These water bodies offer ample year-classes of eater size walleye with some opportunities for trophy catches.

Anglers looking for fast action for smaller walleye may want to consider Island Lake Reservoir, which has an experimental fishing regulation that encourages the harvest of small, abundant walleye. The regulation is a 15 to 20 inch protected slot limit (all walleye from 15 to 20 inches must be released), bag limit of 10 with not more than one walleye over 20 inches in possession. The goal of the regulation is to improve the average size of walleye while also enabling the sustainable harvest of abundant small fish while protecting most large walleye from harvest.

Anglers looking for panfish should be aware that reduced bag limits designed to protect and improve quality sunfish and crappie opportunities have been implemented on six Duluth area water bodies including Fish, Elliot, Moosehead, Strand, Wild Rice and Whiteface.


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