Start of open-water fishing season fast-approaching

Bob Jensen, Fishing the Midwest
Special to the Ames Tribune

The opening day of the 2021 open-water fishing season is fast approaching. In fact, for some anglers, it’s already here.

The opener is a day that many anglers look forward to as much as other people eagerly anticipate Christmas, birthdays and a number of other holidays or special days.

Opening day has changed in some ways through the years. Iowa used to have an opener for walleyes, but now walleye season is open year-round except for the northwest corner of the state. Some states have an opener for walleyes, another for muskies and another for bass.

The walleye opener appeals to many anglers, the other opening days are looked forward to by different anglers just as much. In fact, the bass opener is growing in popularity in many areas. People who fish are just excited to get back out in pursuit of their favorite fish or just a fish.

I’ve had the opportunity to participate in lots of openers. Fishing early in the season can have its fish-catching challenges. By keeping an open mind, we can often overcome those challenges and gather a nice catch of fish.

My first memory of changing gears due to opening day fishing conditions took place in the early 1970s. I grew up near Clear Lake in north-central Iowa. At the time, Clear Lake had a season for walleye fishing.

My dad and I were looking forward to the opener, especially since we had a new boat. It was a 16-foot johnboat that was powered by an 18-horsepower tiller motor. Dad had installed flooring and marine carpet, two swivel seats and even an electric motor on the bow. At the time, that was about as good as it got.

We pulled into the parking lot for the boat ramp at Clear Lake on opening day as the sun was coming up. All the parking lots near the boat landings were overflowing, and the lines to get the boat in the water were long. We finally got the boat wet and headed to Dad’s favorite early season spot.

We learned that this was a favorite early season spot for many anglers. There was no room for another boat, so we went to another spot … and another spot. There was no room to fish anywhere. We were getting frustrated. We’d been looking forward to the opener ever since our last open-water fishing trip. Finally, Dad said, “Reel in. I’ve got a plan.”

We headed to the boat ramp and put the boat on the trailer. So far, I wasn’t liking this plan very much. Then I learned that we were going to go to a river that was about an hour away. This river had a good population of walleyes, and Dad thought there would be plenty of room on the best locations.

We arrived at the boat ramp. There was one other truck and trailer in the parking lot and no line at the ramp. We put the boat in the water and headed to an area where a small creek entered the slightly larger river. The electric motor was put into action and we started casting our jig/minnow combinations.

Not long after the casting started, the catching began. The action wasn’t fast, but it was consistent. Certainly, it was much better than it would have been at the lake and also much more relaxed. We caught mostly smaller male walleyes and a few smallmouth bass. Despite a frustrating start, the day ended very well.

Regardless of whether we’re participating in the walleye opener, the bass opener, the musky opener, the whatever opener, there are things that you can do to be more successful, and it doesn’t necessarily mean that you need to make a major change like my Dad and I did on that opener several decades ago. Keep your options open and you’ll increase your chances for opening day fishing success.

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