Lake of the Woods/Rainy River

Walleye season now is closed until May 11, the Minnesota Fishing Opener. In the meantime, anglers have turned their attention to northern pike and sturgeon.

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Conditions on the Rainy River are improving after the Little Fork River, a major tributary, opened last week, unleashing a barrage of ice and debris into the river. The Big Fork River opened earlier this week but debris levels apparently weren't as bad.

The Rainy River is open all the way to the lake, but the water remains murky, Sportsman's Lodge near Baudette, Minn., reported Thursday. Despite the conditions, sturgeon fishing has been pretty good both in the river and Four-Mile Bay of Lake of the Woods. Anglers are anchoring up and dunking globs of nightcrawlers into deeper holes and along edges of the river channel. A few fish in excess of 5 feet long have been reported.

Sturgeon fishing is catch-and-release only through April 23, with a limited harvested season beginning April 24 and continuing through May 7. Anglers planning to keep a sturgeon should check the Minnesota Fishing Regulations book, available at licensing outlets or online at www.mdnr.gov, for information on length restrictions and license requirements.

Pike season is continuous on Lake of the Woods, and fish now are staging for the spawn, Lake of the Woods Tourism reported Monday in its weekly update. Shallow back bays of the lake will open soon, and fishing a dead bait on the bottom or casting and slowly retrieving a spinnerbait, spoon or crankbait are go-to techniques.

Devils Lake

Ice fishing is all but done, but coulees and ditches that flow into Devils Lake are opening, and anglers fishing from shore have reported catching northern pike. Look for walleyes to begin moving into the coulees, as well, as water temperatures warm. Always a popular springtime activity, shoreline fishing along the coulees likely will hit high gear this weekend.

Bemidji Area

Fishing season is closed for everything but panfish and rough fish, but spring is a good time to go for a drive and check out the lakes, according to Paul Nelson of Bemidji Area Lakes Guide Service. Walleyes and northern pike will begin spawning up the rivers and streams connected to the lakes before all of the ice is off.

Farther north, there are ditches connected to Upper and Lower Red lakes that can run for miles along the roads, Nelson says. Some homeowners with deeper sections of ditches near their homes can have pike or other species spawning in their ditches, even if they are miles away from the nearest lake.

You never know what you will see in the streams in the spring, Nelson says. Other than walleyes, there may be suckers, redhorse, northern pike and many other species in the streams.

-- Herald staff report