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Already thinking open-water fishing

Every year about mid-way through the ice-fishing season I start to have thoughts of open-water fishing. Ice fishing for the season certainly isn't over: In fact, some of the best ice action of the year is yet to come. I enjoy ice fishing a lot, but I just can't help thinking of open water fishing right now. Here are some of the things I'm thinking about.

This past open-water fishing season was one of my best ever for walleyes, eaters and big ones. One thing that has become apparent with walleyes is that progressive regulations, slot-limits in particular, can be instrumental in providing good fishing. I got to fish Leech Lake in north central Minnesota this past June. Three or four years ago, Leech was having serious problems with its walleye population. They got aggressive in managing this fantastic body of water and have returned it to its past magnificence. Actually, the walleye fishing is probably better in Leech now than it has been in most anglers' memories. Some folks don't like having to put those larger walleyes back, but if it weren't for the slot limits, we wouldn't be catching those big fish. I believe that these regulations will enable us to have good fishing in the future.

I'm constantly amazed at how GPS has changed the way people fish. The Humminbird sonar units that I use have built-in GPS. These units are easy to run, and they show you exactly where you are on the lake. They enable us to accurately re-trace our trolling passes and they help us mark fishing hotspots from past fishing trips. If you've got a friend that was on the water yesterday and you're going out today, you can perhaps convince him to share a waypoint or two that were good for him. GPS can help us catch more fish.

The older I get, the more I appreciate early mornings on the water. If you've ever experienced a sunrise on the lake on a clear, calm morning, you know what I mean. There's just something special about being on the water when the sun comes up on a nice day.

There's also something special about being on the water on a nice day in early spring. It doesn't need to be the first nice day: In fact, I would rather be out there on the third or fourth nice day when the shallows start to come alive. On warm spring days I really like to chase bass or crappies in the shallows. The bite can be good, and it feels so rejuvenating to be on the water in warm weather again.

Depending on where you live, there could be anywhere from a couple of weeks to a couple of months of cold weather left. That's fine with me. I'm looking forward to some outstanding ice fishing in February and March. I'm also looking forward to the warmer weather of May and June. People need to have something to look forward to. As anglers, we always have something to look forward to, and that's a good thing.

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