St. Croix River walleye
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St. Croix Walleye Opener 2014
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St. Croix River walleye

Article by
Charlie “Turk” Gierke

The author operates
Croixsippi Guide Service
He can be reached at fish@croixsippi.com
     
 

When the walleye fishing season opens on St. Croix River it is a cold-water fishery with surface water temps historically near 45 to 50 degrees. Catches are dominated by walleye, sauger, and white bass. As the season progresses and the water warms we'll see the smallmouth, muskie, panfish, drum, and cats become more active.

The walleye and sauger fishing season on this Minnesota and Wisconsin border water opens on the first Saturday closest to May 1. This year’s opener is April 28. Based on yearly calendar differences from year to year, the St. Croix can open two weeks earlier than the MN inland opener. Anglers can also use two lines per person or two lures or hooks on one line.

The St. Croix has two differing faces: the upper and lower. From the source near Solon Springs, WI to Stillwater, MN the river is secluded, scenic, and shallow with fast flowing water. There are deeper stretches in this upper area, but the river here has a year-long fast flow, as it is much narrower and shallower, depth averages 4 to 10 feet deep.

South of Stillwater, the river widens significantly and the water slows. The lower river becomes more urban, lake like, and deeper until it flows to the Mississippi at Prescott, WI. In this stretch the river has a soft basin averaging 40 to 50 feet deep.

During high water years the Upper St. Croix walleye fishing is good, as the walleyes stay in the upper reaches longer in the high water. The lower section is more consistent fishing each year with seemingly more stable baitfish populations.

Handle with Care Don’t forget your camera!

If you catch a large walleye, please consider releasing it. DNR regulations allow you to keep any walleye over 15 inches in length. Please remember that any walleye over 20 inches is a highly productive spawner. It's a good policy to allow these fish to survive to replenish the fishery.

A starting point for walleye on the upper stretch of the St. Croix River during the opener time frame is a hole or deep trough close to tributaries. When fishing holes you need to read the flow, if too fast the fish won’t use it and it will be too fast to fish properly. Normally connected to a fast flowing hole you can find a current break in the form of an eddy or back flow where the water will flow at a more moderate pace and often flow upstream. Vertical jigging ¼ jigs and fathead minnow on 6lb test line in these current break areas are very productive, for rod choice I suggest Limit Creek Fishing Rod Company's Model LCS69MLF.

It greatly helps the effectiveness of your presentation if you drift with the flow of these current breaks; the key is to see where the flow starts and ends. Once you reach the end of the flow (the end of the slower water), juice the gas motor and drift again.

Still focusing on the opener, in this upper stretch of the river, locating a long and deep trough area can be highly productive when the walleye are spread out. If the flow is moderate, the best way to target these troughs is to longline troll Shad Raps — either number #5 or #7 along the edge of the trough’s breakline. You can never go wrong with fire tiger or chartreuse colors here. For rod choice I suggest Limit Creek Fishing Rod Company's Model LCT86MHF.

If the flow is low or the river is dropping, troll the middle of the trough. Longline trolling cranks with 120+ feet behind the boat is a presentation that is dependent on low debris in the water because clearing your lines constantly from grass is a real chore.

The lower stretch of the Croix is fished the same way in terms of presentations for the opener, however instead of targeting tributaries, find neck down areas where the wide river narrows, these are now your “trough” areas. Holes are not found in the lower river.

I find night crawlers and Lindy rigs more effective than jig and minnow during the opener in the lower section.

Do not be surprised if you tangle with numerous white bass and saugers. Both species offer good pole bending and are fine eating when caught from the cold water. Remove their lateral line and any darker meat.

Do you want to get a jump on the season, experience a bit of adventure with the cold flowing tea-colored river water, and have a chance to land some nice walleyes? Give the St. Croix River a try!

Keep Catchin’!

 
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