For northern Minnesota anglers planning to head out on the lake next weekend to take part in the 2020 walleye opener, sticking close to home under the stay-at-home rules in place isn’t the end of the world considering we have some of the top fishing destinations in the state right in our backyards.

And even if you can’t make it to one of the bigger, more popular destinations like Vermilion or Winnibigoshish, that doesn’t mean another opportunity isn’t just around the corner – or up the road.

Find a lake in Minnesota – any lake – or stream or river for that matter and drop a line. You are bound to find some action.

Fishing seasons are open all year for some species like bluegill, and seasons open on Saturday, May 9, for walleye, northern pike, bass, and trout in lakes. Trout season in streams is open. Find more information about fishing on the DNR website at mndnr.gov/fishing.

This week the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources put out a question and answer story featuring Ray Ruiz, an angler who loves to catch fish on the Mississippi River and is the fishing and hunting skills liaison for the agency.

He offered his take on several subjects including where to fish in the COVID-19 era, how to fish and more.

The following is from that story.

•Question: You’ve helped lots of people learn to fish. What’s the most helpful advice you have for beginners?

Ruiz: The most important thing when it comes to fishing is to keep it simple and have fun. The biggest mistake I see beginner anglers, as well as seasoned anglers, make is their misconception that they have to go “Up North” to catch quality fish. Metro area rivers and lakes have a tremendous amount of opportunity to catch a wide variety of fish.

•Question: As part of Minnesota’s COVID-19 response, anglers should fish close to home rather than traveling long distances to go fish. What tips do you have for them?

Ruiz: I often get asked. “Ray, what is the best lake to fish?” I reply, “What is the closest lake to you? That is the best lake.” The reason being is that it’s in close proximity to your home and you can get to it quickly. Fishing close to home allows you more time with your line in the water and that time leads to learning, which leads to catching more fish. Not to mention, you are familiar with the area and have ready access to that particular body of water.

•Question: Many Minnesotans live in cities or towns located along or near rivers or streams. What advice do you have for people fishing in moving water?

Ruiz: First and foremost, you have to pay attention to water fluctuation. High water can be dangerous, so safety should always be a priority. High water also creates fast current. This current is hard to fish because it drags your bait out of position. When fishing heavy or fast current, use a moving bait. This will allow you to catch active fish. Also remember that high water gives the fish a lot more real estate to work with. The fish will be scattered and harder to find. This is why moving baits are critical when fishing high water levels. High water means “dirty,” or turbid, water. Use a noisy and flashy bait to get the attention of the fish.

•Question: Bass can be exciting and you’ve been known to relish a good day of fishing for smallmouth bass. Any tips for the earlier stretches of the season when water is cold?

Ruiz: I love bass fishing. In my opinion, it is some of the most exciting fishing you will ever do in your life. With that said, when fishing early in the spring, remember that the water is still cold and fish are not as active as they normally are during the summer or fall. You also have to take into consideration that all the bait fish and crustaceans that bass feed on are small during the early season, so you need to “match the hatch.” That means that you need to use small crank baits and soft plastic baits that imitate bait fish and crustaceans.

•Question: What tips do you have for how to get out fishing and also avoid crowds?

Ruiz: I highly recommend fishing early in the morning. This will help you avoid both traffic and crowds. The morning bite is some of the best fishing because fish are very active in low light conditions, especially in the morning before the sun comes up. If you have the means, fishing in a boat, kayak or canoe will help to avoid crowds too. If you do plan on fishing from the shore or a dock, I suggest doing some research to find spots where you can fish while practicing social distancing.

•Question: What other information does the DNR have for people who want to learn to fish?

Ruiz: We’ve been updating our “Learn to Fish” DNR webpage to make it more user-friendly for those who want to learn how to fish. The goal is to provide Minnesotans with accurate and practical fishing information that they can use to go out on and enjoy the lakes, rivers and natural resources that Minnesota has to offer.

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