What To Do Right Now To Prep For Open Water

By Dan Amundson

Well another hardwater season has come and gone, and anglers are turning their eyes towards open water. We find ourselves in the awkward transition period right now, where the ice isn’t safe enough to venture out on but still too thick to dump in a boat. 

We’re fortunate to live in a region with an abundance of outdoor opportunities every season, yet many people find themselves in a rut wondering what to do while anticipating the upcoming soft water fishing season. While it’s hard to be patient, there’s plenty to be done right now while we wait for our favorite lakes to open up. 

Organize Your Tackle

If you’re anything like me, you start the season with your jigs sorted by size, crankbaits by depth range and plastics based on color. By the third outing of the year, you’ll have switched tackle 23455347 times and not take time to put everything back the way you found it. By the end of the season, your tackle trays look like a scene from Twister. 

Hopefully you’re more responsible than me and keep your things in order. If not, now is a great time to get organized again. One of my favorite things to do this time of year is to put a good fishing show on TV and sit down with all my tackle and get everything back in its proper place. There’s no right or wrong way to set up your tackle. Sort it however works best for you. 

Getting everything organized will make your first outings more pleasant when you go to tie on your first jig, because you’ll know exactly where it is. But that’s not the only benefit. It also gives you an idea of what you need to replace and replenish. 

Stock Up On Gear

We all know about the supply chain struggles riddling the world right now, and the fishing industry is no exception. Finding your favorite crawler harness can be tricky come July. While your bank account might not favor it, now is the time to bulk up on tackle. Buy as much as you can right now to avoid running out of the hot color later on when store shelves are picked over.

The same goes for other gear like rods, reels and electronics. Many stores have spring sales, and you can find some killer deals. Don’t risk the product you need going out of stock. 

Maybe hide your Scheels receipt from your significant other though…

Give Your Boat A Checkup

Taking a few hours to go through your boat can save you from a massive headache at the ramp this spring. Simple tasks such as charging or replacing batteries are basic but crucial. Fire up your motor in the yard before you head out too. You don’t want to be on the ramp just hoping it’ll start, because when it doesn’t, there will likely be a lot of impatient folks waiting to launch while you hold up the line. Don’t be that guy.

Boat motors have unavoidable problems, and at some point in your life you’ll be struggling too. It happens. If someone in front of you is having trouble, give them a hand instead of growing impatient and heckling them.  

Be sure to check and replace your lower unit oil. Make sure it isn’t murky from water leaking in, and check for metal shavings. If either appears, contact your outboard technician, or take the necessary steps if you’re mechanically inclined. YouTube is your best friend when it comes to outboard repairs.

Get your boat properly licensed for the upcoming season. License centers and the DNR have experienced increased processing times for registration renewals, so don’t wait. 

Giving your outboard a little love right now ensures it has the juice to get you to those hard-to-reach spots

Give Your Trailer A Checkup

Often neglected, your trailer can cause just as many, if not more headaches than your boat. Check your lights right now, and you’ll avoid a 9pm rewiring session before your first weekend getaway up north. 

Give your tires a once-over. Ensure they’re properly inflated and have adequate tread. Check your bearings as well. It’s much easier to replace those in the comforts of your garage instead of on the shoulder of I-35. Trust me. 

Having working lights on both your trailer and boat is a necessity for safety

Go Fishing

While 99% of our region’s lakes and rivers are still covered with ice, there’s a few places you can go and wet a line right now. Stretches of the Mississippi River are ice-free all year, and walleye season never closes. There’s also some absolute giants in those waters.

The author with an early spring Mississippi River walleye

The Rainy River will be fishable soon. Connected to Lake of the Woods, the Walleye Capital of the World, the Rainy River is a must-fish destination for all anglers. Huge walleyes and sturgeon come topside every year. Walleye season is open until April 14th up there. 

If the Minnesota walleye state record is ever broken, I whole-heartedly believe it will happen on one of these bodies of water. 

There’s a lot to be done while we wait for the fishing opener. Taking a day or two right now for some chores will save you a few headaches this spring and make your first day on the water more enjoyable.

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