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For walleyes, Leech again the lure

WALKER - A Ziploc bag of perch fillets.
/ Source: The Brainerd Daily Dispatch

WALKER - A Ziploc bag of perch fillets.WALKER - A Ziploc bag of perch fillets.

That's what a guided fishing outing of about 10 anglers produced on Leech Lake on a summer day in 2005.

Walleye fishing was slowly dying on Leech, the guide warned before the outing. The lake was stocked with walleyes earlier that year, but it would be years before those stocked fish would make an impact.

Three years, it seems.

The once highly regarded walleye fishery was all but dried up in 2005. But with three years of extensive stocking by the DNR, the thinning of flocks of walleye-devouring cormorants and a move from a daily limit of six walleyes to four, Leech is on the rebound.

"That's what we're hearing," said Ron Payer, DNR fisheries section chief. "We've heard some good fishing reports."

The DNR isn't alone.

"It's really been revived," said Jeff Kemp of the fishing department at Reed's Sporting Goods in Walker. "It's a combination of not a lot of people fishing up here for a number of years and whatever they did with the birds (cormorants) and restocking."

During opening weekend, a brisk walleye bite was reported. And although the weather improved immensely for the second weekend of the season, with the exception of a few sailboats on a breezy Sunday afternoon, Walker Bay was quiet, as was most of the lake that stretches along Walker.

"I know a lot of people said they were coming up for the opener and now they're waiting for Memorial Day," Kemp said. "A lot of people have canceled due to the water temperatures and ice on the lake up until a week-and-a-half ago."

According to Kemp, "Half (of the walleyes harvested since the opener) have been out of the slot range - 20 to 28 inches - and half in the 13- to 17-inch range."

The latter would include fish from that 2005 class.

"People have been out catching fish," Kemp said. "It's been very, very good. A jig and a shiner in 12 to 17 feet of water - mostly between Walker Bay and the main part of the lake."

Payer, who said the DNR was planning to stock an additional 22 million walleye fry in Leech over Memorial Day weekend, also noted that the recent stockings are starting to pay dividends.

"The class of 2005 and 2006 are providing some good eaters," he said. "I hope it stays that way."

BRIAN S. PETERSON may be reached at brian.peterson@brainerddispatch.com or 855-5864.