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Keep Minnesota rivers in mind heading into the 2018 walleye opener.Photo submitted

As we get closer to the Minnesota inland fishing opener, things are still way behind and the ice situation will no doubt be a problem on many of the central, northern and western Minnesota lakes. Here are some Minnesota options that anglers should consider as we head into the great unknown with just a couple of weeks before the opener.

Rainy River

Many anglers tend to forget about the Rainy River along the northern Minnesota border. After the great fishing there in April, anglers tend to go elsewhere and forget about the Rainy. Because of the late spring, you can bet those walleyes will still be in the river on a post-spawn bite that could last well into the end of May. If it’s big fish you are looking for, the Rainy is a true trophy fishery. The Rainy is small enough for shorter boats and a 16- to 18-foot boat is adequate. The wind isn’t much of a factor there either as it is protected and sheltered. This would be my No. 1 bet for the inland opener — at least you know the water is ice free!

St. Croix River

Yet another overlooked river that boasts excellent fishing in mid-May. The only issue could be high water and flooding issues with the recent large snowfalls. This could be a last-minute decision for most anglers. There is plenty of room for everyone as you can spread out and get some privacy. Expect nice saugers in the 2-pound range and lots of them. Larger walleyes are scarce, but you can’t beat the action on the Croix. The St. Croix has some wonderful landings on the Minnesota side south of Hudson. Think about trailering over to the Wisconsin side and use the Hudson public access as it will be less busy on the opener.

Mississippi River

Anglers have had a banner year on the Mississippi near Red Wing all winter long. This fishery is also one of those places that anglers forget about in May, but the fishing still holds up well into June. Expect smaller crowds after May 1 and again, there is plenty of room for everyone. This Red Wing area produces lots of trophy walleyes and good sauger. I think it is a true sauger fishery more so than a walleye fishery.

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