OUTDOORS: Enjoying one of Minnesota’s finest lakes, Upper RedWORTHINGTON — If all is going according to plan, I am sitting on top of a bunch of fish on Upper Red Lake in northern Minnesota as you read this.
By: Scott Rall, Worthington Daily Globe
WORTHINGTON — If all is going according to plan, I am sitting on top of a bunch of fish on Upper Red Lake in northern Minnesota as you read this.
I used to make a yearly trip to Canada every year and had some really great experiences that I will never forget. It was four years ago that I decided to give Upper Red Lake a try. The story of this lake is a very sad one with a much better ending, for now.
Upper Red Lake is in the north central part of the state and Minnesota anglers have access to about 50 percent of the acres. The balance is in an Indian reservation and is off limits to all but band members.
This great lake was once one of the best fisheries in the entire state.
The story goes that between the state anglers that fished with one rod and reel with a limit of six fish, and the commercial Indian harvest that used miles and miles of gill nets, the walleye fishery completely collapsed.
You can draw your own conclusions, but the end result was a population of walleyes that could not make a recovery on its own unless you had a 20-year time frame.
The season was closed and with a few million dollars of Minnesota fisherman license revenues, the recovery effort began.
Walleye stocking was started and accelerated as the recovery began. This season was closed for a period of around four years. During this time, the other species in the lake had a hey-day. With the absence of predator fish like walleyes, crappies expanded greatly and Upper Red Lake became a crappie fishing destination for anglers from all over the United States.
Northern Pike also did very well during this time. When the season opened again a few years later, the harvest was split between Indian interests and sport anglers. The sport fishing limit was two fish per day and the slot was very narrow to limit harvest and allow the populations to continue to increase and expand. The recovery continued and the limits were raised and slots loosened.
I am looking forward to a day or two on the water with my brother, McChyne, and a really great friend, Scott Roemhildt. He is the regional representative for Pheasants Forever.
This trip is going to be very different then those of past years. The bite peaks in late May and early June, but the unusually warm temperatures have accelerated the bite and the peak has already come and gone. Fishing reports are fair at best and the rain chances are 30-40 percent all week.
The one thing that I really like about Upper Red Lake is that you have many different options. The crappies are not near what they once were, but are still better than many other lakes.
I also enjoy a tussle of a big pike, and this is one body of water that still holds many pike in the 40-inch range. On the last trip, we were trolling in a small river that flows into Upper Red Lake.
I put out two rods with big pike spoons. It was only about 100 yards later that the rod bent over big time. I had as fishing partners that day my son, Brandon, and his friend, Eric Milbrath. Eric loves to fish, so I took him along.
I took the rod from the holder and handed it to Eric and told him to knock himself out. He was reeling and reeling and in the blink of an eye, the reel broke out of the reel seat. Eric had the reel in one hand and the rod in the other.
Eric held the rod, I reeled the reel and Brandon was net operator. The threesome landed the fish and it was a very nice one. It was a 37-inch northern that was estimated at about 12-14 pounds. We released it and caught four or five others that were all more than eight pounds.
Wind can be a big issue but, that is the same no matter where you go. I have a fish fry on the brain, but the backup burgers and chicken are ready if we need it.
It is a long drive to reach this spot. As fast as you can drive it takes about seven hours. We usually get there in eight and a half or so.
There are no gills nets in use on this lake right now. The Indian harvest is still way higher per fisherman that sport anglers get. The commercial walleye processing plant is starting to gear up and I hope that the mistakes of the past are not repeated.
I am the first to admit that I do not understand all of the ins and outs of treaty rights and tribal harvest, but when a lake collapses, we have to be smart enough to not let it happen again.
I was told that pond nets are going to be used in the near future. I did try to find out exactly what this meant. I was unsuccessful in my research efforts. I will ask around when I get there this year to see if I can find the information to better understand what effect this might have on the lake and if their actual use is fact or fiction.
Until then, I will continue to enjoy one of Minnesota’s finest lakes and hope that its future stays as bright as its present.
If you have any say in the matter, try to keep the rain away for just a day or two — thanks.