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Sleepy Eye

June 1, 2013
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I awoke Friday, May 24, 2013, at about 4:45 a.m. and laid in bed for a while plotting my fishing adventures for the day.  My original plan was to have fished the Cottonwood River but having fished there last night I started thinking about other options.  Lake Yankton, near Balaton, MN, was probably a bit too far away.  Likewise, Lake Shetek.  Then it dawned on me: Sleepy Eye Lake.  Sleepy Eye Lake is on the north side of Sleepy Eye, MN, and is one of the those lakes that my family routinely drove by as we went over the river and through the woods to grandmother’s house.  Not that it looked that appealing.  Shallow and wind swept the water was often green and the rocks visibly caked in green slime.  However, in my online meanderings of the MN DNR Lakefinder I looked up Sleepy Eye Lake a year or so ago and learned that significant (and successful) efforts have been made to improve water quality and restore the recreational aspects of the lake.  Not only that, the fish surveys showed a reasonable population of game fish and substantial stockings of walleye fry/fingerlings.  Switching on my smartphone I did a quick map search of Sleepy Eye Lake to determine how accessible my wading prospects were.  Fortunately, Sportsman’s Park is located on the NE corner of the lake and provided ample shore fishing/wading opportunities.  Only a fifteen to twenty minute drive east of Springfield, I quietly departed our hotel room and headed for Sleepy Eye Lake.

In case you are wondering how did the City of Sleepy Eye come by its name, it is derived from the name of a Sioux Indian Chief. Per Wikipedia,  Chief Sleepy Eye, or Ishtakhaba,  was known as a compassionate person with droopy eyelids (or maybe just one), hence his name. The Chief was one of four Sioux Indians (four Ojibwe also attended) chosen to meet President James Monroe in 1824 in the nation’s capital. Later, Sleepy Eye was an integral player in the 1851 signing of the Treaty of Traverse des Sioux, which gave all of the land but a 10-mile swath on each side of the upper Minnesota River to the U.S. government. His recommendations to traders led to the successful settlement of Mankato, away from flood areas, and the Chief eventually settled his people near the lake now known as Sleepy Eye Lake.

Arriving at Sportsman’s Park I geared up and made my way to the lake.  There was a light SE breeze that put a chop on the lake in places and a chill in the air – it being only 42 degrees.  Kind of made me wonder when summer is going to arrive, it being almost June and temperatures still in the 40’s.  Good thing it wasn’t snowing.  The fishing pier seemed like a good place to start as I could peer into the water and get a look at water quality, weed growth, if any, and to just get a lay of the land.  Once again, I was fishing my now trusty blue, jointed Rapala, not that I hadn’t considered switching baits, because I did. It was just that when I went to switch lures I couldn’t find the travel box I had prepared.  After a quick search of the van turned up no evidence of said tackle, I came to the realization that I left it at home in the garage.  Oh well, if I only had one lure to fish a jointed Rapala would be at the top of the list.  My only concern now being Northern Pike and the fact that I could be done fishing for the day pretty quickly if I tied into one of them, especially since I was fishing with an ultra-light rod and six pound mono.

Just like the night before, first cast and I felt a soft strike, which turned out to be a 6 – inch largemouth bass that jumped and spit the hooks.  Nothing for a few more minutes, so I started to make my way cautiously along the riprapped shoreline.  With low light and stained water it seemed to be ideal conditions for walleye to be feeding shallow.  Another light strike and I set the hook.  Bluegill, it always amazes me that something so small will take a swipe at a bait that is out of proportion to its size.  At least I didn’t get skunked I thought to my self.

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Next cast, boom.  I set the hook into something heavier and immediately had concerns that it was a Northern.  Loosening the drag to not break it off, I worked it closer and landed this plump largemouth bass.

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Moving further down the shoreline I’d love to say that I ran into a school of feeding walleyes amongst the rocks, but it just wasn’t meant to be.  I caught a couple more sunfish but that was all.  Some day I’d like to get back to Sleepy Eye Lake and fish from a boat as I believe it has some potential.

– Hats

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