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Lake Mille Lacs

June 25, 2013

It had been years since I last fished Lake Mille Lacs and when presented with the opportunity to fish with the “Griz”, my buddy and I jumped at the chance.  My prior trips to Mille Lacs had consisted primarily of ice fishing in rented shacks that looked bad and smelled worse.  The fishing wasn’t much better – it seemed like we caught nothing more than perch and more than our share of eelpout – a nasty and slimy fish that twists itself in your line, inhales your lures, and generally strikes in the wee hours when you’ve just dozed off.  I remember one time when I was junior in High School and my dad and I made the trek to Mille Lacs for some late season ice fishing with one of my hockey buddies and his father for a father and son fishing trip.  The action was pretty slow during the day with the occasional perch and as was typical, no walleyes.  It was well after midnight and everyone had fallen asleep uncomfortably when one of the rattle reels slowly started turning and jingling until everyone was up.  My buddy’s dad was pumped as his line disappeared slowly down the hole and then set the hook.  It was a good fish and after several minutes he got the fish to the hole and proclaimed “f*%&) ‘pout.”  Boy was he mad.  He really was on fire.  With profanities flying left and right, the rest of us were chuckling, thankful that it wasn’t on our line, and then one of us noticed the smell of burning hair.  “Hey, your hair is on fire.”  Sure enough the hair on the back of his head was smoldering after it had ignited itself on the wick of the gas lamp dimly heating the ice shanty.  Oh, the smell of burning hair, slimy pout and the accumulated stench of a fishing shanty.  You can’t beat it.  My best Mille Lacs trip occurred during the open water season about twelve years ago.  I remember catching several walleyes trolling minnow patterned crankbaits.  Nothing spectacular, but at least they weren’t eelpout.   Mille Lacs is a huge body of water that is not for the faint of heart, especially if the wind gets blowing.  Call us chicken, but Mille Lacs always seemed too big to conquer and a little too far out of reach and thus was something we never really pursued.

The Griz is a renowned angler/guide in these parts and it seemed like a great opportunity to see what Mille Lacs really has to offer.  My buddy is also an avid angler and we were giddy at the prospects.  The conditions on June 9th were fabulous: Cool – 58 degrees, a stiff wind out of the SE, and a steady, relentless rain.  Seeing only one other boat all day, the fishing was very good.  Using jigs and minnows we caught and released nearly fifty walleyes over twenty inches, with the majority of them being in the 22″ – 25″ range.  My buddy landed the biggest two, one of which approached thirty inches.  Below is a photo of one of the fish that I caught and released.  We caught a couple fish that were within the slot and only one fish that was less than 19″ and therein lies the rub; not enough eaters for anglers to take home.  Gil netting, a lack of forage, mismanagement by the DNR, zebra mussels, the burgeoning smallmouth bass population, and poor spawning success in recent years, are all cited reasons for concern and heated discussion amongst the angling community.


Despite all the controversy and concerns about the walleye fishery, Lake Mille Lacs remains an amazing fishery with a better than average chance to catch a trophy walleye.  Not to mention the huge muskies and quality smallmouth bass fishing.  It is an amazing body of water. I can’t wait to go back.

– Hats

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