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REGIONAL— While most anglers in the area are likely headed to Lake Vermilion this weekend in their quest for walleye, there are plenty of other excellent locations and other species to pursue …
REGIONAL— While most anglers in the area are likely headed to Lake Vermilion this weekend in their quest for walleye, there are plenty of other excellent locations and other species to pursue as the 2022 fishing season gets underway.
Here’s a sampling of recommendations from DNR fisheries staff around the region.
International Falls area
Lake Kabetogama is likely to be ice-free, or nearly so, by Saturday, and it’s sure to be a good bet for anglers looking to haul in some bigger walleye. The DNR’s 2021 fall netting survey showed above normal walleye catch rates ever on Kab, with an average of 10.35 walleye per sampling net. Even more enticing was the average size of 1.77 pounds. According to the DNR, much of Kabetogama’s shoreline provides excellent walleye spawning habitat so the fish are well distributed and anglers won’t have to go far to find some. Strong year classes of walleye produced in 2015 and 2016 continue to provide opportunities for both eating-sized walleye in the 15 to 17-inch range, as well as some fish over 18 inches. In fact, the fall 2021 sampling showed some of the best catch rates ever on Kab for walleye greater than 17 inches.
The good news is expected to continue on Kab as the fall survey showed a very strong 2020 year-class that should become eating sized over the next 1-2 years.
Anglers are reminded that both Rainy and Kabetogama lakes currently have a protected slot limit for walleye. All walleye from 18-26 inches long must be released, with one walleye over 26 inches allowed in a possession limit.
With lingering snow in parts of the Finland work area, some of the larger and deeper lakes could still have ice for opener. But there will still be some open water in the area and anglers might do well to try other lakes or target species like trout. Water temperatures in the area’s stream-trout lakes should be ideal and trout should be actively feeding. Lakes such as Hogback and Echo have boat accesses suitable for small boats and canoes, while lakes such as Divide and Section Eight require anglers to carry-in boats or canoes a short distance. Remote lakes such as Eikela, Steer, Trappers and Goldeneye lakes will require a longer carry and are best suited for canoe or float tube fishing. Anglers with ATVs can access Bean Lake near Silver Bay and Norway Lake near Babbitt.
Anglers who prefer a remote wilderness fishing experience might try the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness (BWCAW) lakes of Isabella, Kawishiwi, Bog and Perent lakes. All these lakes are good bets early in the season and are also located near the edge of the BWCAW making a day trip feasible. Island and Isabella rivers may also provide good river fishing within the BWCAW. Anglers seeking a wilderness fishing experience outside the BWCAW might try the Timber-Frear Loop. The Timber-Frear is a 15-mile loop of backcountry lakes (Whitefish, Elbow, Finger, Timber, Frear and Lost lakes) that offers a wilderness type of canoe trip without wilderness regulation or the need for a permit. The walleye populations in these lakes are well above average for their lake class. Northern pike are also present in most of these lakes.
While most anglers here will be working Vermilion, fisheries staff are encouraging anglers not to overlook some of the area trout lakes, including Tofte, Miner’s Pit, High, and Dry lakes. You can also find trout in Cub and Norberg lakes in Bear Head Lake State Park. Stocked trout species include brook, rainbow, browns and splake.
Don’t forget you’ll need a trout stamp if you’re going to try for trout.
There is plenty of walleye action just waiting for you on any of dozens of other lakes in the Tower area, particularly in the Boundary Waters. A good rule of thumb is that the harder it is to access a walleye lake, the better the fishing.
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