Fishing Opportunities in the Headwaters of the Mississippi River

Author: Bob Wagner

Looking to catch some good trout up north? Eleven streams and thirteen lakes in the Headwaters TU chapter area provide abundant and exciting trout fishing opportunities in North Central Minnesota. From a radius of Bemidji at the center, the Red Lake Reservation to the north, Park Rapids to the south, west to Bagley and east to Cass Lake there are a lot of opportunities to explore.

Starting in the north, the Red Lake Indian Reservation is one of Minnesota’s best kept secrets for trophy rainbows and brook trout in pristine secluded lakes. During eight separate trips over the past 5 years I’ve caught rainbow trout averaging over 16 inches with 2 over 20 inches on each trip, plus brook trout over 2 lbs.

Pat Brown, Red Lake Fisheries Manager, explained their program started stocking 4 lakes with Rainbow and Brook trout in 1987 plus one additional lake with only Lake Trout that average 6-8 lbs. All five lakes are small deep, cold, spring fed gems. They have done very well at growing gorgeous, fat, chrome rainbows. I have been most successful with sink tip lines using an articulating leech pattern. One point to remember is that you have to hire an Indian guide to fish on the Reservation. My last six trips have been with the same guide, Darwin Sumner, which I recommend and whose contact information is found at the end of the article

In Bemidji, Fisheries Specialist Tony Strandera is working hard at protecting and improving the following streams and lakes. Tony has also been a key resource advocate for our TU sponsored Trout in the classroom and 5th grade fishing program. There are a number of good fishing opportunties near Bemidji:

Necktie River: This river originates about four miles south of Bemidji, flowing over 10 miles into Steamboat Lake. The Necktie has natural reproducing brook trout.

Sucker Brook: This is another success story with natural reproduction brook trout.

Clearwater River: The river is about 15 miles NW of Bemidji by Pinewood. It has a handicapped trail and multiple fishing sites off Co. Rd #22. There are six miles of managed trout water on a river system over 100 miles long. It is stocked with catchable rainbow trout.

South Branch of the Battle River: Located north of Bemidji and 4 miles west of Kelliher, this creek is stocked with catchable rainbows.

All four of these streams are mostly wooded with typical northwoods mix of Pine and Hardwoods. These streams are not large but beautiful with little fishing pressure.

Information about the exact locations, parking and fishing access sites can be found online at: www.dnr.state.mn.us/areas/fisheries/ bemidji/index.html Use the above link to access the MN DNR Lake Finder for more information on the following four lakes:

Benjamin Lake: Northeast of Bemidji and just south of Blackduck, this lake is stocked with rainbows and browns. There’s a great picnic park and small beach on the north side with a fishing pier and boat ramp on the south side.

Deep Lake: This lake near Clearbrook is stocked with catchable rainbows and is close to the Clearwater River if you want to try both the same day.

Long Lake: Just northwest of Itasca State Park this lake is a picture perfect setting of giant pines with a camp ground and boat access.

Island Lake: Located in Clearwater county this lake is stocked with catchable size browns and rainbows. Doug Kingsley is the Area Fisheries Supervisor located in the Park Rapids area. Along with Fisheries Specialist Mike Kelly they have been great to work with on multiple TU fisheries projects. They are responsible for the Trout Management of the following 6 streams and 4 lakes:

Straight River: Located west of Park Rapids this premier river has 17 miles of natural reproducing brown trout water. You have a good chance of catching one over 20 inches. A detailed map of fishing easements is on the web site.

Kabekona River: Head 15 miles south of Bemidji to find this natural reproducing brook trout water. Over twelve miles of river nested in a picturesque valley offer a good chance to catch a brookie over 12 inches. Ongoing TU chapter projects are working to enhance and protect this river.

Bungashing Creek: Located 8 miles south of Bemidji, new easements have been obtained (see the dnr web site). No trout are stocked but smaller brook trout are available.

Upper Straight Creek: This small stream is located northwest of Park Rapids and feeds the Straight River system. No map is available on the website, contact DNR fisheries for information.

Cat River: Found in Wadena County, this stream is stocked with brook trout.

Cold Creek: In northern Hubbard County, this is a small brook trout stream.

Trout lakes in the Park Rapids area include:

Newman Lake: Located 5 miles southwest of Bemidji off of Cty Road #3, this lake has a good access

Crappie Lake: Found in the Paul Bunyan State Forest, this lake is a walk in only experience.

Blacksmith: This 38 acre lake is regularly stocked with rainbow trout fingerlings.

Blue Lake: A larger water north of Park Rapids, this 324 acre lake has good public access.

For complete information, maps, location, access and etc on the above 10 Trout fishing opportunities go to: www.dnr.state.mn.us/areas/fisheries/ parkrapids/index.html

Trout Unlimited Headwaters Chapter 642 welcomes and encourages you to take advantage of these great trout fishing lakes and streams next time you’re in North Central Minnesota. If you would like more information, or would like to get involved with projects that the chapter has on these waters contact Bob Wagner at 218-586-2798 or 218-766-7757.

For information regarding fishing the Red Lake Reservation contact: Darwin Sumner 218-766-8406 OR 888-679-2501 ext. 16091 dsumner@sevenclanscasino.com