For a number of years, I wrote a weekly column for the Chisago County Press (Lindstrom, MN) titled, “Discovering the Outdoors.” My start with that newspaper began with a number of articles written in what the outdoor industry refers to as “hook & bullet” style writing – basically “how-to” pieces related to fishing and hunting.
While the newspaper’s circulation numbers are very respectable, hovering around 4,000 copies per week, the vast majority of its readers live in or around Chisago County. As a local paper with a focus on a singular county, that stands to reason, right? So when I’d sit down to write a fishing piece about how best to locate and target specific species, I often felt like I was preaching to the choir. After all, my readership consisted mainly of folks who regularly fish in Chisago area lakes.
That being said, I welcomed the opportunity to write again for the Chisago Lakes Tourism Bureau about angling on our local lakes, but this time with a target audience outside our immediate area. If you live in or around the Twin Cities and want to back your boat into a quality fishing lake within an hour of leaving your home, the Chisago Chain of Lakes should be high on your list of destinations. Whether you want to target walleye, bass, panfish, or pike, Chisago area lakes are tough to beat. Each lake is unique in its own right, with varying depths, bottom content, and structure, but all of them are consistent producers.
Personally, I like to catch a lot of fish and don’t care to work very hard at it (don’t we all?). I tend to follow seasonal patterns when fish behavior and locating fish is highly predictable. The first couple weeks of the walleye season puts fish in particular areas of a lake that relate to the spawn. But once summer is in full swing and walleyes scatter and transition to deeper water, targeting panfish is a great way to stay busy in the boat with less downtime between hookups. If you have younger kids in the boat, you know exactly what I’m talking about. I’m a dad. I know. The amount of time you get to spend on the water with children is directly proportional to the number of fish they catch. I’ve been a fly-fishing guide for 25 years and have taken plenty of kids fishing in that time, and I am here to tell you that the best way to bore a child half to death is to be on a river or lake when the catching is not so good. Playing with the minnows or leeches in your baitwell will only entertain a yawning, slack-jawed child for so long.
A little bit of ‘how-to’ and places to look for fish…
If you are after bluegills and crappies, you have to think of weeds and weed lines. This time of year and throughout the summer, bluegills will occupy weedy areas in 8 to 12 feet of water. while the crappies will occupy a little deeper water off the outside weed edges. Pitching small jigs tipped with waxies or crappie minnows under a slip-bobber is about as complicated as bluegill and crappie fishing gets. Casting and jigging these same jigs back to the boat or shoreline is also effective for both species and will allow you to cover more water and locate fish quickly.
Keep in mind that what is good for bluegills with regard to cover is generally also good for largemouth, so it is always wise to have a bass rod rigged up and ready to go. For bass, lipless crankbaits, plastic worms rigged Carolina or Texas style, spinnerbaits and skirted jigs are traditional summertime bass-getters. When bass become lethargic during the hot summer months (particularly during the warmest part of a sunny day), live bait such as a shiner will often elicit strikes. Oftentimes bass reluctant to move off their holding spots for an artificial bait will readily move for live bait. Something definitely worth mentioning is that a special regulation for bass has been in place for the past nine years for both Chisago Lake and South Lindstrom Lake. All bass measuring 12 inches or more must be immediately released. This “experimental” regulation was put in place as an effort to improve fishing quality. The result of this regulation has been nothing short of phenomenal, creating two lakes that truly are world-class bass fisheries.
Where to go and what to do when you get here…
Some of what I wrote previously in this piece is predicated on the assumption that you have a boat. This of course does not apply to everyone who would like to fish the Chisago Lakes Chain, and that’s just fine. What you’ll need to do prior to your trip is simple – book a boat with Captain Shawn’s Rentals, located on South Lindstrom Lake in Chisago City. Captain Shawn’s Rentals offers affordable half-day and full-day rates for 6- and 10-passenger pontoons, as well as fishing boats and kayaks.
Whether you trailer a boat here or rent one for the day, you absolutely must stop by Frankie’s Live Bait and Marine in Chisago City for literally anything you might need for a successful day on the water – rods and reels, line, terminal tackle, live bait, lake maps, cold drinks, and snacks. Whatever it is you seem to be lacking in your boat or tackle box, Frankie’s has you covered. I have been a customer for nearly 30 years and I am here to tell you that not all bait shops are created equal. Frankie’s has been in business since 1968 and was inducted into the Minnesota Fishing Hall of Fame in 2016 as a “legendary organization” that has worked to preserve, protect, and enhance Minnesota’s sport fishing heritage. One thing I like most of all about Frankie’s is that the folks there always have up-to-date fishing information and will recommend different areas on the nearby lakes to start your search for fish. In addition, they know what jigs, lures, and baits are currently working well for other anglers. Based on weather conditions and fish movement, baits and presentations can and often do, change from week to week. Lastly, visit the MN DNR web page, where you will find a detailed map showing all of the public access boat ramps on our area lakes.
Where to stay…
On this site, you will find some terrific blog posts written by Antonia Grant, Tracy Blowers, and Alyssa Auten, as well as Tourism Bureau staff members. They highlight lots of things to see and do in the Chisago Lakes area, as well as lodging options, such as hotels, bed & breakfasts, vacation rental properties, cabins, and campgrounds. One place to stay that I would highly recommend, particularly if you have younger kids, is Wildwood RV Park & Campground. Visit their website for pricing and reservations, amenities (heated pool, mini golf, and playground just to name a few), as well as canoe and kayak rentals. One-way paddles from Taylors Falls to either Osceola (2-3 hours) or William O’Brien State Park (5-7 hours) are terrific ways to see and experience the beautiful St. Croix River Valley. Wildwood provides a shuttle service to pick you up at designated take-out points downriver and get you back to your vehicle in Taylors Falls. And in keeping with the fishing theme of this post, I would of course recommend you take some fishing equipment with you if you decide to head downstream on the St. Croix. The smallmouth bass and walleye fishing is quite good south of Taylors Falls. Tossing stickbaits, poppers, and spinners up near the shoreline and around rocky areas will always get a smallie’s attention, and a jig and minnow bounced along the bottom through the river’s deeper main channel is a good bet to locate and catch walleyes.
I hope that some things I’ve shared here might entice you to take a day or overnight trip to the Chisago Lakes area. With 20 lakes to choose from and over 7,000 acres of water, those of you who live in or around the Twin Cities are a mere 40-minute (or so) drive to outstanding fishing and a perfect weekend getaway.