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Horseshoe Resort

20528 Williams Rd. S.E.

Cass Lake  MN 56633

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2017 FISHING OPENER: Bite could be strong for Cass Lake Chain

By Pat Miller, Special to the Pioneer on May 7, 2017 at 2:01 p.m.


CASS LAKE – By nature, walleyes love to wander and monitoring their travels throughout the Cass Lake Chain is among the goals of a project currently being conducted by the Bemidji area DNR Fisheries officials.

Each spring the DNR officials collect walleye eggs at a spawning site near Lake Andrusia. Those eggs eventually grow into millions of fry which are used to satisfy the stocking requirements of various Bemidji area lakes.

“We also return 10 percent of those fry into the donor system which is Lake Andrusia, but we would like to know if those fish are staying in Andrusia or migrating upstream and downstream into the connected waters,” said Tony Kennedy, the Bemidji area DNR large lake specialist. “We know that the adults (in the Cass Lake Chain) move all over the place but we want to know where the 2 and 3-year-old walleyes go.”

Finding the answer to that question prompted a study which began last spring. With the cooperation of BSU, the DNR officials marked the walleye fry returned to Lake Andrusia with oxytetracycline (OTC) and the activity will continue this spring. The presence of the OTC walleyes can be detected during later studies of the lakes within the Cass Lake Chain and monitoring those results will shed light on the migration of the younger fish.

“This study will also help us find out if the OTC fish will make up a substantial proportion of the chain’s fishery as the walleyes mature or just the Andrusia fishery,” Kennedy said. “And this study is all part of a greater assessment of the Cass Lake Chain.

“During last year’s assessment we saw that the fry were spreading out but we haven’t reached any conclusions yet,” he added. “We never base anything on only one year of sampling but if we see similar results of the fry spreading out this fall, I wouldn’t think we would consider changing our fry release (into Andrusia).”

This year’s walleye fry will be released into a healthy fishery that is partly fueled by the strong year classes of 2011 and 2013. Walleyes from the 2011 class are between 17 and 19 inches while the 2013 fish range from 12 to 15 inches.

“In last year’s survey we had 16.6 walleyes per net which is slightly above the long-term median catch rate of 13.1,” Kennedy said. “The 2013 year class is the strongest we have seen since we started the large-lake program in 1984 and the 2015 year class looks very strong as well. Not

only do we have walleyes in the 12 to 17-inch range, we also have walleyes up to 26 inches and many below 10 inches.

“With a number of strong year classes in the population ranging from age 3 to age 8, the future of the Cass Lake walleye fishery remains strong.”

Catching the Cass Lake walleyes, however, can be tricky because of its clear water.

“Last summer the walleye fishing on Cass Lake was so-so. Some anglers did well and some didn’t,” Kennedy said. “Most people attributed the spotty success to the clear water but there is so much structure in Cass Lake that it can be overwhelming. You have to learn which structure holds fish and which doesn’t.

“Zebra mussels were also discovered in Cass Lake in 2014 and now they are everywhere in the lake,” Kennedy continued. “The jury is still out on the affect they have on the water clarity or the impact, if any, on the fishery.”

Many anglers have already adjusted to the clear-water conditions on Cass Lake as they have become nocturnal when pursuing walleyes.

“The trend during the past few decades has been to switch to night fishing,” Kennedy said. “The lake has an extensive system of bars and trolling along them after dark is very effective and very popular. Dozens and dozens of boats can be seen on the lake after dark.”

A large and deep body of water, Cass Lake’s walleyes usually wait a few weeks after the season opener to cooperate with the anglers. This year, however, the bite could be strong on opening day.

“It may be a little different because of the early ice-out,” Kennedy said. “Cass Lake is traditionally better in June but this year I would expect May fishing to be above average and, with many walleyes swimming in the Cass Lake Chain, fishing could be very good if things align right. The go-to spots should be the shoreline breaks, the bars, river mouths and any areas with current.”

Perch and Muskies

Among the reasons for Cass Lake’s ability to grow walleyes is its perch population. Although below the long-term median in numbers and size, anglers continue to find pockets of keeper-sized fish and catches of nice-sized fish are still possible.

“The perch fishing can be spotty but it remains a popular fishery,” Kennedy said. “In recent years the size isn’t as large as I would like to see it but the size is coming around. There are many 8.5 and 9-inch fish and, although it may take some sorting, you can get a meal of nice ones.”

Cass Lake also is a natural muskie lake and steady recruitment is occurring. During the 2016 assessment DNR officials captured fish ranging from 34 inches to 51 inches.

“It is nice to see the younger muskies moving into the population,” Kennedy said. “In Cass Lake we have a very balanced population and that bodes well for catch rates and for the opportunity to catch a fish over 50 inches.”





Fishing opener: Life is good for walleyes swimming in Cass Lake

By Pat Miller on May 4, 2014

CASS LAKE — Life is good if you are a walleye swimming in the Cass Lake Chain, especially if you have an urge to constantly be on the move. “With Cass Lake, Andrusia, Big, Kitchi, the Rice Lakes, the Mississippi River and the Turtle River all part of the chain, walleyes can move around all they want. And they do,” said Bemidji Area DNR Fisheries Large Lake Specialist Tony Kennedy. Much of the walleye movement occurs during the spawning season because the chain is filled with perfect habitat. “There is high-quality spawning substrate (gravel bottom) below the Power Dam. Walleyes can also run up to the Turtle River to spawn and they can run up through the Mississippi,” Kennedy said. “There also are many areas in the lakes where they can spawn so the Cass Lake Chain walleyes have many options.” The walleye population in the chain also benefits from an aggressive stocking program that puts millions of fry into the system each year. The natural spawn and the fry stocking have combined for a healthy walleye population throughout the chain and steady numbers in Cass Lake itself. “Our walleye catch rates in our Cass Lake gill nets last year were similar to the long-term average, ” Kennedy said. “ There currently are strong year classes from 2008 and 2011 and the 2013 numbers were off the chart. Last year our sampling catch rates of the 2013 year class were almost double the catch rates of the previous highs and that is a good sign for the future of the walleyes in Cass Lake.” The 2013 fish were seven to eight inches long and it will be a few years before they develop into keeper fish. The 2008 class also is very strong in the system and those fish will be about 17 inches long this summer. The other predominant class, the 2011 fish, will measure about 13 to 14 inches on opening weekend. “The 2008 and 2011 fish should provide good numbers of eater-size fish for the next few years and the 2013 class will be ready to replace the other strong year classes in the future,” Kennedy said.

Cass Lake also is one of the targeted lakes for the area muskie anglers and the vast majority of the muskies in the lake are naturally produced. “Cass Lake is a native muskie water and has been stocked a few times but not since the 1970s,” Kennedy said. “The lake doesn’t have a reputation for catching as many big muskies as you could catch on Lake Bemidji or Plantagenet but in our sample netting we did catch many muskies 50 inches and larger.” Muskie anglers also occasionally hook into a large pike and 16 percent of the female northern pike sampled by the DNR were 28 inches or larger. The pike and the muskies have a steady supply of perch to dine on but the majority of the fish are on the edge of “keeper” status. Last year’s sampling catch rates of perch increased 30 percent compared to 2012 but the majority of the fish were small. Perch over 8 inches represented 20 percent of the sample, however, and some of the perch approached 12 inches. “It might take a little sorting but fishermen will still be able to catch some very nice perch in Cass Lake,” Kennedy said. “There are numbers of perch 6 and 7 inches in the system and that is good because they provide the forage base for the walleyes and the other predator species. “Those 6-inchers will grow into 10-inchers,” Kennedy added.

Anglers working Cass Lake this summer and next year will likely meet a DNR creel survey clerk who will gather data on the success of the trip. “If you encounter our clerk please take just a few minutes to answer the questions,” Kennedy said. “It will only take a minute or two and getting accurate information is vital to managing fish populations in the lake.”

2013 Stocking Walleye Fry in the Cass Lake chain;

Kitchie 1,400,000

Little Rice 265,000

Anderson 500,000

Big Rice 795,000

Andrusia 4,860,000

Pike Bay 2,259,000