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Brad Laabs: Lakes area awash in varieties of fish

Our “412 Lakes Region” is a multi-species rich area. I have been fortunate to experience some awesome fishing in some other areas of the country, but when I come back and fish my own neighborhood I am always impressed with the variety and quality of fishing opportunities we have here. Anglers from other areas always seem to know about the Detroit Lakes area, and sometimes even for the fishing that is available.

Many know us as the “Sunfish Capital” and also know of the great crappie catches that occur around the area lakes. Big bodies of water that hold big bull sunfish and quality crappies like Height of Land, Shell, Tamarack, and Rock (just to name a few) are destinations for pan fish lovers. We have so many mid-size lakes, small lakes, and even many of the ponds that hold quality pan fish, I couldn’t even begin to name them all. We are more than that.

Musky anglers come from all over to fish Big and Little Detroit, Sallie, and Pelican Lake because of the reputation for the consistency of catching 44-52” fish ( with a chance at an even bigger one!). Musky of that size is high quality anywhere in the country.

We have both large and smallmouth bass in our area lakes. Largemouth bass from 2-5lbs are common off lakes like the Floyds, the Longs, the McDonalds, Cotton, Melissa, and Big Toad (just to name a few). Smallmouth bass from 12-18” are common with chances for 19-22 inchers (considered world class size) and can be caught on White Earth, Cormorant, Lida, and Island (just to name a few).

Northern Pike can be caught in almost every lake in the area, with picture fish ranging from 30-40” becoming a common occurrence on lakes like Melissa, Sallie, Big Detroit, Pelican, McDonald, Otter Tail, Rush, and the Pines (just to name a few).

One of the popular draws to our area is the improving reputation of quality walleye fishing. Many of the lakes in this area have great eating size walleyes in the 14-18” size with many over 20” fish also getting caught. Many trophy size fish of 8lbs (about 28”) all the way to monsters that break the “teens” get caught on area lakes.

Many factors contribute to the increasing catch rates for all of these species. I believe the sophistication of modern fishing electronics has contributed greatly to improved angler success. I also think the teaching and instruction by experts sharing knowledge on fishing shows, magazine articles, presentations, fishing seminars provided at sport shows, and the internet information available now for researching fishing info, all make a difference in improved angler knowledge. I would like to believe the progress of better sportsmanship by anglers in the form of selective harvest and catch and release is also helping to make a difference. We all have to admit that our dollars invested in management activities is also helping (even if we don’t all agree with all the management decisions).

What I do know, is that the “good old days” as far fishing, is happening right now! Angling in our area is good and getting better. If you like to catch fish, you can’t help but like your chances fishing our area lakes. We have many lakes to choose from, and if you like to change up the types of fish you chase after, no problem there! Even if you are chasing one specific species, what you can count on is you will probably catch a variety of species in your pursuit. Get out and get after ‘em.

(Laabs runs Brad Laabs’ Guide Service in Detroit Lakes.)