During the three-week period before the walleye opener each year, the Straight River near Osage is the place to be for anglers going after brown trout.
And now that the Minnesota DNR has agreed to buy 79 acres of Becker County tax-forfeited land -- a parcel that the Straight River runs through -- the area will eventually be even better for trout fishing.
“It’s used really heavily,” said Doug Kingsley, DNR area fisheries supervisor in Park Rapids. “We did a creel survey in 2001 and found out the stream is heavily used, especially by local anglers … trout season opens a few weeks earlier than walleye and northern pike, and it’s one of the only games in town. About 85% of the trout is harvested in those few weeks,” he told the Becker County Board Feb. 4.
In Minnesota, trout season opens April 18 this year, about three weeks before the May 9 fishing opener for walleye, sauger and northern pike.
The Straight River is a designated trout stream, with brown trout in the upper teen to low 20-inch range. “So there’s some excellent fishing there,” Kingsley said.
The county land comes with about 3,400 feet of river frontage for anglers looking to take advantage of “an outstanding, naturally reproducing brown trout stream, with excellent aquatic and riparian habitat,” according to the resolution approved by the County Board.
Funds for the $73,800 land purchase come courtesy of the nonprofit Nature Conservancy, using Reinvest in Minnesota credits. RIM is a state-funded program that pays landowners to retire marginal crop ground to benefit wildlife habitat.
The county will also continue to receive $158 a year from the state as payment in lieu of taxes.
When combined with property already owned by the state, the land acquisition will create “a contiguous block of public lands following the Straight River upstream for almost 2 miles,” County Natural Resource Management Director Dan McLaughlin said in a memo to county commissioners.
The county makes an effort to steer county-owned land to the best use, and in this case, “I think it’s a real nice fit for both parties,” Becker County Commissioner Barry Nelson said.
The Straight River gets popular again in late June, when fly fishermen use it heavily.
“They do a lot of night fishing after the mayfly hatch, they’ll stake out a spot as dusk and then fish until 11 p.m. when day fishing closes -- so it’s a pretty unique kind of fishery,” Kingsley said.
The land acquisition will allow the DNR to build a parking area for anglers, which will improve safety, since they now have to park along the roadway, Kingsley said.
Because accumulated RIM credits were involved, County Board approval was needed for the DNR to acquire the Straight River parcel, which will become part of an existing Aquatic Management Area. The action was approved unanimously by the County Board on Feb. 4.