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Smallmouth’s and Mille Lacs

  • David Anderson
    Dayton, MN
    Posts: 379

    I noticed an article in the September 9th Outdoor News entitled “Mille Lacs becoming bass angler paradise?”. The author along with Tom Jones of the DNR claim that the population is substantially higher than the past. Through most of the 1990’s the DNR caught an average of less than 1 bass per year in it’s nets. In 2009 they caught 62. I don’t disagree with this assessment. The discussion also predicts that the explosion of the Zebra Mussels will cause the water clarity to continue to improve which will cause the smallies to increase even more.

    A couple of things, first about the predictions on water clarity and walleyes. About 10 years ago the water clarity on Mille Lacs was amazing. I remember anchoring on the Graveyard and seeing the anchor on the bottom in 15 feet of water in June. Earlier that year one could see an orange jigging rapala all the way to the bottom of your ice hole in 25 feet. On July 12, 2003 I stopped at an offshore reef in the middle of the day, it was 90+ degrees and calm. On top of the reef, in 4 feet of crystal clear water there were 100’s of walleyes cruising around. I am not sure how much more clear it could get than that, which seemed to have little effect on the walleyes that day.

    Second, I used to do really well in the late summer through fall on the reefs whether it was Hawksbill, Hennepin Island, Indian Point, Anderson’s, 3-mile. Today when I fish these spots I am more likely to get smallies than anything, even at sunset. I cannot troll up Indian Point and back down without getting 2 or 3 smallies yet to catch a walleye now is rare. Anderson’s and Hawkbill seem just a void. Admittedly you always remember the good fishing times, but the last 3 years has been a significant dry spell for me and this pattern. I went out a week ago and my friend Bill just laughs, accusing me of going out fishing memories tonight instead of walleyes. I don’t know, but it seems as though after the no kill regulations on smallies the population has exploded. I am sure there are other factors, cycles, etc that play into this but my observation is that not unlike the tulibees in the fall, the smallies have essentially taken over the shallow rocks and are the dominate fish, keeping the bait fish numbers in check all year. I have had fleeting moments of walleye success fishing the shallow reefs and maybe it has just been the low water for the past few years, baitfish patterns, but they are much fewer and further between. I am not anti smallmouth by no means however I am not so sure the focus on the Zebra Mussels is the issue and I contend that the significant increase in the Smallie population has already set the stage for changes in the shallow water rock bite and has for the last 3 years. Am I the only one?


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