I got an unexpected bonus last week when I went fishing for an evening on Lake Mille Lacs. More accurately, it was my oldest son, Joe, who reeled in a surprise lunker.
Our plan was to try for smallmouth bass for a few hours, then switch to walleyes near dusk. We inquired at a bait shop in Garrison, and were directed to a rocky shoreline on the west side, not far from the boat landing. The owner of the shop suggested we try plastic tubes on small jigs. We worked the shoreline for a while, and I finally caught a smallmouth. My son, Andy, had a nice one on that broke the line.
Then, a short while later, Joe thought he got caught on a rock. That had happened to both he and Andy, so he figured it was happening again.
But, he was wrong. It turned out to be a big smallie — so big, in fact, that he thought it was a northern. This was one feisty fish, and he fought it for a while before he was able to get it close to the boat. I put the landing net in the water, and he pulled the fish toward it. But, the smallie jumped right over the net.
I have never seen that before, and it makes me want to try for these hard-fighting fish a lot more. Eventually, we got it in the net and swung it aboard. It measured 19 1/2 inches. Not bad for our first try on the lake for smallies.
I’ve have been hearing that there are many fish this size in the lake — and bigger. The guy at the bait shop says they don’t get much pressure. Even though the word is out about the smallies in Mille Lacs, he says most anglers — even bass fanatics — fish for walleyes.
Another thing that helps the smallies is the protected slot. Anything up to 21 inches has to be released. That’s fine with me. We were not disappointed with releasing Joe’s fish. We got a nice picture of it before letting it go.
I’d like to get back up there this summer and go after them again. I’d sure love to catch a big one. Now that they’re in their summer pattern, they’ll be there for the catching well into September, maybe even October.
Now, if I can just find the time….