Kevan Paul caught this crappie in Clear Lake in northcentral Iowa.  Several species of panfish are on the upswing in Clear Lake.
Kevan Paul caught this crappie in Clear Lake in northcentral Iowa. Several species of panfish are on the upswing in Clear Lake.

During the course of a fishing season, I get to fish a lot of different lakes, rivers, and reservoirs. Some lakes go through changes, some good, some not so good. This past year I had the opportunity to fish several bodies of water that have changed some since the last time I was there. Here’s what I mean.

Kabetogama Lake in Voyageur’s National Park in northern Minnesota has been one of my favorite lakes for years. Kab has an outstanding population of walleyes, both eaters and big ones. In mid-July 2013 we visited this island-studded lake, a time when action can be slow. Both the days we fished the skies were bright and the wind was light, conditions that usually don’t help. Nonetheless, we caught lots of walleyes, but what really surprised me was the number of perch we caught. In the past we never caught many perch on Kab, but this year we caught a bunch of them, and they were big ones. The perch population on Kab is cycling up, creating another outstanding fishing opportunity on an outstanding lake.

Another trip had me visiting Lake Winnibigoshish in northcentral Minnesota. Back in the early ’80s I lived in this area and visited Winnie quite a bit. It was a good body of water then, and it is world-class now. On this trip I fished with Craig Brown. Craig and his wife Paige have owned McArdle’s Resort on Winnie for a good number of years and have seen the changes the lake has gone through.

Just a few years ago, perch harvest on Winnie was virtually unlimited. Some anglers took advantage of this and depleted the perch population. Then a perch limit was put in place, and not so long after a slot limit on walleyes was implemented. Now Winnie has some of the best walleye and perch fishing you’ll find anywhere, and it appears that it will just get better with strong year classes coming up.

Sometimes we don’t take advantage of opportunities close to home. I’m guilty of that I learned in May this year. Clear Lake in northcentral Iowa is about 30 minutes from my home. I used to fish there a lot, but have driven right by in the past several years while traveling to other farther away lakes and rivers. Big mistake!

Clear Lake has undergone changes in the past four or five years. A dredging project on the west end of the lake has created lots of underwater structure. The water is also clearer, rough fish populations are down, and gamefish populations, both numbers and species, have taken off.

I fished with Kevan Paul, a Clear Lake fishing guide, one day last May. We caught dozens of walleyes. Some were keepers, some were small. The small ones are a good sign for the future.

Because of the improved conditions of the lake, the musky population is very strong and panfish numbers are expanding also. Clear Lake has become one of the Midwest’s best multi-species lakes, and it promises to get better.

Sometimes change is a good thing. I discovered that when I visited these three lakes in 2013.

To see the new 2013 episodes of Fishing the Midwest television online, go to fishingthemidwest.com. Join us at Facebook.com/fishingthemidwest.

Image courtesy Bob Jensen

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