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A fishing frenzy in Duluth

Cast for muskies, walleyes, lake trout crappies and smallmouth bass in rivers, lakes and Lake Superior

BY SAM COOK, DULUTH, MINNESOTA

If you’re coming to Duluth in June, pack your fishing gear. June is prime fishing time in the North Country, and there’s so much opportunity for excellent angling in our neighborhood, you’ll want to sample some of it.

The fishing comes in all styles — Lake Superior trolling is right on our doorstep with intimate trout streams dancing down to the big lake, inland waters full of walleyes and muskies, and crappies and world-class smallmouth fishing down the shore in Wisconsin.

Bring your spinning gear. Bring your fly-fishing gear. Hire a charter captain or an inland fishing guide.

Let’s explore the possibilities:

TROLLING LAKE SUPERIOR

A fleet of charter captains in Duluth and Superior stand ready to put you onto the great lake’s hungry lake trout, king salmon and coho salmon. The recovery of the lake trout population after its decimation in the 1950s and 1960s is nothing short of remarkable. Now you’ve got a chance at a 20-pound lake trout and plenty of eating-size fish. Salmon don’t run large in this deep, cold lake, but they know how to fight.

Thanks to the foresight of those who fought two decades ago to protect trophy smallmouth bass in Chequamegon Bay of Lake Superior near Ashland, Wisconsin, you have a chance to do battle with smallies more than 20 inches long. Cast to them on Bahamas-like flats with spinning or fly-fishing gear. Watch them come for your offering. Hang on.

ST. LOUIS RIVER, DULUTH AND SUPERIOR

Every spring, several thousand walleyes come swimming up this brawny river, past ore docks and ocean-going ships, to spawn. Many of them hang around through much of the summer where anglers can get at them. Some walleyes run 30 inches, and the population is protected by a two-fish limit. Fish them with live bait rigs or troll with minnow imitations. Google “St. Louis River fishing guides” and find someone to put you onto these golden walleyes. The river is also home to big muskies.

Wait — there’s more in the river. Prehistoric-looking sturgeon up to 65 inches long also roam the river. Tie into one of them and prepare to fight it for a while. You’ll have to release any sturgeon you happen to catch, according to regulations, but you won’t forget the fight.

INLAND LAKES

Island Lake, a reservoir just north of Duluth, holds plenty of walleyes and is home to several fishing contests each year. Stocked muskies also patrol the lake, some into the 50-inch class. The best muskie action you’re likely to find, however, will be on Lake Vermilion, about a two-hour drive north of Duluth. This sprawling lake — 40,000 acres, 365 islands, 1,200 miles of shoreline — offers some of the most dependable big-muskie action in the Northland. Experienced guides will help you find them. The lake also boasts excellent walleye and smallmouth bass action. Two hours on a different vector from Duluth will put you near Grand Rapids, the epicenter of more than 1,000 lakes. Many of them, such as Big Winnibigoshish, offer terrific walleye fishing, and guides in the area know the waters well.

CANOE-COUNTRY BOUNTY

If you want a wilderness fishing experience, you’ll find it two to three hours from Duluth in the million-acre Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness. Motorboat use is limited in this federal wilderness, but outfitters can provide canoes and gear to get you to lakes teeming with walleyes, trophy smallmouth bass, northern pike and lake trout. You’ll need a permit, and they go fast (get one at recreation.gov). Primary access is from Crane Lake, Ely, Tofte and Grand Marais. You might just see one of Minnesota’s estimated 4,000 moose while you’re casting or trolling.

WISCONSIN’S BRULE RIVER

Tucked in the Brule River State Forest about 45 minutes east of Duluth, the Bois Brule River is a premier, spring-fed trout stream flowing to Lake Superior. Presidents have fished here for the river’s brook trout, rainbows and especially the big brown trout that sneak out to feed on warm summer nights. Guides will help you match the hatch. An evening on the Brule by canoe, casting in the dark for these wary trout, is a time-honored tradition. ♦

— Sam Cook has been the outdoors writer at the Duluth News Tribune since 1980. He writes about fishing, hunting, camping and a myriad of other outdoor activities.

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