Published May 21, 2010, 09:23 AM

Kabetogama yields big fish during Governor’s Opener

LAKE KABETOGAMA – Nestled at the Canadian border, Lake Kabetogama provides a pristine lake fishing event. The Minnesota Governor’s Fishing Opener was held last weekend on the lake and the Ash River, bringing outdoor writers and anglers from across the nation – including a TV crew from Japan.

By: Brad Swenson, Northland Outdoors

LAKE KABETOGAMA – Nestled at the Canadian border, Lake Kabetogama provides a pristine lake fishing event.

The Minnesota Governor’s Fishing Opener was held last weekend on the lake and the Ash River, bringing outdoor writers and anglers from across the nation – including a TV crew from Japan.

It was one of the best opener’s in Gov. Tim Pawlenty’s eight openers, he said, as he landed a 22½-inch walleye. But it was Lt. Gov. Carol Molnau’s 4-year-old granddaughter, Belle, who stole the day with a 24-inch walleye among her five fish.

Official event participants were given local hosts to take them fishing, and return to the Kabetogama Visitor’s Center for a walleye shore lunch.

My guide wasn’t a local. Wes Van Nurden hails from Wisconsin, but his family owns a cabin on the lake which they share with extended family. He and his father, Wes Sr., took me out on the big lake, sprinkled with more than 200 remote scenic islands.

The weather was perfect, high 50s warming to 75 by noon, clear skies and a breeze. My guide said walleyes would be running deep, after spawning and wanting to rest.

We drifted over 50-feet bottom between islands and used jigs or live-bait rigs with small minnows. We all caught fish, although not very big. I wasn’t skunked — I got a 10-inch walleye.

Wes uses Fireline, a slimmer but stronger line than monofilament, made for bouncing jigs deep and keeping the line straight without curling. It’s also copper-colored.

There’s a slot limit on the lake, with fish between 17 inches and 28 inches released, and one walleye above 28 inches allowed. There is also a four-walleye bag limit.

Van Nurden said the slot limits have been great in increasing the size of the walleye on the lake, which were getting smaller.

While we didn’t catch any, the lake also produces northern pike.

The area was real hospitable. I stayed at a resort/lodge only minutes away from the Voyageur’s National Park event center, in a lodge sleeping eight. The onsite boat launch was only feet away.

It’s rugged vacationing, but well worth it. There is no city there, but a resort community. Our resort owners are retired folks from Iowa. Jerilyn Carlson said most of the resorts used to be owned by folks from Iowa.

Kabetogama is one of five lakes that make up the Namakan Reservoir, a natural reservoir in a drainage system that begins in northeastern Minnesota and ends in Hudson Bay.

The lake covers nearly 26,000 acres and about a third of it is less than 15 feet deep, making it a good idea to use a guide to avoid rock piles if unfamiliar with the lake.

The maximum depth is 80 feet.

If fishing the Canadian side, be sure to get a Canadian fishing permit and you must use Canadian-bought bait.

Y bswenson@bemidjipioneer.com

LAKE KABETOGAMA – Nestled at the Canadian border, Lake Kabetogama provides a pristine lake fishing event.

The Minnesota Governor’s Fishing Opener was held last weekend on the lake and the Ash River, bringing outdoor writers and anglers from across the nation – including a TV crew from Japan.

It was one of the best opener’s in Gov. Tim Pawlenty’s eight openers, he said, as he landed a 22½-inch walleye. But it was Lt. Gov. Carol Molnau’s 4-year-old granddaughter, Belle, who stole the day with a 24-inch walleye among her five fish.

Official event participants were given local hosts to take them fishing, and return to the Kabetogama Visitor’s Center for a walleye shore lunch.

My guide wasn’t a local. Wes Van Nurden hails from Wisconsin, but his family owns a cabin on the lake which they share with extended family. He and his father, Wes Sr., took me out on the big lake, sprinkled with more than 200 remote scenic islands.

The weather was perfect, high 50s warming to 75 by noon, clear skies and a breeze. My guide said walleyes would be running deep, after spawning and wanting to rest.

We drifted over 50-feet bottom between islands and used jigs or live-bait rigs with small minnows. We all caught fish, although not very big. I wasn’t skunked — I got a 10-inch walleye.

Wes uses Fireline, a slimmer but stronger line than monofilament, made for bouncing jigs deep and keeping the line straight without curling. It’s also copper-colored.

There’s a slot limit on the lake, with fish between 17 inches and 28 inches released, and one walleye above 28 inches allowed. There is also a four-walleye bag limit.

Van Nurden said the slot limits have been great in increasing the size of the walleye on the lake, which were getting smaller.

While we didn’t catch any, the lake also produces northern pike.

The area was real hospitable. I stayed at a resort/lodge only minutes away from the Voyageur’s National Park event center, in a lodge sleeping eight. The onsite boat launch was only feet away.

It’s rugged vacationing, but well worth it. There is no city there, but a resort community. Our resort owners are retired folks from Iowa. Jerilyn Carlson said most of the resorts used to be owned by folks from Iowa.

Kabetogama is one of five lakes that make up the Namakan Reservoir, a natural reservoir in a drainage system that begins in northeastern Minnesota and ends in Hudson Bay.

The lake covers nearly 26,000 acres and about a third of it is less than 15 feet deep, making it a good idea to use a guide to avoid rock piles if unfamiliar with the lake.

The maximum depth is 80 feet.

If fishing the Canadian side, be sure to get a Canadian fishing permit and you must use Canadian-bought bait.

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