Friday, February 3rd, 2023
Friday, February 3rd, 2023

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Minnesota Lake Profile – Crooked Lake, Cass County

It’s a winding path to get to Crooked Lake’s good fishing

Unless you know a landowner, getting on Crooked Lake in Cass County during the ice-fishing season is not a simple task. There’s no direct access on this 564-acre fishery located just south of the town of Cass Lake.


But there is a public access on Welsh Lake, which is connected to Crooked via a navigable channel. It allows passage of small boats during the open-water season, but the channel can be a risky proposition during the winter months.


This simply means that Crooked Lake receives minimal fishing pressure throughout the entire year. But it does have a decent walleye population and enough good-sized crappies and bluegills to make a small-boat outing during the open-water season worth the trip.


“You don’t hear a lot about it, but Crooked is a pretty good walleye and panfish lake,” said Doug Schultz, DNR fisheries supervisor in Walker. “When you combine it with Welsh Lake, you have some good fishing opportunities.”


Indeed, both lakes are similar in their physical characteristics and fish communities. They’re your basic bowl-shaped systems with deep and relatively clear water, sand bottoms, and some decent vegetation above and below the surface.


Walleye fry are stocked annually in Crooked, and some limited natural reproduction adds to the population. But Schultz says those stocked fish provide the majority of the walleye recruitment in the lake.


During the most recent DNR survey, conducted in 2015, standard gill net sets held about five walleyes per lift. That’s a pretty fair number for a lake of this type.


The walleyes sampled ranged from 9 to 27 inches in length, although the majority of them were in the 14- to 20-inch range, which has been typical of Crooked.


“Walleye numbers have remained relatively stable in recent surveys,” Schultz said. “We see consistent recruitment, and it’s always been recognized for producing more of those eating-size fish.”


Crooked’s panfish population is considered one of moderate density that does provide quality fishing opportunities for anglers.


Like its walleyes, there are plenty of black crappies and bluegills available for the table in Crooked. But the lake does give up some larger fish most years as well.


In 2015, for example, bluegills around 7 inches were quite noticeable, and fish over 8 inches were sampled. There also were good numbers of 10- and 11-inch crappies in the survey, along with a few over 13 inches in length.


“There’s some sand-bottom bulrush on Crooked that bodes well for panfish reproduction,” Schultz said. “There is decent panfish in it, and growth rates are generally good.”


Northern pike are present in high numbers, but recent surveys have shown a decline in the overall size of the population.


Gill nets during the 2015 survey averaged six to 10 pike per lift, and most fish were between 15 and 19 inches in length. The survey produced just two fish over 25 inches, so you should expect to be bothered by a fair amount of hammerhandle-variety pike while fishing for other species.


That stated, the lake does have a limited tullibee population, which provides a fatty forage base. So it’s not completely out of the question that an angler might occasionally hook a bigger northern pike.


“They are abundant and we’ve seen a decline in size,” Schultz said of northerns. “Most of the pike you’ll catch now will be under 20 inches.”


There is a limited largemouth bass population in Crooked Lake as well. They, too, consist of less desirable sizes from an angling standpoint, but a handful of bass over 15 inches were sampled in 2015.

Crooked Lake

Nearest town………….Cass Lake

Surface area……………..564 acres

Maximum depth………….74 feet

Shore length……………..3.5 miles

Water clarity…………………..8 feet


Fish species present:

Walleye, black crappie, bluegill, northern pike, largemouth bass, pumpkinseed, tullibee (cisco), hybrid sunfish, yellow perch, brown bullhead, yellow bullhead, burbot, (eelpout), rock bass, bowfin (dogfish).


For information:

DNR area fisheries office (218) 547-1683, the DNR website

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