Low density but high quality fisheries dominate Irving
By Glen Schmitt
Lake Irving is a part of the highly regarded Mississippi River system that runs right through the city of Bemidji. It’s a well connected waterway that includes Lake Bemidji, Lake Marquette, Lake Plantagenet, and the Schoolcraft River among others.
Irving sits in the middle of it all and benefits greatly from its connected neighbors. Fish move freely between its lakes and rivers providing healthy populations of walleyes, jumbo perch, panfish, northern pike, largemouth bass, and muskies throughout this 661-acre fishery.
Given its location and excellent fishing opportunities, Irving also sees a lot of fishing pressure. During certain times of the year, especially spring and early ice, Irving is definitely a destination lake.
Its walleye population is sustained through natural reproduction and migration, primarily from the river portions of the system. Walleye numbers historically have been high and that trend continues today.
“We don’t hear any complaints about Irving’s walleyes, and it receives some very significant fishing pressure,” said Andy Thompson, acting DNR fisheries supervisor in Bemidji. “The entire system is a harvest fishery that holds a lot of eating-size walleyes. But the adult population is good, so it does produce big fish, too.”
Local fishing guide Dick Beardsley tends to key on Irving during the first month of the walleye season and again at first-ice. The lake is quite shallow, maxing out at 19 feet, so it warms fast in the spring and usually is one of the first in the area to cap with ice each winter.
The bulk of his catches usually consist of 14- to 17-inch walleyes with the occasional bigger fish mixed in. He also encouraged anglers not to overlook Irving’s perch population.
“Walleye fishing is really good for a few weeks at the start of the open-water season, especially at the mouth of the river where it leaves Irving,” Beardsley said. “During the winter, you’ll catch 12-inch plus perch and if you get on the right school, you won’t have to sort through many small fish.”
The lake’s bluegill and crappie population is one of low density that achieves really nice sizes. Crappies are more numerous than bluegills, although both provide an opportunity to catch quality specimens.
Beardsley noted that he’s caught crappies up to 14 inches, but jumbo perch garner more angler attention than crappies or bluegills on the panfish front.
Largemouth bass follow suit with the crappies and ‘gills in Lake Irving – low density population that produces some large individuals.
A large portion of the lake is shallow with submerged vegetation, as well as bulrush stands, wild rice, and lily pads; everything bass, like panfish, need to thrive.
“Irving offers some good largemouth bass fishing, really quality fish,” Beardsley said. “But most people fish it for walleyes and don’t even think about it.”
While northern pike numbers are pretty stable in Irving, its resident population runs on the small side. Lake Bemidji seems to be the better pike fishery for size in this system, likely because there’s a decent tullibee forage base in it, so more anglers target them on Bemidji.
You will find some muskies in Irving, too. Again, Lake Bemidji would be a more likely target for muskie anglers on a regular basis, but they do filter in and out of Irving. The front half of the muskie season is probably the best option.
“They move in there. We’ve caught muskies in Irving during our spring lake assessments,” Thompson said. “It warms faster in the spring so that attracts them, but most move back into Bemidji.”
Surface area………………661 acres
Maximum depth…………..19 feet
Shore length…………………5 miles
Water clarity……………………2 feet
Fish species present:
Walleye, yellow perch, black crappie, bluegill, largemouth bass, northern pike, muskie, pumpkinseed, hybrid sunfish, burbot (eelpout), bullhead, rock bass, white sucker, redhorse, bowfin (dogfish).
DNR area fisheries office (218) 308-2339, the DNR website http://www.dnr.state.mn.us/lakefind or Dick Beardsley Guide Service (218) 556-7172.