For walleyes in the Crosby area, hop on over to West Rabbit
By Glen Schmitt
Travel north on Highway 6 just out of Crosby, look to your right, and you’ll see one of the better walleye lakes in the immediate area.
But if you’re not paying attention, you might drive right past West Rabbit Lake without a thought. After all, it’s only 535 acres and is rarely busy with fishing activity.
But don’t let its size or lack of fishing pressure fool you. West Rabbit is a pretty good walleye fishery with plenty of structure. It holds quality bass, respectable panfish, and some northern pike as well.
It’s also connected to East Rabbit Lake, which is bigger and features water depths of more than 300 feet. Among most local anglers, however, West Rabbit is the more popular fishing choice.
“It’s best known for its walleyes and is one of the more consistent lakes for (walleye) numbers in the area,” said Jesse Williams, of Oars ‘n Mine Bait and Tackle in Crosby. “The lake has quite a bit of classic walleye structure, and there always seems to be short fish coming up.”
The DNR stocks West Rabbit with walleye fingerlings during odd-numbered years. Those fish, more than natural reproduction, keep the lake’s walleye population intact.
Although it hasn’t been surveyed by the DNR since 2015, walleye catch rates tend not to swing up or down too much in West Rabbit. Gill net samples have historically been over four fish per lift, which is a decent number for a lake this size.
“We averaged four and a half walleyes per net in 2015, and that’s not bad at all,” said Carl Mills, DNR Fisheries specialist in Brainerd. “West Rabbit is a healthy fishery as far as offering a variety of (walleye) sizes.”
It appears to be. Along with those short fish working toward a keepable size, Williams says it has a reputation for producing eating-size walleyes, and it gives up some large walleyes every year as well.
West Rabbit has always been an excellent largemouth bass lake that offers anglers a wide range of areas to fish. Deep and shallow submerged vegetation, slop, docks, reeds, and main-lake structure all hold good numbers of quality largemouth bass.
More than a decade ago, smallmouth bass also starting being caught from the lake, and although smallies aren’t nearly as numerous as the lake’s largemouths, West Rabbit does produce quality smallmouths, too.
There really isn’t a clear answer surrounding how they got in the lake because smallmouths have never been stocked there. Williams believes there was some “bucket biology” that occurred, meaning someone released them into the lake.
“We started noticing smallmouths about 15 years ago, and they seem to be reproducing,” Williams said. “There are some really nice bass in West Rabbit. You have a legitimate chance at a 5-pounder.”
The lake’s panfish population isn’t overly abundant, but there are certain times of the year that are more productive than others, at least for catching bigger crappies and bluegills.
For example, the pencil reeds along the south shore produce nice bluegills in the spring. Crappies are less numerous, but can be good-sized if you come across the right pod of fish.
“If you target them and know where to look at different times of the year, you can catch some nice bluegills,” Williams said. “It’s a low-population, high-quality crappie lake, so you can scratch some nice fish out.”
If you fish northern pike on West Rabbit, be aware of a 24- to 36-inch protected slot that’s in place. It’s really not a numbers game for pike, but there are enough quality fish to target them.
“West Rabbit has a history of producing some bigger pike,” Mills said. “They aren’t really trophy fish, but they run nicer than (they do in) most lakes in the area.”
West Rabbit Lake
Surface area………………535 acres
Maximum depth………….50 feet
Shore length…………………6 miles
Water clarity………………….15 feet
Fish species present: walleye, largemouth bass, smallmouth bass, black crappie, bluegill, northern pike, pumpkinseed, hybrid sunfish, yellow perch, eelpout, rock bass, bullhead, white sucker, bowfin (dogfish).
For information: DNR area fisheries office (218) 203-4301, the DNR website http://www.dnr.state.mn.us/lakefind or Oars ‘n Mine Bait and Tackle (218) 546-6912.