The skinny on Long: lots of fish – and challenges
By Glen Schmitt
Some lakes are simply appropriately named. Such is the case with Hubbard County’s Long Lake.
This 1,926-acre fishery near Park Rapids is a skinny, eight-mile-long system that runs north to south and is sure to test the confidence of even the most seasoned walleye angler.
To be perfectly clear, the challenge isn’t that of a limited walleye population. In fact, Long Lake’s walleye numbers are in fine shape, but its physical characteristics make catching them a tricky proposition.
A DNR survey conducted in 2019 produced almost five walleyes per lift, which is a solid number for this type of lake. Walleyes from 14 to 18 inches were most abundant, and fish over 27 inches were sampled.
Long’s walleye population is maintained through fingerling stocking, which occurs during even-numbered years. It’s also worth noting that the majority of the walleyes sampled in 2019 are well over 16 inches in length now.
“The name of the game is all about walleyes on Long Lake. People who fish it mostly talk about walleyes,” said Calub Shavlik, acting DNR Fisheries supervisor in Park Rapids. “It has a wide range of sizes and the opportunity to catch big walleyes, too.”
But Long is an extremely deep, clear lake with sharp shoreline breaks. It warms slowly in the spring, and an abundance of deep basin water provides a lot of area for walleyes to roam. This is where the difficulty comes into play for consistently catching walleyes.
Josh Severtson, of Smokey Hills Outdoor Store in Park Rapids, says he wouldn’t fish Long for walleyes until at least the first of June arrives and the lake water warms.
Severtson suggests working the numerous points on the east and west sides of the lake, which tend to hold walleyes shortly after Memorial Day. Your work gets harder once summer rolls around and Long Lake’s walleyes spread out.
“It’s known for big walleyes, but it can be tough to fish with all that deep water and fast (shoreline) breaks,” Severtson said. “Once you get into the dog days of summer, troll the deep water and look for suspended walleyes.”
The lake’s crappie numbers have remained stable over the years and are considered to be low to moderate. As it is for walleye fishing, the lake’s physical features make pegging crappies difficult most of the year, although there is one exception.
That occurs shortly after ice-out, when crappies bunch up at the spillway on the far northern end of the lake. Locally referred to as “the fill,” it’s really the best opportunity to consistently catch crappies on Long.
“They get pressured in that area after the ice goes, but you don’t hear much about crappies in the summer or winter,” Shavlik said. “There aren’t a lot of people who fish for them once they move back to the main lake.”
You’ll encounter a robust largemouth bass population in Long, with most fish running in the 12- to 14-inch range. More bass tend to be on the south end of the lake where vegetation above and below the surface is more prevalent.
Long’s northern pike are much less abundant, but they do run good-sized. The deep, cool water and a tullibee forage base help grow some respectable pike.
“It has good numbers of bass, although their size lacks a bit compared to other lakes in this area,” Severtson said. “But you always have the chance of catching a really nice pike.”
Long is not your typical bluegill lake and lacks prime ‘gill habitat. There’s no shortage of bluegills and pumpkinseeds present, but they’ve historically run on the small side – a trend that continues today.
Nearest town………Park Rapids
Surface area……………1,926 acres
Maximum depth………..135 feet
Shore length……………….18 miles
Water clarity……………………9 feet
AIS present………….Faucet snail
Fish species present: walleye, black crappie, largemouth bass, northern pike, bluegill, pumpkinseed, yellow perch, tullibee (cisco), bullhead, rock bass, white sucker, shorthead redhorse, bowfin (dogfish).
For information: DNR area fisheries office (218) 732-4153, the DNR website http://www.dnr.state.mn.us/lakefind or Smokey Hills Outdoor Store (218) 237-5099.