Thursday, February 2nd, 2023
Thursday, February 2nd, 2023

Breaking News for

Sportsmen Since 1967

Too many smallies in this border water?

(Photo by Steve Carney)

By Steve Carney

Contributing Writer

My past four weeks of fishing the border waters of Big Stone Lake and Lake Traverse in western Minnesota have included good and bad news. I’ve seen these lakes change much since I began fishing them in the early 1980s.

Lake Traverse has especially changed with clearer water and the recent explosion of smallmouth bass. Don’t get me wrong; I love smallies. They are my second favorite fish, but when I’m looking to target walleyes on Traverse … good luck!

I just returned from there, and I caught 70 to 85 smallmouths per day, easy. It’s getting to the point that the smallies are so numerous and aggressive that getting your bait in front of a walleye is difficult. Often a crowd of four to six smallies will follow your bait to the surface, and they compete for your jig and minnow.

Where these smallies came from is something I can’t figure out. They just started to appear within the past three years, and most of the smallmouths are carbon copies of each other, weighing around 2 pounds.

Traverse reminds me of Lake Mille Lacs and its transformation into a smallmouth bonanza as well, with anglers catching many more smallies than walleyes.  

The best tip on these border waters is to concentrate your efforts on fishing the last hour of light and fishing well past dusk. The smallies tend to back off after dark, and the walleyes then get active. 

I think it’s a pecking order of sorts where, once the over-aggressive smallies are done for the day, the walleyes take over. The smallies aren’t going away anytime soon, and I believe catching a walleye on Traverse will continue to be difficult as long as the smallmouth population continues to increase. 

It’s hard to understand where this fishery is headed as long as there is such an imbalance of predator fish.

And the “hammerhandle” northerns are a whole ’nother story for a future column.

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