Saturday, February 4th, 2023
Saturday, February 4th, 2023

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Pokegama Lake, Pine County

With Pine County’s Pokegama, you never know what’s tugging at your fishing line

By Glen Schmitt
Staff Writer

Pine County’s Pokegama Lake takes multi-species fishing to an entirely new level. It’s a wide spot along the Snake River system, so you just never know what might show up on the end of your line. That alone is probably Pokegama’s greatest trait. 

Pokegama has all of the usual suspects, such as panfish, walleyes, pike, and bass. But it also has an abundance of riverine and unique fish species in the mix, including channel catfish, white bass, drum, and even lake sturgeon.

“Its wide array of fish species makes Pokegama one of the higher profile lakes in this area,” said Nate Painovich, DNR Fisheries specialist in Hinckley. “It’s a neat lake from the standpoint of fish diversity and because you really never what you’re going to catch.”

The lake also receives a fair amount of fishing pressure, and for local anglers, that usually means chasing panfish. Pokegama is well known for its bluegills and fishable populations of both black and white crappies.

Eight- to 9-inch bluegills are pretty common, and fish at the 10-inch mark are not out of the question. Pokegama’s crappies tend to run in that 9- to 12-inch class, with some bigger fish mixed in as well.

According to Painovich, the panfish get hit hard in the spring and winter, but have managed to maintain their respectable size structure. But there is a current proposal to reduce the bluegill limit to 10 fish in order to make sure that quality remains.

“Historically, Pokegama has been a good bluegill lake, and even though we haven’t managed for it, the size structure has gone up in the last five years,” Painovich said. “Black crappies are more numerous than whites. If you catch 10 or 12 crappies, two or three of them will be white and they are good-sized.”

While not considered a destination lake for walleyes, Pokegama is stocked with fingerlings on an every-other-year basis, and some limited natural reproduction does occur. 

During the most recent DNR survey in 2018, walleyes averaged about 15 inches in length, which is pretty typical for Pokegama. From a walleye-catching standpoint, limits can be tough to come by, but the odds are tipped in your favor during certain times of the year.

“A lot of times, you’ll catch walleyes accidentally if you’re fishing for something else,” said Jake Kaysen, of Adrenaline Archery and Bait Shop in Pine City. “But in the spring and fall, when they’re shallow, limits are caught and it’s usually a lot of eating-size walleyes.”

Pokegama also holds largemouth and smallmouth bass, and although neither are high in number,there are some quality bass to be caught. Generally, you’ll catch more largemouths in the lake and better numbers of smallies in the Snake River.

Northern pike numbers are light, but they, too, offer the opportunity to catch bigger fish. In fact, Pokegama is probably one of the better options in this area for catching a pike over 30 inches long.

One of the more underutilized fishing options in Pokegama is its channel catfish. They filter in and out of the river, and fish in the 25- to 30-inch class are quite common. They just haven’t caught the eyes of local anglers.

“It’s a good catfish fishery, but they don’t get a lot of attention,” Painovich said. 

Painovich also hears about a few lake sturgeon caught from Pokegama every year. But with more suitable forage options in the river, it holds better numbers than the lake.

You might also stumble upon a pod of white bass while fishing for something else. Kaysen says they can run big, with fish over 12 inches being common.

“You just don’t know what you’ll catch out there,” he said. “It’s an incredible system.”

Pokegama Lake

Nearest town……………Pine City

Surface area……………1,521 acres 

Maximum depth………….25 feet

Shore length……………….10 miles

Water clarity……………………3 feet

AIS present…………….Eurasian watermilfoil

Fish species present:

Bluegill, black crappie, white crappie, walleye, northern pike. largemouth bass, smallmouth bass, pumpkinseed, channel catfish, white bass, yellow perch, lake sturgeon, bullhead, freshwater drum, white sucker, redhorse. 

For information:

DNR area fisheries office (320) 384-7721, the DNR website http://www.dnr.state.mn.us/lakefind or Adrenaline Archery & Bait (320) 629-4992.

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