Worth repeating: Echo’s a great walleye, crappie fishery
By Glen Schmitt
Tucked within the borders of Superior National Forest, St. Louis County’s Echo Lake, for anglers, has that feel of adventurous, remote fishing.
Development along Echo’s shores is minimal, and it’s slightly off the beaten path, so it’s usually pretty quiet on Echo. While it’s easy to get sucked in by the lake’s surroundings, the fishing opportunities in this 1,142-acre lake also are pretty impressive.
It’s an excellent walleye lake, known for its consistent numbers of fish that come in a wide range of sizes. There are some pretty walleyes as well – fat, healthy fish tinted differently due to the lakes dark water.
The DNR conducted a survey of Echo in 2019, and the survey showed what most have in the past: an abundance of walleyes with many year-classes represented. These were all naturally-produced walleyes that ranged from 7 to 28 inches in length and 1 to 17 years in age.
“Walleye catch rates are always high in surveys out there, and 2019 was no exception,” said Kristen Patterson, DNR assistant fisheries supervisor in International Falls. “We saw lots of year-classes – 16- to 19-inch walleyes were most common, but 6- to 8-inch fish were abundant, too.”
Brian Sorensen, of Trail’s End Resort on the northwest corner of Echo, says anglers caught a lot of 9- to 12-inch walleyes this past season (likely those fish that were less than 10 inches in the 2019 survey), along with good numbers of eaters and some large walleyes.
“It was good to see those small fish, but we also had walleyes up to 27 inches caught at the resort this year and a 31-incher last year,” Sorensen said. “People were excited to see those small walleyes coming up, and they caught plenty of fish to eat, too.”
The number of crappies sampled in the 2019 survey was the second highest ever recorded on Echo. They are abundant, with consistent year-classes represented and they do grow large.
Crappies ranged from 1 to 10 years of age in the survey and averaged almost 9 inches long, with fish up to 13 inches recorded.
But a 14-inch crappie is pretty common from Echo, and fish bigger than that are caught each year. The key to the lake’s impressive crappie population is good habitat and the willingness of anglers to release most of the big fish so they have the opportunity to keep reproducing.
“The crappies here are true slabs. I know there was one caught last spring that was 161⁄2 inches,” Sorensen said. “But people know what the lake can produce for crappies, so they’re really good about releasing those big females.”
Bluegills are present in Echo as well, but not nearly as numerous as its walleyes and crappies. The lake is basically featureless, void of structure, so it can be tough to locate bluegills during most of the year.
Sorensen pointed out that when people do find them, many of the bluegills they catch often are good-sized.
Smallmouth bass are worth a look in Echo, and you might even stumble upon one of its rogue largemouth bass, although Sorensen knows of only one largemouth caught by his guests in recent years
The lake’s smallmouth population is strong, with most fish running 8 to 12 inches in length. Bigger fish do exist, and the occasional trophy-caliber smallie shows up from time to time.
Most of the lake’s northern pike are of the hammerhandle variety. The largest pike sampled in 2019 was near 28 inches long, but most were around 20 inches.
“If you want to catch something for the frying pan, walleyes or panfish, Echo is a good bet,” Patterson added.
It’s also worth noting that the lake’s inlets and outlets cause sketchy ice conditions, so fishing pressure is almost nonexistent during the winter.
Surface area……………1,142 acres
Maximum depth…………..10 feet
Shore length……………….11 miles
Water clarity……………………3 feet
Fish species present:
Walleye, black crappie, bluegill, smallmouth bass, largemouth bass, northern pike, pumpkinseed, yellow perch, rock bass, white sucker, redhorse.
DNR area fisheries office (218) 286-5220, the DNR website http://www.dnr.state.mn.us/lakefind or Trail’s End Resort (218) 993-2257.