Monday, February 6th, 2023
Monday, February 6th, 2023

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Mantrap Lake, Hubbard County

Mantrap captures attention of muskie anglers statewide

By Glen Schmitt
Staff Writer

At first glance, Mantrap Lake (also known as Big Mantrap) appears to be a complicated lake to fish. Its 1,618 acres provide anglers with a seemingly endless array of bays-to-channels-to-bays in which to play around. To say the least, Mantrap’s layout is unique.

For certain, there’s some good fishing to be had among Mantrap’s many twists and turns, which makes it a popular destination for local and traveling anglers alike. It’s a structure-rich lake as well, with an abundance of points, flats, islands, and vegetation providing plenty of fishy targets.  

Mantrap is highly regarded as one of the state’s premier muskie fisheries. It has a stellar reputation among muskie-fishing enthusiasts as a lake that not only produces trophy-caliber fish, but also high numbers of muskies.

The lake is stocked every other year with muskie fingerlings, and those 10-inch fish grow relatively fast, taking only about seven years to reach 40 inches in length. With its quality habitat, there’s also some decent natural reproduction that occurs, which adds up to some strong muskie numbers.

“Mantrap has one of the higher-density (muskie) populations in Minnesota,” said Calub Shavlik, DNR assistant fisheries supervisor in Park Rapids. “It’s always been a good muskie lake – not just in this area, but the entire state.”

During a targeted muskie assessment last spring, the DNR sampled muskies from 32 to 53 inches in length. Shavlik added that there were “a good slug of fish” in the 41- to 42-inch class, and that such an impressive range of sizes is nothing new for the lake.

Mantrap is also a popular lake for panfish anglers, especially those chasing crappies. There is a special regulation for crappies in place that allows for a five-fish possession limit.

Regarding crappie numbers, Mantrap remains a solid fishery. The DNR surveyed the lake in 2017 and sampled fish in a wide range of sizes, with strong numbers of crappies from 5 to 14 inches long and a whole bunch of 8- to 9-inch fish.

Its bluegills are numerous as well, but are less impressive in the size category. The majority of them measured between 3 and 7 inches in length, with none measuring over 8 inches long in the survey.

But if you want to go to catch a bunch of respectable crappies, Mantrap seems to always produce, and it doesn’t seem to matter what time of year, either.

“There are a lot of crappies in Mantrap, and we do see pictures of big crappies out of it,” said Jerry Danford, of Delaney’s Sporting Goods in Park Rapids. “But most are cookie-cutter eaters, so if you’re fishing to eat, there’s plenty of them.”

Since 2003, there’s also been a special regulation for northern pike on the lake, which requires that all pike from 24 to 36 inches in length are released. The intent was to improve the size structure of the population, which seems to be happening.

The pike sampled in 2017 averaged just over 3 pounds, and there were good numbers of fish up to 34 inches in length, according to Shavlik.

“The needle has shifted on the size of the pike,” he said.

Largemouth and smallmouth bass are both caught on Mantrap. Largemouth are more numerous, but its smallies tend to have a better size structure.

Generally, smallmouths are located in distinct areas – those with traditional smallie habitat. Given all of Mantrap’s vegetation, largemouth bass are spread throughout the entire lake.

Walleyes are tough to come by, but if you catch one on Mantrap, it’s likely going to be a big, old fish. 

There was a 29-inch male – yes, male – sampled in 2013 and none in 2017. Shavlik said that walleye from 2013 was at least 14 years old.

Mantrap Lake

Nearest town………Park Rapids

Surface area……………1,618 acres 

Maximum depth………….68 feet

Shore length……………….26 miles

Water clarity………………….12 feet

Fish species present:

Muskie, black crappie, bluegill, northern pike, largemouth bass, smallmouth bass, pumpkinseed, hybrid sunfish, tullibee (cisco), yellow perch, rock bass, bullhead, white sucker. 

For information:

DNR area fisheries office (218) 552-2313, the DNR website or Delaney’s Sporting Goods (218) 732-4281.

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