Medicine might be the cure for your metro-fishing blues
By Glen Schmitt
Catching bluegills in lakes throughout the Twin Cities metro area comes quite easily. But finding a lake that supports a healthy population of truly good-sized bluegills is a much taller task.
Hennepin County’s Medicine Lake is one of the rare exceptions in that is has those quality sunfish. Despite heavy fishing pressure, especially during the winter months, this 924-acre lake near Plymouth continues to kick out bluegills worth keeping.
One could even make the argument that Medicine is the best bluegill lake this area has to offer. But the fact is, there just aren’t many lakes in the Twin Cities area that have an abundance of 8-inch bluegills left in them, but Medicine does.
“You don’t have to do a lot of cherry-picking on Medicine; it has very nice sunfish in it,” said Bob Sonenstahl, of Wayzata Bait and Tackle. “It’s the last lake in the metro that you can consistently catch 8-inch sunfish at, and good numbers of them.”
You’ll also find a few pushing 9 inches in length, which is even more rare in these parts. The DNR conducted a survey in 2020 of Medicine and offshore gill nets pulled strong numbers of bluegills over 7 inches long, with the largest ’gill sampled measuring just over 9 inches.
The lake has an abundant crappie population as well, although they aren’t particularly big. The majority of crappies you’ll catch on Medicine will top out around 7 inches in length, with the occasional 8- or 9-inch fish in the mix.
The current status of the lake’s panfish population prompted a special regulation that was implemented last year. The daily bag limit for both bluegills and crappies has been reduced to five fish.
“Medicine has always been dominated by bluegills, and the regulation change should help protect those larger fish in the population,” said Jason Harris, fisheries specialist with the DNR’s west-metro office. “It’s tough to say why we don’t see bigger crappies out there, but hopefully the new regulation will help improve the size of them.”
The lake supports a modest walleye population – one that seems to be improving. Walleye fingerlings are stocked during odd-numbered years, and that stocking has built decent walleye numbers.
The most recent survey was highlighted by two successful walleye year-classes: Fish stocked in 2015 and 2017 fared well. The walleyes sampled averaged nearly 18 inches in length, and fish from 10 to 28 inches long were sampled.
“There never used to be much for walleyes in it, but stocking has changed that,” Sonenstahl said. “They don’t come easy and you won’t catch big numbers, but you will catch nice walleyes.”
There also are quality bass to be had in Medicine, although it’s an underutilized bass fishery. With a much more popular bass destination – Lake Minnetonka – in the vicinity, most anglers drive right past Medicine.
Medicine is loaded with an abundance of vegetation, as well as docks, points, and flats that all hold good numbers of bass.
“It’s a phenomenal bass lake, but untouched, really,” Sonenstahl added. “Most people go to Minnetonka if they’re bass fishing.”
Northern pike are extremely abundant in Medicine, and there’s a chance to catch a few large fish. Pike up to 33 inches were sampled in 2020, and Sonenstahl says he’s personally seen fish pushing 18 to 20 pounds from the lake.
They’re low on the priority list for most anglers, but Medicine has a robust yellow bullhead population and they are big bullheads. Fish from 12 to 14 inches are abundant.
“We’d classify those as trophy bullheads,” Harris said. “Medicine would be a place to fish if you wanted to catch numbers of nice bullheads.”
Surface area………………924 acres
Maximum depth………….49 feet
Shore length…………………9 miles
Water clarity……………………7 feet
Fish species present:
Bluegill, black crappie, walleye, northern pike, largemouth bass, pumpkinseed, hybrid sunfish, bullhead, yellow perch, white sucker, common carp, bowfin (dogfish).
DNR area fisheries office (952) 236-5171, the DNR website http://www.dnr.state.mn.us/lakefind or Wayzata Bait and Tackle (952) 473-2227.