Got an itch for panfish? It may be time for Kitchi
By Glen Schmitt
Kitchi Lake is a popular link in the prolific Cass Lake Chain of Lakes in Beltrami County. Fish move quite a bit between the lakes in this system, making Kitchi, like all of its connected waters, an excellent multi-species fishery.
But any conversation about Kitchi and its nearly 1,900 acres of water has to begin with panfish. There’s a long history of excellent bluegill and crappie fishing – both size and numbers – on this lake, and that tradition continues today.
Bemidji-area fishing guide Dick Beardsley said he loves fishing Kitchi, especially for panfish. He believes that while there are other good crappie- and bluegill-fishing opportunities throughout the chain, Kitchi is tough to beat for consistently kicking out numbers of good-sized fish.
“We catch a lot of big crappies and bluegills on Kitchi, and it’s always been pretty consistent,” he said. “You find the right pods of fish and you’ll see a lot of 10-inch bluegills with some even bigger ones mixed in. Its crappies consistently run from 12 to 14 inches.”
During a 2019 DNR survey, bluegills averaged 8 inches in length, although fish over 9 inches were fairly common. The crappies sampled that year averaged 10 inches long, but fish approaching 14 inches in length can be expected.
Tony Kennedy is a large lake specialist with the DNR in Bemidji, and he says the results from the 2019 survey were nothing out of the ordinary for Kitchi’s panfish. He also pointed out that the entire chain, including Kitchi, now has a five-bluegill limit.
“The quality of panfish in Kitchi has been there for a long time. This isn’t a new thing,” he said. “They just run a nice average size and anglers know that.”
Walleye fishing is pretty solid on Kitchi as well, with some stellar opportunities in the spring, when hoards of spawning walleyes start making their run from the Turtle River back to the lakes.
DNR gill nets averaged only three walleyes per set in 2019, but Kennedy says the late-summer netting work was not an accurate reflection of the walleye population in Kitchi.
“That’s a tough time of year to set nets on that lake, so it isn’t a fair representation,” he said. “We don’t hear any complaints about the (walleye) fishing in Kitchi.”
Beardsley agrees that the spring is primetime for walleyes on Kitchi, but he’s done well during the summer and winter months, too. He had this to add about catching walleyes on it.
“It really shines in the spring and then sort of turns into a panfish lake for most people,” he said. “But there are a lot of good cabbage (patches), humps, and bars that you can find walleyes on. I’d say it’s a sleeper walleye lake in the summer.”
While the Cass Lake chain is one of the state’s premier muskie-fishing destinations, you don’t hear as much about Kitchi as you do some of the other lakes from a muskie-fishing standpoint.
But the DNR regularly samples small muskies in it, a sign that natural reproduction is occurring. And with the ability of fish to move between the lakes, there are muskies funneling into it. Is it possible muskie anglers keep Kitchi hidden in there back pocket?
“There is good natural reproduction in there, and it is a good muskie lake,” Kennedy said. “Guys just don’t talk about it.”
The chain isn’t really known for producing bass, but Kitchi might be the best option for them. It has the right bass habitat, and quality bass are caught.
There are pike to be had as well, but the vast majority run small. You’ll also come across a school of bigger perch from time to time, but better options exist for both in the chain’s attached lakes.
There is no public access on Kitchi, but you can get to it through the north shore of Cass Lake.
Nearest town………….Cass Lake
Surface area……………1,858 acres
Maximum depth………….50 feet
Shore length……………….14 miles
Water clarity……………………4 feet
AIS present……….Zebra mussel
Fish species present:
Bluegill, black crappie, walleye, largemouth bass, muskie, yellow perch, pumpkinseed, northern pike, hybrid sunfish, bullhead, rock bass, white sucker, shorthead redhorse, bowfin (dogfish).
DNR area fisheries office (218) 308-2339, the DNR website http://www.dnr.state.mn.us/lakefind or Dick Beardsley Guide Service (218) 556-7172.