Cuyuna Mine Lakes - Trout Fishing
Trout fishing is excellent in the many stocked mine lakes in this unique area. Here you can angle for rainbow, brown, brook, and even lake trout amid natural surroundings with no development and little competition. While there is some small stream trout fishing in the area the best strategy is to fish the mine lakes. There is great fishing for other species, as well. If you are looking for a fun fishing experience in an unusually quiet environment, try our trout fishing. By the way, these fish are excellent table fare!
Mine Lake Fishing for Trout
The mine lakes provide a unique fishing experience where shore fishing and boat fishing are employed to catch trout and other species. Only three of the mine lakes have improved boat ramp accesses at this time, they are Pennington (Ironton), Section Six (Trommald), and Sagamore, near Riverton. Pennington opens into other mine lakes including Mahnomen Mines 1 and 2, Arco and Alstead.
Fish are stocked every year at varying rates in selected mine lakes depending on access and size of the body of water. Up to date information can be found from area bait shops, especially those around Crosby, Deerwood, and Ironton. Call the Cuyuna Country State Recreation Area Headquarters at:
(218) 546-5926 or check out the DNR website for additional information.
When to fish:
Mine lake trout fishing season opens with the general gamefish opener (mid-May) and closes at the end of October. No winter angling of any kind is allowed on the mine lakes outside of the aforementioned date range. Live minnows are prohibited in mine lakes. Dead minnows are allowed.
How to Fish: Trout Fishing Techniques
In the spring and fall shore fishing is best for shore fishing as water in the 50 degree range allow the trout to shallower. Anglers can drive to a specific mine lake, park and then walk one of the many trails to find a comfortable spot to fish. It's wise to bring a chair and to other items such as bug spray to make your time enjoyable. Waders are typically not needed since the mine lakes drop off very quickly.
Anglers fish with and without bobbers and use worms, corn, marshmallows and some of the newer synthetic baits. Other anglers prefer to walk from spot to spot casting baits or spinners and spoons. Small plug-type baits also work well early and late in the season such as Rapalas.
On lakes with accesses, traditional boat fishing techniques are used. Electronics are indispensable when boat fishing summer trout. You will "see" the fish on the sonar and this will tell you the preferred depth. Then use this depth as a guide to set your trolling or down-rigging levels. If you are without electronics, simply start trolling in ten feet and keep dropping in five foot increments down to forty until you connect.
- Drifting with jigs and live bait rigs are deadly. Use electronics to find fish and their average depth. Cast out about twice the depth of the fish, using 1/4 oz weight to get deep quickly. For example, if you see fish around 25 feet, cast out about fifty feet and let the wind or trolling motor take you slowly over the fish. Experiment with bait types, i.e., worms, dead minnows, etc.
- Trolling with bait behind spinners and even cowbells are used. Plugs and other crankbaits are also casted and trolled. Stickbaits can be smaller, around three inches. This size is effective on stocked trout which are typically 12-14 inches. Larger plugs will take the larger "hold-over" rainbows that can be two to five pounds. Most fish are perfect pan size.
- Down-rigger trolling in the summer months is done when warmer surface temperatures send the fish deeper. Generally the fish will be found in the 25-45 foot range and can be seen with electronics. Two to six pound downrigger balls are sufficient for this relatively shallow fishing.
- Still fishing by boat is done if it is calm enough to hover over fish (detected with electronics) and held in position with oars or electric trolling motors. Here traditional vertical jigging is done with bait on a #6-8 long shanked hook or a crawler harness. 1/32 and 1/16 oz jigs with colored plastic bodies and tipped with a wax worm or worm piece if effective. To get deeper, pinch on an 1/8 or 1/4 oz lead weight.
Canoes and Float Tubes
Lakes without launch ramps usually provide the most undisturbed fish. Here one needs to carry or slide in a canoe or the like. Outboard motors are allowed on all lakes. Float tubes and small portable fishing pontoons can be used as well and are perfect for some of the smaller "pits".
In the spring and fall fly fishing can be excellent as the fish will move to the surface in search of bugs. One word of caution: These fish are tough! Use at least a four pound test tippet and usually six (4X-3X) especially for subsurface. Surface flies can be caddis imitations such as Adams or Henryvilles in a size 12 or 14. These are stocked fish so they are not terribly selective.
On a calm day simply drift around throwing at rise forms. If surface flies don't work, strip hard and sink them. Then employ an various speeds of retrieve until the fish tell you what they like. Keep the rod low, pointed directly at the fly. If you feel the line stop, strip with authority! A "strip set" is better since if the fish misses you can continue stripping. If you sweep set which is the natural reaction, you will pull the fly away and probably out of the water. You will then need to re-cast and the fish may well be gone.
Subsurface flies designed to swim are effective. Start with Hare's Ear nymphs and Soft Hackle Caddis in a #14 and #16. If these don't work, pull out some streamers such as Wholly Buggers or Deceivers in sizes 10 to 6.
Fly fishing on mine lakes can be some of the very best found anywhere in the midwest. It is largely undiscovered here and awaits the adventurous, willing to experiment and explore. It is seasonal and dependant upon water temperature. A thermometer is extremely useful. As long as the surface water does not exceed 65 degrees, trout can be found in the top ten feet of the water column.
Fly Fishing Gear
A "5 weight" fly rod with weight forward floating line (#5-6) will work well. Remember these lakes are generally protected on all sides by mounds of mining debris (now reforested) making them relatively calm in almost any ambient weather situation. The "pits" are great places to go when it's too windy to fish elsewhere. This also means shore fly fishing is difficult since the high slopes prohibit backcasting in many areas.
In early and late summer a fast sinking tip can be employed to get at fish residing in depths of fifteen to thirty-five feet using a countdown method.
Information provided by Brad Miller