PELICAN LAKE CONTROVERSY

Steve Carney Picture

Pelican Lake Crappie

I have lived within miles of famed Pelican Lake near Monticello for decades and have never fished it. I have avoided this lake mainly because of the unbelievable crowds that descend on this lake day after day. I have heard great fishing reports from this lake for about 6 years now and actually made a trip over there recently to sample the fishing.

Arriving on Pelican I was struck with the similarity of this body of water to North Dakota's Devil's Lake. This is sort of a mini version of that lake with the same cattail edges, sunken islands, silo's, fence lines and the like. Pelican is downright huge in size with an average depth of around 8 feet. When I arrived at the access on a recent Friday, I had to get in line with the vehicles as the parade of pickups and SUV's was incredible. It was a constant flow of traffic thru the access both coming on and going off. I headed to the center part of the basin just trying to get away from the literally hundreds of ice shacks both permanents and portables. There had to be a thousand ice anglers on this Friday. Imagine a weekend ? I moved out to the center and drilled a hole just to check my depth and I "marked" fish immediately. I dropped down a jigging spoon and smacked a nice crappie right off the bat. This never happens...hitting fish on your first hole. I sat there for three hours and smacked the crappies continuously until dark. The size of the fish really varied from small, releasable fish to some dandy 1 pounders. Mixed in were bluegills galore although they were on the small side. This was the action I was hoping for as it has been a struggle elsewhere in the metro this winter.

The current controversy facing this lake is the possibility of drawing down the lake and basically starting over and re-creating a more duck friendly lake. Let me get this straight....the plan is to destroy possibly the best panfish lake in the five county area to create better duck habitat. Why would anyone destroy one of the most popular and heavily fished lakes in the metro ? The economic impact of the thousands of anglers in relation to local businesses, bait shops, gas stations and convenience stores would be huge. I don't get it.

Turning one lake around will have minimum impact on the ducks anyway as Minnesota is no longer a pass-thru destination for northern ducks and maybe there will be some local ducks benefiting but that's about it. In my opinion, the bottom line is we don't have enough viable panfish fisheries in the metro area giving us the latitude to nuke a major fishing grounds for thousands of anglers for the benefit of a few ducks.

Back to the fishing on Pelican....I really was impressed to find panfish so quickly and was impressed with the quality and the numerous year classes. The consensus on this lake for most anglers is to enter the lake and start drilling holes aimlessly until you hit fish. You are dealing with very shallow, dark water and it's a matter of moving until you mark fish. When you are dealing with such shallow depths it takes expertise to read your electronics correctly. The crappies especially would just materialize magically from the bottom and strike with very little notice because you basically have very little time to anticipate the strike because you have such a shallow water column.

After this success, I wish I had checked this fishery out before but now I hope I will have many more years to enjoy this action before some group makes the wrong decision.

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