RED LAKE -- The waters of the Red Lake Indian Reservation typically aren't thought of as a destination for anglers, but a new offering through the band's Seven Clans Casino aims to change that.
Beginning this spring, the casino in Red Lake, Minn., will be offering guided fishing trips on more than 25 small lakes within the reservation boundaries. The guide service doesn't include the tribal waters of Red Lake, but the smaller lakes offer the opportunity for anglers to catch everything from lake trout and rainbow trout to largemouth bass, pike, bluegills, slab crappies and walleyes.
"There's a whole bunch of different lakes, and they're all over the place," said Al Pemberton, director of the Red Lake Department of Natural Resources. "They're all pretty unique, and not a lot of people fish them."
According to Darwin Sumner, outfitters manager at Seven Clans Casino, nontribal anglers have been able to buy licenses to fish the small lakes within the reservation in the past, providing they fished with a Red Lake band member, but this is the first time package trips have been available.
The casino plans to hire two guides to start with, Sumner said, and "hopefully that will expand really quick."
It's easy to fish two or three lakes in a day, Sumner said.
"Our lakes are so unpressured," he said. "If people want to catch fish of any species, this is the place to come. That's what I've been promoting it as -- you can jump from 17 to 27 lakes within a matter of 20 minutes depending on the species you want to target."
Sumner, who has guided on the small lakes in the past, said he typically begins by fishing trout in the morning and then moving to lakes with bass, pike or crappies as daytime temperatures rise.
"With the panfish, they're pretty much temperature related, so when the water gets warmer, they're more active," Sumner said. "With walleyes, it's just about any time with them. There's a good population of walleyes, and they're fairly easy to catch. I've caught them on everything from Mepps spinners to bass stuff."
Pemberton, who's also an avid small lake fisherman, said he released a 25-pound lake trout on one of the lakes last fall, and some of the lakes have largemouth bass weighing 6 to 8 pounds. As for crappies, anglers have a shot at slabs measuring 15 to 16 inches.
"We put a bunch of those big slab crappies that were in the big lake into some of the little lakes, and they've taken," Pemberton said. "We only put them in lakes that had crappies before, just to kind of (kick start) them a little bit and boost them up."
Sumner said the casino marketed its new fishing packages at a recent sports show in Grand Forks and also plans to have a booth at the Minnesota Bass Expo set for April 20 to 22 in Blaine, Minn.
Both full- and half-day trips are available, he said, and packages include the guide and boat, lunch and all fishing gear. There's room for as many as three anglers per boat.
"We're hoping to get started on opening day (May 12), and hopefully we can start expanding right out of the gate," Sumner said. "Just show up, and we will take you fishing."
For more information on the guided fishing packages, check out the link on the Seven Clans Casino website at www.sevenclanscasino.com/page/rl_events_fishing.
BRAD DOKKEN is a writer for the Grand Forks Herald. The Bemidji Pioneer and the Herald are Forum Communications Co. newspapers.