Trout fishing opens Saturday, Bemidji area streams offer plenty of opportunities for anglers
Anglers in the Bemidji area can pick and choose what species to target once the walleye, northern pike, muskie and bass seasons open but at this time of the year the options are limited.
The unusually early spring has resulted in expanded opportunities to look for sunfish, crappies and perch but for many area anglers mid-April is the time to head to the streams and plop a worm or a fly into the pools where brook, rainbow and brown trout are waiting.
The stream trout season opens Saturday and fishermen are allowed to keep five trout. Only one can be over 16 inches, however.
Rainbows and browns can be found in the Clearwater River while rainbow trout swim in the Battle River and brook trout live in the Necktie River, Sucker Brook, Kabekona Creek and Bungashing Creek.
The Battle River near Kelliher is the latest stream to be managed for trout by the area DNR Fisheries staff. Officials planned to stock the stream with 600 rainbow trout prior to Saturday's opener.
DNR officials stocked trout into the Battle River for almost 50 years but the practice ended in 1989. After public input indicated a renewed interest in the stream as a trout fishery, trout management efforts were resurrected and catchable-sized rainbows (eight to 11 inches) were stocked last April.
The stream's management plan calls for continued stocking of rainbow yearlings each spring.
The Battle River features sand and gravel bottom and plenty of rock, woody structure, riffles and pools to conceal the fish. To effectively work the stream all an angler needs is a pair of waders.
The Clearwater River west of Pinewood harbors hungry rainbows and browns and anglers can either fish from shore or wade the stream.
This year's DNR management proposals include the stocking of 1,000 yearling rainbows prior to Saturday's opener. Another 1,000 rainbows and 1,000 brown trout will be stocked into the river in May.
A wheelchair-accessible boardwalk was built in 2001 to provide stream access from four fishing platforms and a parking lot on the north side of County Road 22 is connected to the boardwalk.
When stocked the yearling rainbows are eight to 12 inches while the browns average six to eight inches. Fishermen who hit the stream in the fall will find fewer trout but may have to pay attention to the state rule allowing only one fish over 16 inches.
The Bungashing Creek runs through the countryside southeast of Bemidji and contains a brook trout population that is sustained entirely by natural reproduction.
The stream is walkable either with waders or, in certain areas, along shore and watercress is abundant. The plant provides cover and also is home to many of the small insects that brook trout enjoy eating.
The Necktie River in northern Hubbard County also is home to resident brook trout although the population is aided by annual stocking.
This year the stream is scheduled to receive 500 yearling brook trout and DNR officials hope to complete that task this week.
Brook trout are small compared to rainbows but anglers on the Necktie could tangle with a brookie that is over a foot in length.
Volunteers with the Headwaters Chapter of Trout Unlimited have had a hand in maintaining the Necktie as a quality trout fishery as they have anchored Christmas trees along the stream bank and have helped with other habitat improvement projects.
The Kabekona River west of Laporte also boasts naturally reproducing brook trout. The fish can usually be found in the pools near the road accesses and those areas attract many anglers.
Fly tackle and light spinning rigs are perfect for catching the trout.
Brook trout also can be caught in Sucker Brook which meanders through the countryside about 25 miles southwest of Bemidji.
The river was scheduled to receive 300 brook trout this week and those fish will join those which were naturally produced.
Sucker Brook has been a DNR project for many years and in 2003 the stream was ready to be stocked with yearling brook trout. The stocking, coupled with extensive stream management which included beaver removal, has resulted in a stream which offers catchable trout.
Bemidji Area DNR Fisheries officials (218-308-2339) manage the Battle River, Clearwater River, Bungashing Creek, Necktie River and Sucker Brook while the Kabekona River is managed by the Park Rapids DNR Fisheries staff (218-732-4153).