ALEXANDRIA, Minn. -- There are a lot of fish species that call the Alexandria Chain of Lakes home, but one that anglers never really expect to latch into is a rainbow trout.
That’s exactly what Alexandria’s Tim Olson did while fishing on Lake Carlos on the evening of July 1. Olson was pulling crankbaits in about 110 feet of water hoping to run into walleyes suspended in the water column. Instead, he landed a big rainbow that measured 24.25-inches.
“This thing hit on a bait that was probably about 30 feet down,” Olson said. “It didn’t necessarily fight that hard. By the time I got the rod out of the rod holder, the fish was actually flipping around up on the surface. It had come up that quick, which kind of surprised me. I was thinking it was probably a little northern at first, so we were surprised when we got it to the boat.”
Olson knew catching a rainbow like this on the chain was a rarity. The picture quickly got to Bill McKibbin, the assistant area supervisor for the Glenwood DNR fisheries department.
“Bill’s response was, ‘No way,’” Olson said.
Glenwood DNR fisheries supervisor Dean Beck could not say with certainty how the fish got in the lake, but he did have a theory.
“We issued a private fish hatchery license to an individual who raised fish in ponds just northwest of Lake Carlos,” Beck said. “His license included rainbow and brown trout. This individual is no longer licensed, but it is possible some trout may have escaped to Lake Carlos. Such catches would be extremely rare in absence of local production.”
One other possibility stems from stocking efforts miles away, but the timing of that and the length of this fish do not seem to match up.
The Viking Sportsmen group in Alexandria initiated a stocking effort of rainbow and brown trout in Douglas County into Spruce Creek, a spring-fed tributary of the Long Prairie River, starting in the spring of 2019. The Long Prairie River runs into the northeast portion of Lake Carlos.
The DNR did run a trout-stocking program north of the Spruce Center Dam on a stretch of stream that runs into Otter Tail County. That started in the 1970s and lasted almost a decade.
Beck said he wouldn’t completely rule out that the fish caught by Olson was one of those larger rainbows released in Spruce Creek in 2019.
“That would be fast growth, particularly since it was a sexually mature fish,” he said. “It’s hard to get around that rate of growth to be comfortable that it was one of the few larger fish stocked last year.”