Panfish bite heating up around Rochester

05-24 03 crappies jw .jpg
Two anglers caught this limit of crappies in about a half hour when wading in Silver Creek Reservoir last weekend.

The rain is falling, and falling, and falling, and many streams and rivers are too high to fish. That's the bad news. The good news is that reservoirs around Rochester are producing panfish, and the word is that the Mississippi River is producing walleye and sauger.

Reservoir fishing is happening because water is finally warming and panfish are coming into the shallows.

Tom Allen of Hooked on Fishing said the panfishing "started Wednesday or Thursday last week, the water temperatures got up. … They are on fire right now."

You can't beat the Silver Creek Reservoir for larger crappies, he said, but the Cascade and Willow Creek reservoirs — both at Gamehaven and near Willow Creek Golf Course — are also producing fish, though usually not quite as large. They are, however, great places to take a child who only wants to catch fish, any fish, he said.

Don't forget Chester Woods, he said.


For bait, "Everything seems to be working," Allen said.

And the reservoirs might soon have bigger fish, now that the Department of Natural Resources is stocking more predator fish to control stunting.

Jeff Weiss, a DNR fisheries specialist, said the DNR put about 50 male northerns into Gamehaven Reservoir a few years ago as a way to help control panfish stunting. The idea is to let those northerns grow without reproducing, to avoid populating the lake with small, "hammerhandle" pike.

The DNR is also thinking of stocking some largemouth bass to help "see if we can get it in some kind of balance." He fished it last winter and "they are all just little stunted things," he said.

The DNR also put bass in the Cascade Creek reservoir a few miles west of Rochester. Tests showed the average size of sunfish has increased 1.5 inches since that stocking, Weiss said.

As for Lake Pepin, with water so high, fish are heading for shallows, following the baitfish, often into flooded willows or grass.

The river and Pepin were expected to crest earlier this week and begin a slow drop. But with some heavy rains expected later this week, the water could rise again.

As for trout streams, you're going to have to look around, according to Vaughn Snook, assistant DNR supervisor in Lanesboro. Earlier in the week, some smaller streams and upper parts of the South Branch Root were fishable but Trout Run was muddy.

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