This lake in Itasca County supports a diverse sport fishery which includes good populations of walleyes, yellow perch, northern pike and black crappies. Team Northland pro and premier fishing guide, Brian “Bro” Brosdahl, in fact, calls it “one of the hottest lakes in northern Minnesota.”
“It’s surprisingly good for just about every sportfish species,” he adds, “and has a great reputation for consistent walleye fishing.”
At 9,500 acres in size, Bowstring offers several access points, with the deepest and most modern launch ramps being on the south end and northeast corner. It also features a varied array of structure and cover. While it’s dominated by numerous sandbars and submerged humps, along with extensive mud flats, according to Bro, the lake also offers scattered rocks and rock piles as well as healthy weedbeds that hold fish throughout the summer.
And because water color is on the dark side, walleyes often remain active through the midday hours, even on days with bright skies and calm winds.
“It’s the kind of lake where you can expect to get lots of bites from different species,” he adds. “You’re always catching something during a trip.”
From the season opener through early summer, walleye action on Bowstring is focused along the east and west shorelines, with the eastern side being the most predictable of the two.
“The whole eastern shoreline, from the access ramp in the northeast corner down to the rock pile off Grouse Bay is usually prime walleye territory through mid-summer,” says Bro. “There are scattered rocks and rock piles along the whole length.”
If the wind is right, he adds, anglers can set up a drift in the 6- to 10-foot zone along the shore and simply drag/hop jig-and-shiner combos. When the water’s flat, use the trolling motor to move along slowly, either trailing or casting the jig.
“Use about a 1/8-ounce Fire-Ball or RZ Jig in Parrot, Pink or Glo Watermelon.” he says, “Tip it with a spottail shiner if you can get ’em. The lakes loaded with spots and walleyes love ’em.”
The lake’s western shoreline can be equally productive, especially when the wind blows.
“From the smaller more primitive public ramp in the northeast corner, all the way to Bowstring River can offer good fishing, but it’s best on windy days,” says the guide. “There are scattered rocks and several clam beds on the north end; then cover transitions into the vegetation as you head south.”
Jigs-and-shiners will catch fish here, but if they begin to snag try pulling a light bottom-bouncer and a shiner-tipped Butterfly Blade Rig through the tops of the weeds.
Many of the lake’s crappies also use these weedbeds in the spring and summer, he adds, and it’s possible to catch larger fish while in pursuit of walleyes. To target crappies in the weeds now, Bro recommends tying on a Thumper Crappie King or a Gypsi Jig in any bright pattern. Cast-and-retrieve or fish vertically as depths and conditions dictate.
Numbers of walleyes—and yellow perch–stay in the weeds throughout the summer months and are vulnerable to the methods already mentioned. Many walleyes, however, migrate to rock piles and main-lake humps as the water warms to summer temperatures and remain there into fall.
Trolling a Butterfly Rig or Butterfly Blade Harness with a leech or ’crawler around and over the humps is a surefire method for walleyes and any perch in the neighborhood, according to the guide.
Dragging a Whistler Jig is another solid option, however. “In the lake’s darker water, walleyes are attracted to the Whistler’s spinning blade,” says Bro. “Tie on a ¼ ouncer tipped with half a ’crawler and drop it over the side to check that the blade is working. Then, just set it down and troll slowly around and over the hump. If you need to go out toward the deeper edges, bump up to a 3/8-ounce jig. In either case, I recommend going with a UV Whistler Jig in Firetiger or Pink Tiger. And don’t be surprised if you catch a bunch of jumbo perch, too.”
While Bowstring isn’t known as a “fall” walleye lake, the fish can be caught on humps and in the weeds deep into the late season, according to Bro. Crappies, on the other hand, become a serious target in the late season.
He suggests looking for the first along the outside weed edges and on the rock piles on the eastern shore and fishing the jigs mentioned above.
“At some point, they’ll begin to migrate to the main lake and suspend in mud-bottom basins,” he explains. “If there’s a sunken log or some other type of structure on the bottom, they’ll relate to that, but for the most part, you’ll have to cruise around while watching the sonar screen for schools of fish.
“When you find one, hover over the top of the school and drop a Bro Bling Jig or a small Whistler Jig tipped with a crappie minnow or small fathead straight over the side of the boat.”
Lake maps courtesy of Navionics. For more information, visit: Navionics.com
Size: 9,528 acres
Max Depth: 32 feet
Shoreline: 34.1 miles
Ave Clarity: 4.4 feet
Species Present: Walleyes, Northern Pike, Largemouth Bass, Black Crappies, Bluegills, Hybrid Sunfish, Yellow Perch, Pumpkinseeds, Rock Bass, Lake Whitefish, Bowfin, Bullheads, Redhorse, Golden Redhorse, Shorthead Redhorse, Silver Redhorse, White Suckers, Spottail Shiners, Common Shiners