Leech Lake: Multi-Species Paradise
Leech Lake in Cass County, Minnesota, is among sportfishing’s crown jewels in the Land of 10,000 Lakes. Third in size only to Red Lake and Mille Lacs, Leech’s 110,000 acres offer a diverse landscape of structure and cover that holds a wide array of gamefish species for winter and open-water anglers.
Its irregular shoreline is studded with bays, large and small, that feature a fish-holding structure and cover—breaklines, weedbeds, islands, humps, bars, and holes. While the lake’s deepest section, in Walker Bay, drops to around 150 feet, 80 percent of Leech is less than 35 feet deep. Overall water clarity is about 9 feet.
Known for excellent multi-species fishing opportunities, Leech draws warm-weather and winter fishermen in pursuit of walleyes, yellow perch, largemouth bass, muskies, northern pike, crappies, and other panfish. Walleyes and perch, however, are the primary targets, in summer, and winter.
Good walleye year classes from 2010 through 2012 spell great news for anglers during the 2015-16 fishing season and beyond, according to Minnesota’s Department of Natural Resources. The agency’s 2014 sample netting showed numbers of fish at the midpoint of the normal range for similar lakes, and the average weight of sampled fish exceeded the normal range.
To ensure the lake’s popular walleye fishery remains productive in the future, the state instituted a 20- to 26-inch protected slot limit in 2014. One walleye longer than 26 inches, however, may be part of an angler’s 4-fish daily bag.
Options for winter walleyes abound on Leech. Main-lake hotspots include a variety of reefs, points, and breaklines lying in 12 to 16 feet.
Walker Bay is a perennial producer as well, with 18- to 28-foot humps that hold fish season long, plus productive points and shoreline breaks.
On the panfish front, basin edges and mid-depth flats featuring a soft bottom give up bluegills and crappies in midwinter, while sand-to-rock transitions in the main lake attract schools of jumbo perch. In late winter, however, all three types of panfish converge in shallow bays blessed with green weeds, providing the perfect end to the hardwater season.
Recommended Spring Set-up:
A light braided line such as Bionic Walleye Braid in 6 lb or 8 lb attached to a 6 lb or 8 lb mono leader with a Northland Tackle Fire-Ball Jig is the way to go. Use as light of a jig as you can. In most cases, you can get by with a 1/8oz or 1/4oz Fire-Ball Jig. Tip this with either a shiner minnow or a fathead minnow. For added security to hook that fish, hook on one of Northland’s Sting’r Hooks. Pitch this set-up into shallow weeds and use a slow retrieve method to seal the deal.
How to tie braided line to a mono or fluorocarbon leader: Watch Video
Access to this sprawling body of water is easy. There are numerous improved public landings around the shoreline, individually maintained by the DNR, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, U.S. Forest Service, or the City of Walker.