Fishing on Big Lake

Fishing is exceptional from a motorized boat on Big Lake or a canoe on any of the connecting Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness lakes. Big Lake (more than 2000 acres) has numerous large islands and secluded bays, and except for one other remote resort and four private cabins, the shoreline has been virtually undeveloped. Rated one of the top walleye fishing lakes in the state, northern pike, smallmouth bass, perch, and other panfish can be found in abundance as well. Guides can be arranged, and complete or partial outfitting for canoe trips into the B.W.C.A is available. Whispering Pines is the closet resort to Hegman Lake where centuries-old pictographs can be viewed and photographed. Our naturalist can prepare your nature treks and wilderness excursions.


Since walleyes have excellent visual acuity under low illumination levels, they tend to feed more extensively at dawn and dusk, on cloudy or overcast days and under choppy conditions when light penetration into the water column is disrupted. Although anglers interpret this as light avoidance, it is merely an expression of the walleye's competitive advantage over its prey under those conditions. Similarly, in darkly stained or turbid waters, walleye tend to feed throughout the day.

"Walleye chop" is a term used by walleye anglers for rough water typically with winds of 5 to 15 mph and is one of the indicators for good walleye fishing due to the walleye's increased feeding activity during such conditions.

Because walleyes are popular with anglers, fishing for walleyes is regulated by most natural resource agencies. Management may include the use of quotas and length limits to ensure that populations are not over-exploited.

Casting or trolling with spinners or minnow-imitating plugs is a good bet. Special worm harness rigs of spinners and beads are often trolled. Jigs, either traditional bucktails, or tipped with any of the modern plastics, a piece of worm or minnow are walleye angling favorites.

Live baits are often still-fished, drifted or trolled on slip-sinker or "bottom-bouncing" rigs. Excellent live bait includes leeches, minnows and earthworms.

When ice fishing walleye are caught jigging or on tip-ups. Tip-ups are generally set up with a dacron backing and a clear synthetic leader. For bait, the most common minnows are Fatheads and shiners. Size for bait is anywhere from 1 to 6 inches.

In springtime walleye will take almost any bait or lure, but may be more challenging to catch through the summer months. Fall often brings another peak of walleye feeding activity. Walleye are readily caught through the ice in winter, usually on jigs, jigging spoons or minnows.

The walleye is often considered to have the best tasting flesh of any freshwater fish, and, consequently, is fished recreationally and commercially. Because of its nocturnal feeding habits, it is most easily caught at night using live minnows or lures that mimic small fish.

Northern Pike

Northern pike are most often olive, shading into yellow to white along the belly. The flank is marked with short, light barlike spots and there are a few to many dark spots on the fins. The lower half of the gill cover lacks scales and they have large sensory pores on their head and on the underside of the lower jaw which are part of the lateral line system. Unlike the similar-looking and closely related muskellunge, the northern pike has light markings on a dark body background and fewer than six sensory pores on the underside of each side of the lower jaw.

Pike are found in sluggish streams and shallow, weedy places in lakes, as well as in cold, clear, rocky waters. Pike are typical ambush predators; they lie in wait for prey, holding perfectly still for long periods and then exhibit remarkable acceleration as they strike. The fish has a distinctive habit of catching its prey sideways in the mouth, killing or immobilising it with its sharp teeth, and then turning the prey lengthwise to swallow it. It eats mainly fish, but on occasion water voles and ducklings have also been known to fall prey to pike. Pike will aggressively strike at any fish in the vicinity, even at other pike. Young pike have been found dead from choking on a pike of a similar size. Northern pike also feed on frogs, insects and leeches. It has often been suggested that pike optimally forage on prey that are from 25 to 35% of their body length. Also on rare occasions pike have been reported to have eaten young bald eagles.

Effective methods for catching this hard fighting fish on Big Lake include dead baits, lure fishing, and jerk baiting. They are prized as game fish for their determined fighting and have been food fish since ancient times. In recent decade more and more pikes are released back to the water after catching (catch and release). They can easily be damaged when handled. Since they have very sharp teeth and the teeth are numerous, it is wise to take extreme care when unhooking the pike. The angler also needs to take great care when unhooking a caught pike, as to not harm the gills. It is recommended that barbless trebles are used when angling for this species as it vastly simplifies unhooking. Unhooking should be accomplished using long forceps are ideal. The pike should be kept out of the water for the minimum amount of time possible, and should be given some time to recover before being weighed and photographed.

Smallmouth Bass

The smallmouth bass is generally green with dark vertical bands rather than a horizontal band along the side. There are 13-15 soft rays in the dorsal fin. The upper jaw of smallmouth bass does not extend beyond the back of the eye.

The smallmouth prefers cooler water temperatures and may be found in both still and moving water. Because it is relatively intolerant of pollution, the smallmouth bass is a good natural indicator of a healthy environment, though it can better adjust to changes in water condition than most trout species. Carnivorous, its diet comprises crayfish, insects, leeches, minnows, earthworms and smaller fish. Smallmouth may be successfully caught on a wide range of natural and artificial baits or lures, including crank baits, spinner baits, and all types of soft plastic lures. They may also be caught with a fly rod using a dry or wet fly, nymphs, streamers, or imitations of larger aquatic creatures such as crawfish or leeches Floating top water popper fly patterns are also popular for smallmouth fishing.

For Lake fishing, spinning tackle or fly tackle have been the most popular angling tools for smallmouth in Minnesota for many years. Many fisherman use a 5.5-6.5 foot, medium-fast action rod matched with 6-8 lb. test line.

Yellow Perch

Perch are a popular fish, mainly because they are common, and are one of the most beautiful fish. They can be caught with a variety of methods, but the 2 best methods are float fishing and lure fishing. Spinners work exceptionally well. When Float Fishing, the angler will want to have a disgorger at all times; Perch are notorious for swallowing the hook, and will need aid of a disgorger or forceps for unhooking. They are also a favorite species among Big lake ice fishermen. They will take a variety of baits, including minnows, worms, maggots and softshell crayfish. They grow to around 5 lb, but fish growing to this size are becoming increasingly rare. The most common fish to be caught are around 1 lb, and anything over 2 lb is considered a prize catch.

Catch and release is encouraged so future little shavers like this one will always have the opportunity to experience the thrills of fishing and find new friendships with nature.