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There's no place like home

CORRELL -- Good fishing in Minnesota doesn't require a home address out of Brainerd or a Congressman's travel budget.

Denny Jensen has always found his best fishing within a few miles of his home in Correll, a tiny cluster of houses just west of Appleton.

Ask him where he does his fishing, and his answer is as certain as the strike of a northern pike. Jensen said "99 percent'' of his time is spent on local waters.

The picture board he keeps in his home suggests it has been time well spent. There is a chronology of black and white to color pictures showing Denny, his children, and fishing buddies holding monster walleye and northern pike like those found on the brochures of fly-in fishing camps in Canada.

He's never traveled north of the border to fish. There's too much to catch right at home on the Upper Minnesota River, said Jensen.

His favorite fishing spots are found right on the Minnesota River between Odessa and Correll and on Marsh Lake, which is actually part of the upper river system. He's also fond of Artichoke Lake, a prairie lake that's hardly more than a 10 minutes drive away.

He knows Big Stone Lake, too, and likes it.

In his wanderlust years, he's explored waters more remote from his home, like Monson Lake near Sunburg, Big Kandiyohi in Kandiyohi County, and Lake Ida near Alexandria.

But at age 60, he prefers to stay true to the waters he first fished as a youth with a cane pole and angleworms from the garden. That's all he needed to fill a No. 3 washtub with bullheads, said Jensen.

That's all it took to hook him on fishing, not to mention a father who was only too happy to introduce him to the sport. Ever since he was 12 years of age or so, Jensen said fishing has been his passion.

He was 15 years old when he got his first bait caster and discovered the thrill of tangling with hungry northern pike in Marsh Lake. Its shallow waters have yielded "oodles'' of northern pike to him ever since, including many in the 10- to 15-pound range. (His largest northern pike from Marsh Lake, a 17-pounder, came through the ice on the end of his spear.)

His favorite fishing waters have also treated him to many walleyes in the seven-, eight- and nine-pound range. He's found some of his best action in less than two feet of water by walking the shoreline of Artichoke Lake in hip waders.

"One thing about when they come into the shallows,'' said Jensen of walleye. "They are biting.''

Jensen has plenty of his own truisms when it comes to fishing, none more important than this: "I'm never scared of an alarm clock when it comes to fishing.''

He makes it to his favorite waters early because that's when the action is best, he said.

Catch and release? "I did that 25 years before that was a thing to do,'' he said.

He also began tossing artificial baits long before many others. His favorite "go to'' lures are a black and silver Rebel, a blue and silver Rapala, and a spoon of his own invention. He calls his sunrise-colored spoon with a feather tail "the Marsh Lake Menace'' and once advertised it in sporting magazines.

Jensen said he loves fishing most of all for the one-on-one challenge of finding and tangling with the fish, as well as the friendships enjoyed while fishing with others.

His one weakness is a penchant to be loose-lipped about his successes, but that's also made his reputation. Years ago the Appleton Press newspaper wrote of his fishing prowess: "If Jensen isn't catching fish, the fish aren't biting.''

Jensen prefers to say that "when the going gets tough, the tough go jigging.''

But he admits that there are times when the walleye aren't to be caught. That's just another reason why Jensen said he is happy fishing his home waters of the upper Minnesota River. There's always something else biting. Whether it's catfish, silver bass or northern pike, it's always fun to catch fish, he explained.