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Sunnie days on Minnewaska

An angler in search of Lake Minnewaska's sunfish practices the time-proven tactic of moving from location to location to find his prey. Tribune photo by Tom Cherveny1 / 2
Sunfish are always a big draw on Lake Minnewaska, more so this ice fishing season than others. The walleye became tight-lipped earlier than usual on the big lake. Tribune photo by Tom Cherveny2 / 2

GLENWOOD -- The walleye seem to have gotten tight-lipped sooner than usual this ice fishing season, and that has had a predictable outcome on Lake Minnewaska.

Equally tight-lipped ice fishermen and women are spending a lot of time in search of the lake's sunfish, even though this has not necessarily been a stellar year for the panfish either, according to Dean Beck, fisheries supervisor with the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources in Glenwood.

Still, Beck said the lake is drawing lots of anglers this winter, and many are doing well enough to keep coming back. He said he remains surprised at the resiliency of the sunfish population in the lake. It handles loads of pressure year around, yet consistently produces.

Beck said he is not seeing as many eight-inch and larger sunfish as before. As is the case in so many lakes, he suspects fishing pressure on sunfish and their predators is the cause.

The large but shallow lake of over 7,100 acres is managed primarily for walleye, but it offers lots of habitat for panfish. The lake's sunfish population has really taken off since 1986, when the City of Glenwood diverted its wastewater discharge out of the lake. That has allowed water clarity to improve and more rooted, aquatic vegetation to take hold, all the right ingredients for the colorful sunfish.

Most of the activity when it comes to sunfish takes place on what everyone refers to as the "Glenwood side'' of the lake. The Bottle Bay area near the Minnewaska High School is usually a popular destination too, but is not seeing as many anglers as most years, according to Beck.

This year's bite may not be the best, but anglers willing to test the waters a little deeper than the usual 12- to 15-foot range are able to hook into some decent sized sunnies.

With an earlier shut down to walleye action, Beck said there is no doubt the sunfish have "carried the year'' in terms of overall fishing on the lake.

Still, there were lots of houses being moved in the last couple of weeks, and some were headed off the lake.

The DNR has discontinued the annual fish house count on the lake. Beck estimates there are still well over 400 houses on the lake and the number possibly exceeded 500 earlier this season. Twice that number used to be counted on the lake, but the growing popularity of portable fish houses has meant fewer of the houses that were included in the previous counts.

Tom Cherveny

Tom Cherveny is a regional and outdoor reporter with the West Central Tribune in Willmar, MN.

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