Boundary Waters lake trout season opens this weekend

Lake trout, US Fish and Wildlife Service image
Lake trout, illustration by Timothy Knepp, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

The special season for lake trout ice-fishing on lakes within the Boundary Waters will start on Dec. 30 this year, and run until April 1, 2018.

The season opener comes about two weeks before lakes in the rest of the state are open to lake trout fishing, thanks to 2009 legislation.

Minnesota is one of the few states in America with naturally-reproducing Lake Trout. The state’s 116 designated lakes is second in number only to Alaska. Most of the lakes are in northern Minnesota — with 91 of them inside the Boundary Waters.

Fewer folks fishing

In Northern Wilds, writer Joe Friedrichs reports that there are concerns interest in the wilderness winter trout season is declining.

““Sadly, the BWCAW trout opener is fading quickly,” Darin Fagerman, DNR Conservation Officer, told Northern Wilds. “I would say that we don’t get a big turnout even on opening day. Some lakes that are easy to get to will see the same old die-hards that have been there year after year. Last year we walked into the farther trout lakes only to find one or two people on them on opening day.”

Of course, that low level of use means solitude and low-fishing pressure are relatively easy to find — a true wilderness experience.

Clean and cold

Biologists believe as climate change continues to affect the Boundary Waters, it could harm lake trout. Specifically, less coldwater habitat may reduce the numbers of one of the trout’s favorite foods: cisco.

recent study anticipated that 460 of Minnesota’s 620 lakes that support cisco would be too warm for the species by about 2100, assuming continued carbon emissions and the resulting climate warming.

The Department of Natural Resources points out that the coldwater fish stay active all winter. It recommends fishing on the bottom in 15-40 feet of water, with dead ciscoes or live minnows, and using jigs and spoons.

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