Fishing the Bowstring Chain of Lakes
What is your desired catch? You will find a great variety of fishing environments in the Bowstring Chain of Lakes. It is a true paradise for both the new and the seasoned fisherman. Rice Lake is a natural spawning area with lots of cover provided by the wild rice, lily pads, and reeds. The Bowstring River system which flows north from Bowstring Lake provides excellent fishing for all varieties of game fish and is a great spot to fish when the wind picks up making it dangerous to be out on the larger lakes. Big Sand Lake (over 4,500 acres) offers all species of fish, a variety of fish habitat and good fishing structure. Little Sand Lake (around 300 acres) is a bowl-shaped lake with a sand bottom and lots of great shoreline.
Northern Pike Fishing
The most plentiful species in the Bowstring / Sand / Rice Lake chain is northern pike and they are easily fished throughout the open water season. In the river and the lakes you will find a wide range of sizes from small “hammer handles” up to three and four pounders. You catch them casting with buzz baits, still fishing from the bridge or trolling along the weed beds. They will hit on spoons, spinners, and live bait. Many larger pike are caught throughout the season in the 6+ pound range using larger ‘Muskie’ bait while casting into the weed beds and lily pads. In some lakes, the DNR has increased the possession limit and imposed size restrictions to encourage anglers to take more small fish. The hope is that through decreased competition, the remaining fish will grow larger. In other lakes, the DNR has banned spearing to protect the large northern pike that otherwise might fall prey to that method of fishing.
Avid fisherman and youngsters alike will enjoy this feisty catch regardless of the size. They will give you a fight and make a fisherman of anyone who enjoys catching fish. Smaller northern up to the three and four pound range are good eaters. When you’re cleaning your catch I’ll show you how to remove the Y-bone so that you can enjoy the solid meat of a northern filet.
The Bowstring Chain enjoys a healthy population of Minnesota’s state fish. Early in the season the Bowstring River is a favorite spot to find the elusive walleye. Many anglers find the river south of the Anchor Inn Bridge teaming with walleye at the opener. As spring turns to summer the walleye will move into the lakes where you will find them along the weed beds, on the humps, or when fishing the rock piles. Baits used to attract walleye include night crawlers with a harness and jigs or spinners with live bait. You will find their preference changes throughout the summer from worms, to minnows or leaches. The fresh white filets of a walleye are hard to beat. The Sand Lake Property Owners Association in concert with the DNR has supported regular stocking of walleye fry and fingerlings.
Slab Black Crappie are a great fighting fish found in the nearby waters, but be careful not to tear that soft mouth while trying to land the 12 ounce to 1 1/2 pound prize. You will usually find the thick bodied crappie schooled together in July and August. Minnows and worms are a favorite live bait and back-trolling with spinners or still fishing with a jig are successful techniques whether fishing from the boat, off the bridge or in the cribs in Big Sand.
Jumbo Perch Fishing
These cousins to the walleye are another favorite. Once cleaned, you will have a hard time distinguishing them from the famous walleye. You will catch them in most locations in the waters near Anchor Inn Resort. Bridge fishing, trolling or still fishing are productive methods for jumbo perch. The shallow water along the weeds, lily pads or reeds is a favorite hang out for the yellow perch. It is not unusual to bring back a basketful ranging from small to over a pound. When they are biting you will have to release the small ones to be sure to stay within the required limits.
Blue Gill / Sunfish / Rock Bass Fishing
Do you like panfishing?! If so, you will be thrilled with baskets of feisty fighters you’ll find from the end of June through early August. A favorite species for all ages, they can be caught right from the dock or the four foot walkway at the Anchor Inn Bridge. Using a bobber, let your line go with the slow current of the river or try still fishing in the lily pads and reeds along the river bank. Live bait, minnows or worms on a jig or spinner are productive panfish bait. The bluegill and sunfish have a softer mouth than the rock bass so don’t pull the hook out while trying to bring them into the net. If you enjoy cleaning fish, then start with this species – you will be busy!
Nice-size bullheads are caught from the Anchor Inn bridge walkway after dark, usually with worms. In fact, they are so big that many of you will have trouble getting your hand around them to remove the hook! We recommend a large hook to facilitate removal after you land this fighter but be careful of the sharp fins! There are plentiful populations of bullhead in the chain and you can easily fill buckets with them when fishing from the bridge. They have solid meat and a very good flavor because of the clean water in our sand-bottom lakes. allows this catch to be a favorite in our area. The flavor is not as strong as those found in other areas where they live in mud-bottom waters.
Large and Smallmouth Bass Fishing
A species not often thought of as being abundant in Northern Minnesota is, actually, in very good supply. Look for that nice weed bed, lily pads, reeds, or a fallen tree around the shores of the lakes or river. Use a buzz bait, spinner or Rapala and you can land the bass. It’s not unusual to find them in the three to five pound range and many go even bigger. The largemouth species is more plentiful than the “smallie”. The smallmouth bass tend to be caught near the mouths of the different lakes or around the islands on Big Sand. Don’t just catch and release the bass. The smaller ones, less than four pounds, are better eating. Pound for pound you will get a lot of meat from a bass. These hungry fellows need to be harvested the same as any other species so don’t hesitate to try them.
See You on the Water,