Big boats and big lakes are all you seem to read about in magazines and fishing reports these days. Baitshop owners, writers and internet posters love talking about the bite on waterbodies like Mille Lacs, Leech, Gull and the Mississippi River but you hardly ever see anything about smaller lakes, streams and rivers.

            As an outdoors writer who has written his fair share of “hot spots” articles I completely understand why.


A hefty largemouth caught in the waning daylight on a "secret" Forest Service lake

A hefty largemouth caught in the waning daylight on a "secret" Forest Service lake

A hefty largemouth caught in the waning daylight on a "secret" Forest Service lake



            If it’s a hot fishing location I discovered myself on a smaller body of water, I’m not eager to give up such a honey hole. Especially when the bite is going good on those larger bodies of water. Tell somebody to fish a sunken island on Gull Lake and they can take their pick. Tell somebody to fish a sunken island on a smaller lake and there’s only one choice.
             When I chat with a fishing guide or baitshop owner about hotspots in their area, they always tell me about a wide array of lakes that are going good. When they mention the well-known fishing haunts they are very open with information. But when their voice lowers, and they tell me about a secret spot they found, they also mention that should I ever tell anybody about that spot they’ll never help me out again.
            I’ve visited several online fishing forums over the years and it’s not uncommon to see posers berate each other when somebody reveals a spot that’s a little too secret for the whole world to find out.
            If you want to start a fight with somebody, tell the world their favorite “secret” fishing spot.
            In the end, there are very few genuine secrets in the fishing world today. For one thing, that lake you fish that nobody else knows about is probably all in your head. You just aren’t seeing the other anglers who visit it when you aren’t around. Chances are they think its their secret spot too.
            Mapping programs like LakeMaster have done wonders for learning a waterbody. You can find every inside-turn, sharp break, sunken island, twist and turn in a lake without any effort. It’s fantastic for fishing a new body of water but it can be frustrating for guides and locals who took years to learn the lake. Still, if you haven’t obtained a LakeMaster chip I highly recommend it.
            LakeMaster has spent thousands of hours on Minnesota’s most popular lakes mapping every nook and cranny with amazing accuracy. They even have smaller lakes on their chips but there are hundreds of lakes not on any of their chips and probably never will be meaning some lakes will always remain a “secret.”
These are the lakes to find yourself that, if you are able to keep your mouth shut, can remain honey holes for many years to come.
            Throughout northern Minnesota, Wisconsin and Michigan are millions of acres of Forest Service land. Within these tracts of land are tons of small lakes that dot the map or aerial photograph. Most of them don’t even have official names but almost all of them hold fish.
            And those are fish that have hardly seen a lure in their lifetime.
            Okay, so that’s not a great secret—but it is a fishery that even folks who know about it don’t fish as much. There are also more lakes than people who know about it so it is still possible to find a “secret” honeyhole and have it all to yourself.
            I have found a few myself and was rewarded with largemouth bass averaging three pounds and crappies averaging 13 inches. Catch and release was the name of the game so such an untapped resource can continue that way.
            I’ve spoken with other anglers about their “secret” lakes and while they won’t tell me where they are located, they have told me what they’ve caught: northern pike over 40-inches, bluegill of double-digit length, the darkest and most golden walleye in the world and muskies that don’t seem to know how to follow—they just bite
            Where are these spots? Let’s just say that one of my favorites is in northern Minnesota near Bemidji and the other is in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan near Watersmeet. Did I give anything away? Hardly.
            The reason these hotspots tend to stay that way is because they aren’t easy to access with the average fishing boat. They require anglers to carry in a canoe, kayak or rowboat.
            I’ve fished each of those Forest Service lakes with a Hobie Pro Angler. It’s a very portable watercraft that provides plenty of space for fishing gear, electronics and six fishing rods. I’m able to work these lakes and cast without having to do any paddling thanks to the Mirage Drive system that allows you to paddle with your feet.
            I’ve made several videos of my experiences on these watercraft and I encourage you to check them out at or at
            Do some digging, log some miles this summer and do a little trail blazing of your own inbetween fishing trips on the big lakes. I’ll never stop fishing those big bodies of water because they are fish factories, but I’ll also never stop looking for those secret hotspots.
            Please don’t share your “secret” hotspots but please feel free to share your experience with these diamonds in the rough.


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