Dennis Anderson

Dennis Anderson has been a Star Tribune outdoors columnist since 1993, before which, for 13 years, he held the same position at the Pioneer Press. He enjoys casting and shooting. Dogs, too, and horses. Also kids and, occasionally, crusading in his column for improved conservation.

Free fishing in state parks — which are your favorites?

Posted by: Dennis Anderson under Fishing Updated: June 30, 2009 - 11:47 AM

Which are your favorite state parks to fish?

The question arises because visitors to state parks who want to try fishing can now do so for free. Under a new law the Legislature approved last session, state park visitors can fishing license-free in most parks beginning July 1.

"Most people would gladly go fishing if someone simply asked them,'' Courtland Nelson, director of the DNR's parks and trails division, said in a news release this week. "It's our hope that while friends and families are together in a park someone who fishes will share their rod and reel with someone who hasn't. That's how traditions are passed on. That's how connections to nature are made. And that's the start of fishing friendships that last a lifetime.''

A few catches: Park visitors can take fish without licenses while shore or wade fishing on state-owned land within a state park. When in a boat or float, only waters encompassed within the park can be fished.

Anglers must possess licenses while fishing in the state's six recreation areas; on waters where trout stamps are needed; and when fishing in any city, county, regional or federal park. 

For a list of parks where free fishing is available, check out

Meanwhile, here's a sampling of some of my favorite state parks to fish (not all offer waters where free fishing is available):

  1. Zippel Bay: It's hard to beat Lake of the Woods as a fishery, and this park gives you great access to it.
  2. Forestville: Great trout fishing, with terrific scenery. The park is located amid bluffs in the southeast, with cold-water streams holding good populations of brown trout in particular.
  3. Father Hennepin: A handy headquarters for campers wanting to fish Mille Lacs. Nicely laid out, for boaters and campers alike.
  4. Big Stone Lake: Being in the far western part of the state, Big Stone doesn't get the attention that many of the state's northern parks do. But it's a pretty park, with great access to Big Stone Lake.
  5. Wild River: Located on the St. Croix River a little over an hour north of the Twin Cities, Wild River State park offers the warm-water river fisherman plenty of action. Bring a canoe (or rent one) or a jon boat. Cast for smallies, northern pike and walleyes.



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