Page 2 of 2 Previous

Continued: Dennis Anderson: The friendly waters of fishing Mille Lacs

  • Article by: DENNIS ANDERSON , Star Tribune
  • Last update: May 21, 2012 - 7:11 AM

ON LAKE MILLE LACS — The evening campfire had not yet been lit, around which Larry and Griz and a half-dozen others would bask in the smoky glow of crackling wood, as they do most nights on the shore of this huge lake during the first two weeks of the fishing season.

The impression given by these gatherings is that of a vintage Mille Lacs logging camp, where tall pines were felled, and at day's end men talked big, their elbows bent with elixir in hand, while watching wood burn.

But Larry, Griz and the others aren't loggers. They're walleye fishermen, and in the last hour of fishing one evening last week, they remained spread across Mille Lacs, soon enough using sharp knives to excise fillets from kept fish, and lighting their fire.

In one boat were Griz and Larry, two of the world's best walleye anglers, with Mille Lacs coursing through their veins like blood.

But this spring, the big lake's countless suicidal walleyes are falling prey less to their skills, than to hunger.

The lake is short of baitfish.

"If you can't catch walleyes here right now, you can't catch them anytime," Griz said. "This happens every once in a while, when perch, which walleyes eat, have bad years, and the walleyes go looking for food. It's been good, really good."

Griz is Dick Grzywinski of St. Paul, and Larry is Larry Blaske of Sauk Rapids. One is tall, the other short. But common to them is a language of mud flats and break lines, also spinners, long leaders, crankbaits, line-counter reels and precision trolling -- the appurtenances of modern-day Mille Lacs walleye fishing.

"I spend the first two weeks of the season on this lake," Larry said. "The rest of the year, winter, too, I'm pretty much here four, five, six days a week. Except hunting season. Then I bow hunt. I'm retired, and my wife has the grandkids to keep her busy. I go home to check in one or two days a week. Otherwise I keep a trailer here, where I sleep, or I sleep in my fish house. I'm here."

A giant dish measuring 18 miles across, Mille Lacs' deepest point is only 42 feet. Formed by a sediment ridge deposited along a glacier's edge, the lake was once vastly larger than it is now. Always a walleye factory, its first shoreline inhabitants were the Sioux, who called the lake Mde Wakan, or Spirit Lake. About 1750, the Chippewa, using guns, overran the bow-and-arrow-armed Sioux in a bloody battle at Kathio, the Sioux village near where the Rum River drains Mille Lacs, leading to Anoka.

From that intersection, Griz and Larry fished on Mille Lacs to the northwest, at first in water about 24 feet deep, dragging minnows with beads and spinners, then shallower, in water 10 feet or less, pulling Shad Raps.

Both have fished Mille Lacs more than 50 years. But they met only about five years ago, bumping into each other at Terry's Boat Harbor on the west side of the lake, where each hangs out.

"When I was 10, in 1960, I caught a 34-pound northern on this lake," Larry said. "Griz has fished here a lot longer than that, and when we met, we just hit it off. Griz catches more fish than anyone I know, so he's good to fish with."

As Larry spoke, darkness congealed across Mille Lacs and cabin lights twinkled along shore. In the season's first weeks, boats must be off the lake by 10 p.m., in an attempt by the Department of Natural Resources to reduce the lake's early season harvest, instead spreading it over the summer, and next winter.

Whether that's possible this year is unknown, given the rate at which walleyes are being caught. If fishing is too good in May and early June, the lake's 17- to 28-inch protected walleye slot could be expanded as summer progresses.

Otherwise, anglers might exceed the 357,500-pound sportfishing quota negotiated by the DNR with eight Chippewa bands.

"In 2001, the DNR tightened the slot in midsummer to keep fishermen from going over the quota, and fishing on the lake just ended -- and everyone's business went with it," said Terry Thurmer, owner of Terry's Boat Harbor. "This year, except for one over 28 inches, only Mille Lacs walleyes under 17 inches can be kept, which is an inch less than last year.

"If the DNR expands the protected slot any more, no one will come."

• • •

Leaving a break line along the edge of a mud flat, where he and Griz had trailed long leaders and minnow rigs dressed with No. 3 Colorado spinners and green beads, Larry angles his boat into shallower water.

Now Griz watches his line counter closely as he sends a No. 5 Rapala exactly 113 feet behind the boat.

For a guy who dropped out of school to hunt and fish, and to help support his family, Griz is a numbers freak.

"Distance that crankbaits are back from a boat is important, and boat speed is important, too," he says. "I run at 1.9 miles an hour when using a No. 5 Shad Rap, and 2.5 miles an hour with using a No. 7. You've got to put the lure where the fish are."

As Griz speaks, Larry's rod arches deeply. This isn't a soft-mouthed walleye toying with his bait, but a whacking fish -- a walleye, to be sure -- hoping for a late-night dinner.

"That's a keeper," Larry says, and everyone has a limit.

On this night, warm and windless, Mille Lacs is hospitable in the manner of an old friend.

Decorating its surface, hither and yon, are other boats' white stern lights, and red and green bow lights.

Looking now for northern pike, Griz follows Larry's walleye with one of his own, which is released.

Just before 10, Larry pulls his boat alongside a dock at Terry's Boat Harbor, ending the day.

Soon, Griz, Larry and the others will excise fillets from walleyes, and put a match to a campfire. When they do, they'll give the impression of a vintage Mille Lacs logging camp, where tall pines were felled, and come nightfall, loggers talked big, their elbows bent with elixir in hand, watching wood burn.

But Griz, Larry and the others aren't loggers.

They're walleye fishermen, and this is the Mille Lacs they know.

Editor's note: Guide Dick (Griz) Grzywinski can be reached at 651-771-6231 or at Terry's Boat Harbor and Launch Service, 320-692-4430. Dennis Anderson • danderson@startribune.com

  • related content

  • Photo gallery: Fishing on Lake Mille Lacs

    Saturday May 19, 2012

    Dennis Anderson finds plenty of walleyes.

  • Larry Blaske, left, and Dick (Griz) Grzywinski watchd Blaske's depth finder and GPS to make sure they're fishing over the Mille Lacs structure they believe holds walleyes.

  • get related content delivered to your inbox

  • manage my email subscriptions

Click here to send us your hunting or fishing photos – and to see what others are showing off from around the region.

ADVERTISEMENT

Los Angeles - LP: B. Wilson 7 FINAL
Chicago Cubs - WP: J. Grimm 8
Detroit - WP: M. Scherzer 3 FINAL
Kansas City - LP: J. Shields 2
Philadelphia - WP: J. Williams 3 FINAL
Oakland - LP: D. Otero 0
Toronto - WP: M. Stroman 6 FINAL
NY Yankees - LP: C. Capuano 3
Arizona - LP: T. Cahill 1 FINAL
Colorado - WP: E. Butler 5
Boston - LP: R. De La Rosa 2 FINAL
Baltimore - WP: C. Tillman 7
Milwaukee - WP: Z. Duke 1 FINAL
Pittsburgh - LP: M. Melancon 0
Washington - WP: J. Zimmermann 3 FINAL
Miami - LP: J. Cosart 2
NY Mets - WP: J. Niese 4 FINAL
Atlanta - LP: M. Minor 2
Chicago WSox - LP: H. Noesi 1 FINAL
Tampa Bay - WP: C. Archer 3
Cleveland 7 Bottom 8th Inning
Minnesota 3
Seattle - LP: C. Young 1 FINAL
Houston - WP: D. Keuchel 10
Cincinnati - LP: M. Leake 4 FINAL
St. Louis - WP: J. Motte 8
San Francisco 0 Bottom 8th Inning
San Diego 3
Texas 1 Bottom 7th Inning
LA Angels 8
San Diego 9/21/14 12:00 PM
Buffalo
Dallas 9/21/14 12:00 PM
St. Louis
Washington 9/21/14 12:00 PM
Philadelphia
Houston 9/21/14 12:00 PM
NY Giants
Minnesota 9/21/14 12:00 PM
New Orleans
Tennessee 9/21/14 12:00 PM
Cincinnati
Baltimore 9/21/14 12:00 PM
Cleveland
Green Bay 9/21/14 12:00 PM
Detroit
Indianapolis 9/21/14 12:00 PM
Jacksonville
Oakland 9/21/14 12:00 PM
New England
San Francisco 9/21/14 3:05 PM
Arizona
Denver 9/21/14 3:25 PM
Seattle
Kansas City 9/21/14 3:25 PM
Miami
Pittsburgh 9/21/14 7:30 PM
Carolina
Chicago 9/22/14 7:30 PM
NY Jets
NY Giants 9/25/14 7:25 PM
Washington
Connecticut 14 FINAL
So Florida 17
Old Dominion 45 FINAL
Rice 42
Troy 0 FINAL
(13) Georgia 66
Georgia Tech 27 FINAL
Virginia Tech 24
Eastern Mich 14 FINAL
(11) Michigan State 73
Iowa 24 FINAL
Pittsburgh 20
Bowling Green 17 FINAL
(19) Wisconsin 68
Maryland 34 FINAL
Syracuse 20
Tulane 13 FINAL
Duke 47
Hawaii 12 FINAL
Colorado 21
Marshall 48 FINAL
Akron 17
North Carolina 41 FINAL
East Carolina 70
Army 21 FINAL
Wake Forest 24
Virginia 33 FINAL
(21) BYU 41
(6) Texas A&M 58 FINAL
SMU 6
Rutgers 31 FINAL
Navy 24
Central Mich 10 FINAL
Kansas 24
Utah 26 FINAL
Michigan 10
Florida 21 FINAL
(3) Alabama 42
Louisville 34 FINAL
FIU 3
Fla Atlantic 19 FINAL
Wyoming 20
Indiana 31 FINAL
(18) Missouri 27
San Jose St 7 FINAL
Minnesota 24
Texas State 35 FINAL
Illinois 42
Massachusetts 7 FINAL
Penn State 48
Georgia State 14 FINAL
Washington 45
Appalachian St 20 FINAL
Southern Miss 21
Miss State 34 FINAL
(8) LSU 29
Northern Ill 14 FINAL
Arkansas 52
Middle Tennessee 17 FINAL
Memphis 36
Utah State 14 FINAL
Arkansas State 21
Miami-Ohio 24 FINAL
Cincinnati 31
Idaho 24 FINAL
Ohio U 36
Ball State 9 2nd Qtr 3:25
Toledo 20
Ga Southern 28 FINAL
South Alabama 6
(14) So Carolina 41 4th Qtr 4:17
Vanderbilt 27
(4) Oklahoma 38 4th Qtr 5:10
West Virginia 27
UNLV 14 4th Qtr 11:30
Houston 33
Miami-Florida 24 4th Qtr 7:12
(24) Nebraska 34
New Mexico 31 4th Qtr 6:30
New Mexico St 28
(22) Clemson 10 4th Qtr 13:00
(1) Florida State 10
California 14 2nd Qtr 9:36
Arizona 3
San Diego St 7 1st Qtr 6:23
Oregon State 0
(2) Oregon 6 1st Qtr 3:38
Washington St 7
Louisiana 0 1st Qtr 7:15
Boise State 7
Texas Tech 9/25/14 6:30 PM
(25) Oklahoma State
Appalachian St 9/25/14 6:30 PM
Ga Southern
(12) UCLA 9/25/14 9:00 PM
(15) Arizona State
Middle Tennessee 9/26/14 7:00 PM
Old Dominion
Fresno State 9/26/14 7:00 PM
New Mexico
(1) Florida State 9/27/14 2:00 AM
NC State
Duke 9/27/14 2:00 AM
Miami-Florida
North Carolina 9/27/14 2:00 AM
(22) Clemson
Texas-El Paso 9/27/14 11:00 AM
(20) Kansas State
Tennessee 9/27/14 11:00 AM
(13) Georgia
Vanderbilt 9/27/14 11:00 AM
Kentucky
Wyoming 9/27/14 11:00 AM
(11) Michigan State
Northwestern 9/27/14 11:00 AM
Penn State
TCU 9/27/14 11:00 AM
SMU
Iowa 9/27/14 11:00 AM
Purdue
Tulane 9/27/14 11:00 AM
Rutgers
So Florida 9/27/14 11:00 AM
(19) Wisconsin
Colorado State 9/27/14 11:30 AM
Boston College
Western Mich 9/27/14 11:30 AM
Virginia Tech
Maryland 9/27/14 12:30 PM
Indiana
Akron 9/27/14 12:30 PM
Pittsburgh
Bowling Green 9/27/14 2:00 PM
Massachusetts
Arkansas 9/27/14 2:30 PM
(6) Texas A&M
Kent State 9/27/14 2:30 PM
Virginia
Western Ky 9/27/14 2:30 PM
Navy
Minnesota 9/27/14 2:30 PM
Michigan
Wake Forest 9/27/14 2:30 PM
Louisville
FIU 9/27/14 2:30 PM
UAB
Miami-Ohio 9/27/14 2:30 PM
Buffalo
Colorado 9/27/14 3:00 PM
California
Louisiana Tech 9/27/14 3:00 PM
(5) Auburn
Texas 9/27/14 3:00 PM
Kansas
Temple 9/27/14 3:00 PM
Connecticut
(16) Stanford 9/27/14 3:15 PM
Washington
TX-San Antonio 9/27/14 4:00 PM
Fla Atlantic
South Alabama 9/27/14 4:00 PM
Idaho
Cincinnati 9/27/14 5:00 PM
(23) Ohio State
Rice 9/27/14 6:00 PM
Southern Miss
(18) Missouri 9/27/14 6:00 PM
(14) So Carolina
Boise State 9/27/14 6:00 PM
Air Force
Central Mich 9/27/14 6:00 PM
Toledo
Troy 9/27/14 6:00 PM
ULM
New Mexico St 9/27/14 6:30 PM
(8) LSU
Memphis 9/27/14 6:30 PM
(10) Ole Miss
Texas State 9/27/14 7:00 PM
Tulsa
Washington St 9/27/14 7:00 PM
Utah
(9) Notre Dame 9/27/14 7:00 PM
Syracuse
(7) Baylor 9/27/14 7:00 PM
Iowa State
UNLV 9/27/14 7:00 PM
San Diego St
Illinois 9/27/14 8:00 PM
(24) Nebraska
Oregon State 9/27/14 9:30 PM
(17) USC
Nevada 9/27/14 9:30 PM
San Jose St
Vancouver FC 0 FINAL
Portland 3
Houston 0 FINAL
Philadelphia 0
New England 0 FINAL
Columbus 1
San Jose 0 FINAL
Montreal 2
Seattle 1 FINAL
Red Bull New York 4
D.C. 3 FINAL
Chicago 3
FC Dallas 0 1st Half 25:00
Los Angeles 0
Toronto 40 FINAL
Brt Columbia 23
Edmonton 23 FINAL
Hamilton 25
Calgary 9/21/14 12:00 PM
Montreal
Ottawa 9/21/14 3:00 PM
Saskatchewan
Montreal 9/26/14 6:00 PM
Ottawa
Saskatchewan 9/26/14 9:00 PM
Edmonton
Hamilton 9/27/14 5:30 PM
Winnipeg
Brt Columbia 9/27/14 8:30 PM
Calgary
Connect with twitterConnect with facebookConnect with Google+Connect with PinterestConnect with PinterestConnect with RssfeedConnect with email newsletters

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

question of the day

Poll: Should the lake where the albino muskie was caught remain a mystery?

Weekly Question

ADVERTISEMENT

 
Close