Otter Tail County holds 1,048 lakes — not only more than any other county in Minnesota but more than any county in the United States. One of those lakes is West Lost Lake, where Claire Dagel, 6, of Astoria, S.D., caught her first walleye, a 21-inch dandy, on her "Barbie" pole with a 4-pound test line. Holding her fish is grandpa Keith Hartmann of Fairmont, Minn.
Minnesotans love their lakes, and Crow Wing, Cass, Itasca and St. Louis counties are among those brimming with water — making them popular tourist destinations.
And then there’s lesser-known Otter Tail County in the northwest. Many boaters and anglers accustomed to motoring to Brainerd, Grand Rapids, Walker or Ely might be surprised to know Otter Tail County holds 1,048 lakes — not only more than any other county in Minnesota but more than any county in the United States.
Fully 11 percent of its 2,225 square miles is water.
“We’re kind of a hidden treasure up here,’’ said Nick Leonard, owner of East Silent Resort and past president of the local tourism association. “When you fly over and see all the water, it blows your mind.’’
So why isn’t the area better known?
“That’s a good question, one we’re trying to better understand,’’ Leonard said. “People who live here know we have some unbelievable resources, yet it’s not well-known.’’
Leonard said the numerous lakes provide a unique experience for anglers.
“We have a lot of guests who stay here but will drive to other lakes to fish different species,’’ he said. West Silent Lake is a walleye lake, but just across the road, East Silent Lake is known as an excellent bass lake.
Leonard said his area isn’t as commercially developed as some other tourist destinations in the state. “Here, guests become almost family; it’s kind of a step back in time,’’ he said. “At our resort, everything is on the honor system.’’
He said tourism officials are trying to figure out how to do a better job of marketing the Otter Tail area.
“I would say we’re distinctly different,’’ Leonard said. “We just haven’t articulated it well.’’
Discarded fishing line
Discarded monofilament fishing line has long been problematic for wildlife. Because it doesn’t rapidly decompose, it can and does ensnare loons, ducks, geese, gulls and other wildlife.
Roger Imdieke of New London, Minn., making his first canoe trip to the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness recently, discovered the problem firsthand.
“I heard some rustling in the brush along shore and thought perhaps my fishing rod had got caught, but it hadn’t. I saw some line and grabbed it,’’ he said.
At the other end was a young Canada goose.
“Fortunately it was the leader that was wrapped around the foot, and the skin didn’t appear to be broken,’’ said Imdieke, whose 7-year-old grandson, Luke Knudsen, was along.
“We were able to release the bird unharmed to live another day,’’ Imdieke said. “It swam right off. It was a very teachable moment for Luke.’’
Carrol Henderson, DNR nongame wildlife program supervisor, said it’s difficult to determine how many such instances occur over a season.
“We get reports of loons entangled with fishing line; other times it’s ducks and geese,’’ Henderson said. “Unfortunately, usually it results in a lingering death.’’
He urges anglers to dispose of line properly, and to pick up discarded line.
Rusty crayfish are an invasive species that now can be found in too many Minnesota lakes, including popular Woman Lake near Longville. The invaders from the Ohio River basin can alter ecosystems and hurt native vegetation.
What to do?
You can feast on Woman Lake rusty crayfish from 3 p.m. to 7 p.m. Saturday at Patrick’s Restaurant in Longville at the first Minnesota Bound Benefit Crayfish Boil. It’s all you can eat for $10, and proceeds go to the Girl, Child and Woman Lake Property Owners Association.
“If you can’t beat ’em, eat ’em,’’ Minnesota Bound’s Ron Schara said.
Doug Smith firstname.lastname@example.org
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