Author finds Lake Vermilion fishery first-class
Steve Foss is a professional photographer and avid angler who lives in Ely. He's the author of the newly released book, "Lake Vermilion: A multi-species fishing guide to northern Minnesota's crown jewel." Foss is a former city editor at the Dulut...
Steve Foss is a professional photographer and avid angler who lives in Ely. He's the author of the newly released book, "Lake Vermilion: A multi-species fishing guide to northern Minnesota's crown jewel." Foss is a former city editor at the Duluth News Tribune and editor of the Ely Timberjay. The book, $19.95, can be ordered from the Timberjay Web site at www.timberjay.com or purchased at bookstores in Tower, Cook, Ely and Virginia.
News Tribune outdoors writer Sam Cook asked Foss a few questions about his book and about fishing on Lake Vermilion, a 39,000-acre lake that stretches from Tower to Cook.
Q: Who is this book intended for?
A: It's written for a two-pronged audience -- the not-too-experienced angler who doesn't know much about Lake Vermilion, and for the seasoned angler who has never fished the lake.
Q: Lake Vermilion has one main body of water at its east end and another on the west. Talk about the differences.
A: Some anglers feel almost like they're different lakes. The rusty crayfish [an invasive species] has had a much larger impact on the east end so far, particularly the eastern half or two-thirds of that end. Where there used to be emergent vegetation, it's almost gone. The west end is weedier and narrower. It doesn't look like big water.
As far as walleye fishing, they're both excellent walleye fisheries. The difference you're looking at is techniques -- how to fish walleyes in vegetation versus walleyes in rock, gravel and boulders.
Q: How is the fishery, particularly for walleyes and muskies and smallmouth bass?
A: Muskies have never been better and will continue to get better. Fish have been caught over 50 pounds. That's just going to keep getting better. Smallmouth are in great shape, in both numbers and size. If you get into a good pod of smallmouth, you should catch one over 5 pounds.
With walleyes, the numbers on Vermilion are excellent. A lot of people are thinking the slot limit (a 17- to 26-inch protected slot and a four-walleye limit) is already making a difference. It's a [tannin-] stained lake. I believe that's why you can get up at 8 or 9 in the morning and go catch walleyes. Vermilion is what a friend of mine calls a gentleman's lake.
Q: How is Lake Vermilion holding up to increasing fishing pressure?
A: I think Vermilion is a phenomenal factory, particularly for walleyes. Because at one point the harvest exceeded the target, the DNR imposed the slot limit. That's all the lake needed to remain first-class. With muskies, there's more pressure. Muskie anglers will travel a long way to find a good muskie fishery. Certainly, they hit the well-known spots, but there are tons of spots that never get touched because it's so vast.
Q: Do you think the slot limit imposed in 2006 will improve walleye fishing on Vermilion?
A: I do. The [walleye] harvest was exceeding its target. It was hurting the fishery. Anything that reduces the limit and puts midsize fish back in the lake will benefit the lake.
Q: Lakefront development has been an issue on Lake Vermilion. Is there too much?
A: I don't characterize it that way, as too much. So many Minnesotans want their chunk of land by the lake. The more who get it, the more you turn it into a city. There's no question that's happening on the lake. What kind of impact will that have on the water quality, with more people who build big homes and have lawns and have fertilizer that runs into the lake -- I don't know if you can say that's impacted Vermilion yet. But the lake already has pretty substantial late-summer algae blooms. That's mitigated by the fact that it's huge. So, I worry about that.
Q: Do you know of other lakes that offer the diversity of good fishing that Vermilion does?
A: In a way you can compare it to the Northwest Angle on Lake of the Woods. Mille Lacs, you can try to compare it, but Mille Lacs is just a big darn pond. When you're on Vermilion, you're in the Canadian Shield. Aside from the massive diversity of fishing, it's the Shield experience. If Vermilion had 150-foot depths and lake trout, it would be the perfect lake.