Smallmouth bass were introduced to the Otter Tail River near Fergus Falls in west central Minnesota several years ago. They have survived and done very well as we found out on a recent fishing trip.
We left home just before sunrise on a warm September Friday, and stopped for bait. We were disappointed to learn the bait shop was out of medium sucker minnows so we bought a scoop of fatheads instead. They were much smaller than we wanted, but it was all they had.
The author and a nice Otter Tail River smallmouth.
The sun had been up for about an hour when we got to the river just below one of its many dams. Three of my first five casts using a crankbait resulted in catching three of them. My friend Tom and my son Forrest weren’t far behind and we began landing bass on nearly every cast.
Unfortunately, the larger 16-inch to 18-inch fish were few and far between. We switched to fathead minnows set about 3 feet below a small bobber and let them drift downstream just in front of a big fallen oak tree snag. Again, almost every cast resulted in a smallmouth, but with the small minnows, we continued to catch way more small fish than bigger ones.
After about an hour, I managed to snag my line on the oak tree downstream. I walked back the 100 yards or so to the truck to get some waders so I could retrieve my line. Along the way I caught several leopard frogs and put them in my pocket.
Smallies Devour The Frogs
Back at the river, I told Tom "the biggest frog is yours as rent for your waders." He put the frog on, tossed it in, and sure enough, it was “fish on!” This was just one of several big smallies of the day, each around 18 inches.
Forrest got in the act with frogs, too, catching his biggest smallmouth bass ever. Before he was done, he also managed to catch a big oak tree along the bank, and left his frog hanging 15 feet in the air!
The author’s son, Forrest, and his largest smallmouth ever!
We used up the frogs and the few, remaining fatheads and decided to try below the next dam downstream. By the time we got to our next fishing spot, a short drive and a short walk away, we had caught another dozen or so frogs.
Tossing a frog out about mid-steam and letting it float downstream, once again, proved to work almost every time. We ended the morning with each of us catching several very nice smallmouth bass, and lots of smaller ones.
The Otter Tail River is strictly catch and release for smallies, so after some quick photos, they all went back into the River. Tom said "I can’t wait to send these pictures to my fishing buddies!"
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