Northwoods Adventure: 155 Teams Compete In 11th Annual Leech Lake Walleye Tournament
The Leech Lake Walleye Tournament brings in people from all over the Midwest competing for a total purse of $46,501. John Dainsberg, the Onsite Director of the event, has been working with the tournament for the last 10 years. He said Leech Lake is the fishing destination for catching walleye.
“We have some great anglers that are here,” Dainsberg said. “Some that are professionals, some that are amateurs, some from the area, some from the greater Minnesota and North Dakota, Nebraska, Wisconsin. So people come from a pretty big area to fish this tournament.”
It’s a total weight contest, meaning teams with the biggest fish weight win. Dainsberg said the rules are simple.
“They are allowed five walleyes. A team can bring two of those walleyes in 22 inches and they are allowed just two. And the other fish have to be between fourteen and under 20 inches,” Dainsberg said.
One participant whose been in the tournament for the last eight years said he enjoys the competition.
“You got a lot of good anglers out here, you’re fishing with some of the best in the state, and so it’s always kind of neat to see how you fair against the other anglers,” Brock Lavins of Bloomington said.
“It’s pretty diverse – I mean, it’s such a big lake,” Hang Loose Outdoors Guide, Colt Anderson said. “You got Walker Bay, the main lakes, Sucker Bay, Birch Ridge. You’ve got so many different areas to fish.”
Another angler who’s in the tournament with her husband says she enjoys fishing on Leech Lake.
“It’s a beautiful lake and the area is fantastic so we keep coming back,” Kim Rollins of Pine River said.
In the early 2000s, the walleye population was at an all-time low due to the rise of migrant birds that were nesting on the lake.
“They devastated the perch and the walleye population to the point that the fishery there were big fish but no little fish,” Dainsberg said.
Dainsberg said at the time, the local Leech Lake Walleye Task Force and the Walker area Department of Natural Resources began to work to address the walleye fishery. Now more than a decade later, he said Leech Lake boasts one of the finest and healthiest walleye fisheries in the whole country.
The weight total for fish caught in both days of the tournament came to over 1,000 pounds. Around 97 percent of the fish caught were live released.