Fishing Notes from Half a Century Ago


by Warren Goss

(The following article comes from the notes made by Warren Goss, based on an interview of Bob Mayer conducted in December, 1973. Bob Mayer was the owner of the Shady Shores resort on Birch Lake, just off Lower Ten Mile Lake Road.)

(Bob Mayer) and Al Woock and a few others formed the Birch and Ten Mile Lake Association in 1946. They did a lot of work with the Brainerd and Fish and Game Office (a Mr. Gulbranson, he thought). They grew fingerlings in a number of ponds and build the walleye population up a lot. In 1951 the lakes, particularly TML, were very high, two feet higher than normal. Happiness Lodge cabins were all surrounded by water. Most of the fish in both lakes went downstream then. The Association tried to get a better dam at Hackensack, e.g. a level weir 40 feet long, and also considered an electric device to keep fish from passing. The Army Corps of Engineers and "some politicians" came and looked, but never did anything. The Association then fell apart because it seemed that their work to get a walleye population was benefiting only the downstream lakes, especially Leech Lake.

The Brainerd Fish and Game people made a number of net surveys between 1946 and 1951. In August, 1951 Gulbranson gave a splendid report to the annual meeting of the Birch and Ten Mile Lake Association. They had identified the "ciscoes" as blue fin herring and said that their presence deep in the lake in the summer caused most of the game fish also to be deep and not come up to the shallower water very much because, after getting accustomed to the higher pressures, it would cause pain to come up. The report said the nets located "boatloads" of game fish at 90 feet and hardly any at 30 feet. The report told of the walleyes and northerns following the herring into the shallow water at spawning time. Many of the herring die after spawning. The dying herring are especially attractive to the game fish - they are easy to see and are immobile (I suppose the same as when we use herring to fish for salmon: the salmon "charge into" schools of herring and circle back to grab the wounded ones). Bob Mayer says this report is still available at Brainerd.

In 1937-8, they put 60 muskies 2 feet long into Birch Lake, and there was pretty good muskie fishing in Birch from 1938 to 1951, when the high water ended it. Some of the muskies were reported to have gone into Ten Mile Lake.

The lakes were low from 1928 to 1948. The Boy River didn't flow between TML and Birch Lake during that interval. Pleasant Lake was 17 feet below its present level. TML was 4 feet below present level. The big reef was way out of water and 50 feet wide with bushes and trees on it (a good duck blind!).

At one time there was serious discussion about opening a channel from TML into the ponds and swamps back of where the Moos and Bryngelson cabins are located, so that fingerlings could be grown there and let out into the lake by opening the gate. Bob doesn't know what happened to the proposal or why. The Ten Mile Lake Association came back to life about 1958, without the Birch Lake members.

One of the rearing ponds that TMLA put a lot of work into was "Diamond Lake Pond" where the road to Diamond Lake goes off to the north from the Wood Tick Trail.

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