It’s no secret that Otter Tail County has some of the best panfishing opportunities in the state of Minnesota and in this post I’m going to share some of the best of them.
In fact, this is the county where MOST of my quality panfish photos comes from. With it’s vast array of water, quality management, and vast ecosystems, its no wonder it boasts some of the most incredible fishing in the the state, especially if you enjoy panfishing.
A Lifetime of Otter Tail County Experiences
I’ve spent a large portion of my existence fishing Otter Tail County. I grew up not to far from there – a resident of its neighbor to the east – Wadena. Wadena county doesn’t have the fishing Otter Tail does, so for my youth I fished the rivers at home. However, by the time I was in my early teens my parents finally invested in a boat, and 9 times out of 10 we would take the nearly hour long drive into eastern Otter Tail County to use it.
Fast forward 10 years and I again found myself dedicated to the Otter Tail County fisheries. This time even more so, as I spent my time exploring it’s vast backwaters, small lakes and charming accommodations with fishing equipment of my own.
Otter Tail county walleye fishing is good but I wouldn’t say great. However, it’s panfishing opportunities are incredible. Perhaps that’s part of why it’s so great – many of the lakes don’t have high populations of oversized predators to target them.
It’s through my lifetime of fishing Otter Tail that I feel confident in sharing 5 of my many favorite Otter Tail County panfish lakes. This definitely isn’t all of them, but it is a few of the best of them.
They have brought me tremendous joy and I know they will for you too.
This blog is brought to you by Otter Tail County and Explore Minnesota. For more information on Otter Tail's incredible fisheries be sure to visit Otter Tail Lakes Country website.
My 5 Favorite Panfish Fisheries in Otter Tail County MN
Franklin boasts some of the best fishing in the county. Located right between Pelican and Lida (two of Otter Tail’s most popular destinations), Franklin often gets overlooked not just for its walleye potential, but its panfish potential too.
It’s often times these overlooked larger bodies of water that have the best fishing in general. They have a similar ecosystem to some of the most popular producers without all of the fishing and boating pressure.
Whether you are looking for some fabulous spring crappie fishing back in the bay or midsummer bluegill fun – Franklin has it – and in VERY high numbers.
In fact, one of the most unique bites I’ve ever found is deep rigging for bluegills.
Our setup to do this includes a classic crawler harness – trolled across any deep structure we could find. In fact the marks of bluegill on sonar are so prominent you would think you’d spotted a massive school of walleye. Instead you catch a tank bluegill and a lot of them. They are huge and always seem willing to bite. As crazy as it might sound try it. Act like your walleye fishing and you’ll be surprised by the tank bluegill you will get.
Franklin also has a great crappie population – and one of my favorite places to fish in the spring.
Rarely do I give up small panfishing destinations – but lucky for you I’m going to give up one right now – Anderson. Anderson doesn’t have a quality access, just expect a dirt parking lot, no dock, and a very weedy shallow shoreline to launch from. I wouldn’t recommend taking a large boat through there, but we have done it anyways.
Anderson is a small, stained lake. In fact, it’s dark stained waters and high population of fish make it a great daytime bite location.
Anderson is almost too populated with panfish. Catch numbers get really high but size tends to stay relatively low per catch – for both crappie and bluegill. Although there are big fish in there, don’t expect to find them right away. Instead you’ll experience high numbers of fish, including crappie, bluegill and perch – most being midsized. Work hard enough and you’ll hook into one of the 14″ + crappie – you just have to work to get them.
If you are looking to introduce someone to fishing, or better yet get them hooked on fishing – this is it. It’s easy to fish, small and tranquil, and the perfect place to bring a new or young angler to introduce them to the sport.
It’s no secret that South Lida is a favorite of mine – filled with great walleye fishing and incredible crappies, it is hands down one of my favorites for fall fishing and late ice. It’s during this time that I tend to fish them deep off of the basins – I find them schooled in the hundreds and a blast to target from the ice or the boat.
The lake is the perfect size too, large enough to hold a healthy number of larger fish (quality walleye, bass, and even a few nice pike) but small enough that the crappie aren’t impossible to find. It’s the perfect destination to fish for all of your favorites.
There are even a few trophy bluegill spots if you look hard enough. Find some structure and throw out a classic bobber and worm setup during midday and you will often be awarded with bluegill around that 10″ mark.
Graham is another example of Otter Tail’s small gems that lack a public access. Located near Frazee, its the perfect lake for ice fishing or exploring with your kayak. Because of it’s access limitation, pressure is somewhat limited – keeping numbers and success rate high, for both crappie and bluegill.
Just like with Anderson, I’ve also found there to be an awesome midday bite for crappie and a steady bite for bluegill. Look for break lines along weed edges, no real rhyme or reason – just effort. Competition level seems high and the bite seems solid all season long.
If you want to get consistent 9″ to 10″ bluegill this is it. Look for weeds along reefs and points – you are bound to find some in there.
If you asked me for the number one trophy crappie lake in the county, this would be it.
Known for it’s massive muskie and walleye, many people overlook one of it’s most productive species of all – crappie. In fact, my largest number of trophy fish have came from this lake. Most of my time has been spent chasing them in the winter, but they are active all summer long – the key is understanding how they transition throughout the seasons – and putting in the effort to pattern them. It’s a big lake, so they can often be tough to find. However, start with the basics and focus on lowlight. With some time and effort you will find them.
During ice season look for basins or “bowls” where fish will congregate in the evenings. In the spring, look for shallow bays and inlets. If you put in the work this lake will reward you.
Plus you can always target that bonus walleye or muskie.
Otter Tail County is Panfish Paradise
Otter Tail county is home to roughly 1,048 lakes – No wonder it has endless fishing opportunities. From it’s renown waters such as Ottertail and West Battle Lakes, to it’s small secrets like Anderson or Graham, it can provide fantastic fishing for anyone. Especially if you are looking for panfish.
However, it isn’t just home to amazing fishing, it’s also home to a variety of accommodations including family resorts, state parks, campgrounds, and incredible dining. Whether you want to fish or simply unwind – Otter Tail County has something for everyone.