Northern Minnesota state parks have ‘reel’ appeal for anglers

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Surrounding this year’s Governor’s Fishing Opener in the Grand Rapids area are some of Minnesota’s most popular state parks, where anglers can wet their lines against backdrops that include scenic waterfalls, rocky shorelines and virgin pine forests.
Area highlights, worth a side trip, include:

  • to the west – Itasca State Park, where the Mississippi River begins its 2,552-mile journey to the Gulf of Mexico
  • to the east – Gooseberry Falls State Park, where the waterfalls are spectacular and the Gooseberry River is stocked with rainbow trout
  • to the north – Bear Head Lake State Park, voted America’s Favorite Park in an online contest sponsored by Coca-Cola in 2010
  • to the south – Cuyuga Country State Recreation Area, where 25 miles of single-track mountain bike trails opened this spring.

A change in state law made it possible for residents to fish without a license at most lakes within Minnesota state parks. Details about the free fishing, which went into effect in July 2009, can be found online.

In addition to stocking Minnesota lakes and streams with fish, the Department of Natural Resources (DNR) also stocks 30 Minnesota state parks with fishing rods and tackle that they loan out free to visitors in hopes of luring new anglers to the sport.

In the northeast region, the free fishing kits, which include a pole and tackle, are available at Banning, Bear Head Lake, Jay Cooke, McCarthy Beach, St. Croix, Savanna Portage, Scenic, and Tettegouche state parks. Check out the complete list of where to find free loaner equipment (also including GPS units, binoculars and bird guides, and activities for kids) online.

Beginning anglers of all ages can learn basic skills at free I Can Fish! Workshops offered statewide throughout the summer. These hands-on workshops cover fish identification, casting, knot-tying, and more. Fishing gear is provided for use during the workshops, and fishing licenses are not required. Veteran anglers demonstrate skills and then give participants plenty of time to practice. Check the online calendar for a complete schedule.

For more information on what there is to see and do at Minnesota state parks in the northeast region, visit or call the DNR Information Center, 651-296-6157 or toll-free 888-646-6367 between 8 a.m. and 4:30 p.m. Monday through Friday.