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Snowmobiles race through the snow-covered countryside of central Minnesota, darting between Big Pine Lake and the area's other lakes. With the ice huts rising on the lakes like villages, it is hard to tell where the ice leaves off and the snow starts. Big Pine Lake is almost as popular in the winter as it is in the summer, and the fish bite all year long.
Covering 635 acres in Aitkin County, Big Pine Lake has a maximum depth of 78 feet and almost 6 miles of shoreline. The small island in the western half of the lake has additional shoreline to explore by canoe or kayak. The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR) maintains a concrete boat ramp on the southwest end of the lake providing access for boating, water skiing and fishing. Big Pine Lake is a fertile lake that supports healthy populations of black crappie, bluegill, sunfish and yellow perch. Anglers will also find abundant populations of largemouth bass, rock bass and northern pike. The DNR periodically stocks the lake with walleye fingerlings and fry.
Big Pine Lake near Garrison is not the only lake by that name in Minnesota, or even in Aitkin County. It is, however, the only one that sits just off the shores of Mille Lacs Lake. With 132,000 acres of water, Mille Lacs Lake is the largest lake in central Minnesota and the second largest inland lake in the state. It is renowned by anglers for its walleye, and like most of the lakes in Aitkin County, winter brings shanty villages full of devoted anglers intent on ice fishing.
The area around Mille Lacs Lake was originally called "Pays de Mille Lacs" or Region of a Thousand Lakes. The county is splattered with lakes, and visitors to Big Pine Lake will have hundreds of thousands acres of water within easy access. Vacation rentals on the lake make the perfect home base from which to explore it all. For visitors who fall in love with the area, there is real estate available for sale. Both Cutler and nearby Garrison have restaurants, shops and any convenience a visitor might want all within a short drive of Big Pine Lake.
A few miles east of Big Pine Lake, the Wealthwood State Forest wraps part of Mille Lacs Lake. The 15,042-acre forest was established in 1963 and is home to white tailed deer, otters, muskrats and mink. Waterfowl, including mallards, ring necked ducks and Canada geese, also make their homes at Wealthwood. Hunting is allowed in season in parts of the state forest. There are Off-Highway Vehicle (OHV) trails and snowmobile trails across the state forest, joining with trails that crisscross the entire area and wrap around several of the county's lakes.
Snowmobiles, ice fishing and hot chocolate by the fire fill winter days and nights on Big Pine Lake. Spring and summer mean days spent playing and fishing in the water and nights around campfires toasting marshmallows for s'mores. Not matter what the season, Big Pine Lake has something for the entire family. Add the thousands of acres of water in the "Pays de Mille Lacs," and Big Pine Lake becomes an unbelievable central Minnesota getaway.
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