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One of the prettiest places to watch the sun rise in Central Minnesota is Big Trout Lake. This popular lake on the Whitefish Chain of Lakes is wonderfully clear and deep, lined with trees and home to many lovely lake homes. Other lakes on the chain have more public access and are more crowded. Big Trout Lake is at the end of the chain, connected only to Lower Whitefish Lake by a short channel. This lovely lake has become an increasingly desirable place to build that ultimate northwoods lake house and an enviable address to possess. Two resorts and two youth camps still share the shoreline, but most is in private hands. Careful management and attention to aesthetics makes the shoreline pleasant and natural except for the private docks extending from sandy beaches.
Big Trout Lake is favored by water skiers, tubers, canoeists, kayakers, pontoon boaters and the occasional sailor. Fishermen access the water either through the channel or from the boat launch maintained by the US Army Corps of Engineers just off the road at the east end of the lake. There are no marinas on Big Trout Lake, but one of the resorts rents boats to their guests. The margins of the lake are shallow, and a sandy bottom makes for excellent swimming.
Fishing is one of the main reasons visiting boats arrive at Big Trout Lake. The Department of Natural Resources (DNR) regularly stocks the lake with lake trout. Other fish caught include black crappie, bluegill, green sunfish, hybrid sunfish, largemouth bass, northern pike, pumpkinseed, rock bass, smallmouth bass, tullibee (cisco), walleye and yellow perch. The sunfish and bluegill tend to be on the small side, likely because so many larger predator-fish feed on them. Walleye are not stocked directly into Big trout Lake, but are stocked in connecting Lower Whitefish Lake and easily make their way through the channel.
Water levels on the Whitefish Chain are controlled by the Pine River Dam at the end of the chain. When the dam was built on 1886 in an attempt to regulate flows to the Mississippi River, it raised water levels about ten feet, connecting the previously unconnected lakes. In winter, the Army Corps of Engineers draws down the lakes an average of more than a foot to protect the shoreline from ice damage. And, when the ice forms, ice fishermen show up to spend long and rewarding hours seeking the elusive pike gliding beneath their hole in the ice. Winter brings snowmobilers to ride the nearly 1200 miles of groomed trails throughout the Brainerd area. One of the connecting trails passes Big Trout Lake. The trails also attract people who enjoy cross-country skiing and snowshoeing and are often used for hiking in the warmer months. With so many lakes large and small close together, there is often a winter festival of some kind going on most winter weekends. Winter here is nearly as busy as summer, just filled with different activities.
The local Whitefish Area Property Owners Association holds regular annual events to raise money to improve walleye fishing, because they are a favorite among visiting anglers. The Association membership plans special events, such as the annual Harvest Dinner, which features a produce market managed by local farmers from the area. Another popular event that draws participants from all over the area is the 5K Grandpa's Run for the Walleye which is getting more popular by the year. The Property Owners Association works to improve water quality in area lakes, educate property owners as to best practices for healthy shorelines, and teaches people about the dangers of invasive species which may be carried in by watercraft. Although some of the lakes in the chain have been identified as holding the dreaded zebra mussel, Big Trout Lake has so far only been invaded by Curly Pondweed, a far less damaging interloper.
The entire Whitefish Chain of Lakes is a desirable vacation destination, particularly if there are anglers in the family. Brainerd is 30 miles to the south of Big Trout Lake, and the small city of Crosslake is only two miles away. The Brainerd area expends great effort to make sure that visitors have everything they need to enjoy their time in the area. Although there are no campgrounds on Big Trout Lake, one is located near Crosslake. Other RV camps are nearby. Crosslake also holds the community center where many Association events are held. Two golf courses nearby assure even the most golf-attached vacationer can get in a few rounds during a week's stay.
All of the lakes near Big Trout Lake hold a resort or two which vary from luxury resorts featuring fine dining and beautiful suites to rustic cabins with a feel of the old-north summer cottage. Several bed-and-breakfasts, hotels, condos and townhouses join private lake house rentals in providing lodgings for all of these visitors to the area. A large tract of public land is protected within the boundaries of the Crow Wing State Forest stretching south from near Crosslake. Here, more camping, swimming, fishing, canoe routes, boat launches and hiking trails give visitors access to a wide swath of this unique lake country, including the Pine River and the Mississippi River.
The advantages offered in the Big Trout Lake area are so inviting that many wish to purchase real estate here after a visit. Although a few older cottages can be found, most are purchased and replaced with more elaborate housing. Single-family homes and townhomes are available for sale with lakefront views or water access. Visit soon, and come watch the sunrise.
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