I have been fishing Gull Lake since I was kid in junior high school and that was a long time ago!! I have always considered it to be one of the best walleye and bass lakes in the Brainerd area. Guiding on Gull Lake in the spring and the fall was usually the highlight of my fishing season.
About four years ago, we were told that zebra mussels had been discovered in the big lake. No one was happy to hear that, but honestly none of us really knew what that meant to fishing. The DNR started monitoring the mussels in the lake, the county set up check stations at all the landings to make sure boats coming into and out of the lake were clean and not transporting any more aquatic invasive species and we all just keep on fishing and watching. The second year of the mussel occupation didn’t seem to make much of a difference but the third year fishing started to get more difficult. Last year walleye fishing on Gull was really tough and to make things more frustrating, the DNR was telling area guides that the walleye population in Gull was very good. We found that hard to believe because we just weren’t catching many or finding them anymore.
I am not a biologist nor a researcher of any kind. I am not second guessing the fine researchers who work for the DNR. I am just a fishing guide who spends lots of time on the water and I have seen something the past two weeks on Gull Lake that has shocked me! The water clarity on a windless day is almost fifteen feet. Yes, one can look in the water and see down fifteen feet under the boat. On my last trip to Gull Lake I saw three 24-30 inch walleyes under my boat in 8-14 feet of water. I saw carp, dog fish, sunfish by the hundreds, bullheads and huge schools of walleyes. I have never seen this before on Gull Lake. I have never been able to see in the water with such clarity.
The second week of the walleye season I ran into two boats fishing a tournament on the north end of Gull. They confided in me that they were sitting on top of walleyes the whole morning in 8-10 feet of water. They could see hundreds of fish under their boat but they wouldn’t bite minnows, crawlers, leeches, or crank baits! They were totally frustrated and I believed them because my customers and I were seeing the very same thing.
My conclusion of this phenomena is that zebra mussels have totally changed the aquatic environment of Gull Lake. I think the DNR is right, there are lots of walleyes in the lake but our traditional ways of fishing them might not work anymore and the daytime bite might never be the same again. Now, it is the night bite that is exciting anglers on Gull. It has been excellent since the fishing opener. Sadly, zebra mussels are a game changer for everyone and everything living in an infested lake. Now it’s our turn to adapt!