Above the whir of electric knives, the fellow across the fish cleaning station at McIntosh Woods State Park near Clear Lake, Iowa, asked where we were from.

“Mankato, Minnesota,” Brian Fowler, my fishing partner, told him.

He paused from cleaning his mess of fish and smiled. “You’re from Minnesota and come down here to fish?” he asked.

Well, where else are we going to catch a yellow bass?

Most Minnesota anglers are familiar with a cousin, the white (or striped) bass, a fish with a good reputation as a fighter but less so as table fare.

The yellow bass, on the other hand, also is a scrapper on the end of a line. But in addition to being a good battler, the yellow is superb table fare.

Best of all, in Iowa, basic math is not a requisite for fishing for yellows: There is no limit, no season.

That’s because in many environments, yellow bass are considered a nuisance fish, prone to over population, stunted growth and crowding out more desirable game species. Except in Clear Lake.

In this 3,000- acre lake located 100 miles due south of Mankato, thanks to a fortuitous combination of environment and prey forage relationships with walleye, muskies and catfish, yellow bass are able to grow large enough to attract anglers’ attention — plenty of attention.

Indeed, when the yellows are really going, the lake is a Mecca for anglers. Five gallon pails brimming with the fish are common.

In the best of years, lines of anglers coming off the lake have been known to clean so many yellows that the McIntosh Woods cleaning station has been overwhelmed with fish innards and shut down.

On a recent Saturday, we shared the lake with dozens of other anglers drifting, anchored and trolling. While some undoubtedly were trolling for the walleyes that abound in the lake, most of us were after the tasty yellows.

Drifting with Northland Gumdrops tipped with minnows, we were fishing in about 13 feet of water just north of the island.

The fish hit our lures with gusto; several times our dead stick rods — it’s legal to use two poles in Iowa — very nearly were pulled overboard by biting fish.

By the time we ran out of minnows, we had tallied 37 yellow bass and one 15-inch walleye.

As we made quick work of turning the mess of fish into a pile of fillets at the station, the fellow on the other side of the fish cleaning station invited us to come back again.

“You guys keep on coming down here and spend your money anytime you want,” he said.


John Cross is a Mankato Free Press staff writer. Contact him at (507) 344-6376 or jcross@mankatofreepress.com.