Lake of the Week: North Long
North Long Lake, at 5,998 acres, is one of the largest and most popular lakes in the Brainerd area. Despite this fact, it does receive much less fishing pressure than other lakes in the Brainerd area.
North Long has two bays — the Merrifield bay and Highway 371 bay that surround the main lake portion.
North Long has quality walleye, northern, bass and panfish that will keep the whole family entertained. The multiple bays also provide the option of getting away from crowds.
WALLEYE: The walleye in North Long are stout and have shoulders. Early season, like other lakes in the brainerd area, target emerging weeds where the walleye will be up chasing baitfish. Depending on what the wind and sun are doing, this can be anywhere from 5-15 feet of water. One of the better ways to target them early is to pitch a jig and a shiner or Berkley Gulp. Later summer patterns for walleye include live-bait rigging the many lake humps or drop-offs in 20-35 feet of water. Both the main lake and bays hold walleyes, with the main lake and Merrifield bay holding the better populations of walleyes.
BASS AND NOTHERN PIKE: Weeds rule here on North Long. Find the weedline (usually around 10-14 feet of water) and pitch a 3/4-ounce jig rigged with Berkley Gulp or Trigger X and work it back through the weeds. You can also try pitching shallow diving cranks over the tops of the weeds. Speed will be the key to keep it touching the weeds a bit, but not so slow that you are constantly hung up. If you like to troll, try a spinner rig with a minnow or crawler or perhaps try your favorite crankbait outside the weed lines for consistent action all day. Berkley Flicker shads or the Salmo Hornet or Frisky are good options to cover water.
PANFISH: There is a good population of panfish on North Long and there are quality panfish as well. Early season, target the emerging weeds in Merrifield bay or 371 bay. As summer begins, look to the reed beds that are scattered throughout the lake for a mix of crappie and bluegills and maybe a bonus bass.
North Long Lake is a great choice for boaters and fishermen alike. Fish are scattered throughout the system and the beautiful sandy shores along 371 off a respite when a shore lunch beckons or the kids want to swim. North Long lake has two accesses for boaters — one is located in Merrifield off County Road 3 and the other just off of Highway 371. The Merrifield landing has two concrete ramps and is capable of handling any sized boat.