Forest Lake has long been touted as a prime fishing location. Boat rentals have been available since our city was founded and some of our ice fishing contests have been among the largest in the country. One such contest in 1950 had over 2,500 fishermen participate! Summer resorts once dotted the shorelines of the lake, offering rest and relaxation, and of course, fishing. The local businesses in town provided all the accoutrements necessary and tall fish tales were traded there regularly.
Before the days of outboard motors and depth finders, people from larger cities would come to Forest Lake, much as we would visit the Boundary Waters today. It was a place to unwind, unplug and relax in solitude. There were no homes on the lake as we know it today. Aside from the train depot and general store, there was very little to see besides water and trees. In the St. Paul newspaper from July of 1870, we read that “Chief Justice Chase, Judges Ripley, Berry and McMillan and others went out to Forest Lake today for a fishing excursion.” Another reads, “Rev. Otis and others have gone to Forest Lake to spend a week or two hunting, fishing, roughing it and rusticating generally.”
Some didn’t find Forest Lake to their liking, as we read in the Minneapolis Tribune in August of 1871: “Quite a large and select party took the train to spend a pleasant day at Forest Lake. A delay of nearly two hours at the depot put them considerably out of humor, but still they pressed on. They had with them a full equipment for a day’s fishing, including boats, tackle, etc. On their arrival, they were obliged to carry their boats for two-hundred yards or more upon their shoulders, through the brush to the lake. They fished a while, then ate their lunch, which they had no more than finished when the whistle of the locomotive warned them that their time was short, and that they must return to the depot. They felt very much disappointed in their day’s enjoyment, and vowed never to go to Forest Lake again.”
Fortunately, our leisure time no longer revolves around the train schedule, but looking back 150 years, we can appreciate the common interest in fishing that is enjoyed by so many in our city.
Article by Justin Brink, 2021.