TALES OF THE NORTH: The ghost of Portage Lake

John Zentz

Way up north in Minnesota, there’s a lake called Portage. One of the best crappie lakes in the state and Minnesota has lots of lakes.

Many genuinely nice people live around Portage Lake. Believe it or not something else lives there, too. I should say “exists” there, too.

This thing – I say thing because I don’t know what else to call it – some call it a ghost, some call it an imagination, others call it too much to drink. I do not know what to call it, but it is mischievous and wants attention.

One winter, a man and his son were ice fishing and the boy had to go to the bathroom. When he opened the door to their fishing house, the boy jumped back, yelled, “Dad, there is someone out there!”

His dad moved slowly to the door. “I don’t see anyone. Where did he go?”


The boy came back to the door. “I just saw him.”

They both looked all over, saw no one.

They were just returning to the fish house when the boy said, “There he is.”

He was pointing at a shadow on the ice. There was no one there, but there was a shadow on the ice. They both stood there dumbfounded. The shadow moved further out on the ice. Suddenly, the area exploded with a loud ice breaking noise. A large hole appeared in the ice. You’re right, the shadow was gone.

This is just an example of things that happen.

Many times, in the summer when someone catches a fish as they bring it up in the air, to put it in the boat, something takes a hold of it, then takes it off the hook and puts it back in the water. This has happened many times.

One afternoon a man came in from fishing, tied his boat up, went to the bathroom. When he came out, his boat was floating away. Another fisherman brought it back to the shore. He again tied it up, went to his car, came back and his boat was floating away again.

The same fisherman was just a little way away, so he brought it back again. The kind man said, “You need to go to boat-tying-up school.”


The man laughed, saying, “I can’t explain it. Must be the spirit of Portage Lake.”

If you have had any experience like this, call or send a message to the newspaper. I have had many fishing trips to Portage Lake and never had anything like this happen to me. One of my favorite lakes.

So, I have decided, for the time being, we should call this too much to drink. I am willing to change my mind. If you have had a real experience, please let us know.

A storyteller, John Zentz, 87, will share a blend of fact and fiction in his bimonthly column. Some tales he’s lived through, some he’s been told. Zentz and his family are longtime Hubbard County residents. He has a picture of his grandmother and grandfather, seven times removed, sitting on a porch in Park Rapids.

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