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A look at what lakes surveyed best of the 13 area waters sampled by the Glenwood DNR in 2020

Freeborn, Andrew and Irene all show good walleye numbers.

Ice fishing in the Alexandria area should start to take off soon as safer ice forms with cooler temperatures. (Echo Press file photo)

The ice fishing season is in its beginning stages right now, and the Glenwood Area DNR recently released information on the standard lake surveys its fisheries department conducted in 2020 on 13 area lakes that anglers could use as a starting point on lakes to target.

Standard lake surveys typically consist of the use of trap nets, gill nets and electrofishing. The electrofishing is done in the spring to target bass, and gill nets and trap nets sample most of the remaining fish species. The COVID-19 pandemic prevented the use of trap nets in 2020 and electrofishing was only conducted on one lake.

Nets are checked and moved each day for about a week in the summer. The nets are placed in the same locations within a lake each year, and surveying over many years allows the DNR to track trends in the fish populations.

Freeborn, Andrew, Irene, Jessie, Vermont, Carlos, Victoria, Le Homme Dieu, Grants, Geneva, Darling, Mina and Blackwell were the lakes surveyed in 2020. Below are some of the highlights found for each of the fish species targeted in the surveys.


Freeborn, Andrew and Irene all showed good numbers of walleyes that could provide anglers with a good bite in 2021.


Freeborn and Irene had plenty of walleyes between 15-20 inches, as well as some bigger fish over 24 inches. Andrew had a lot of fish that measured less than 15 inches, but also had walleyes fairly present in the 15-20-inch range, as well.

Northern pike

Lakes Darling, Freeborn and Carlos were the top three producing northern pike lakes by numbers, but a lot of those fish came in under 22 inches.

Darling surveyed at a rate of more than 20 northerns per gill net. There were 30-plus inch fish sampled in each of Darling, Freeborn and Carlos.

Lake Victoria produced some of the larger northerns on average, with plenty of fish caught ranging from 22-30 inches. Vermont also had some bigger fish, with pike up to 33 inches sampled there.


Many lakes around the Alexandria area are known as good bass lakes, but the pandemic limited the electrofishing studies that were done in 2020 to just Lake Jesse for largemouth.

A total of 102 largemouth were sampled from Jesse, with more than 20 percent of those measuring between 16-18 inches.

Grants Lake near Holmes City was the only lake sampled in 2020 with what the DNR considers a fishable smallmouth bass population. A total of 42 smallmouth were sampled out of Grants, with the largest fish measuring 17.8 inches. Many of those fish were between 15-16 inches.

Miltona, Ida and Minnewaska were not sampled in 2020, but the DNR considers all three of those lakes as some of the better smallmouth fisheries in their work area.



Crappies do not sample well in the summer during the netting surveys, and the DNR noted in its outlook that lakes with low catch rates might support good populations of crappies.

Freeborn was the best-producing lake of the ones sampled in 2020 with a catch rate of more than 14 crappies per gill net. A good portion of those came in between the 8-10-inch range, but 10-12-inch fish were also caught.

Irene had the greatest number of crappies between 10-12 inches and even some over 12 inches. Irene was also the second-highest producing lake by numbers caught, while Jesse was third on that list with almost all of the fish on Jessie measuring between 8-10 inches.


Bluegill are abundant in many area lakes, especially in Lake Geneva of the bodies of water sampled in 2020.

Geneva had a catch rate of more than 90 bluegill per gill net. Most of those were in the 6-8-inch size range. Victoria, like Geneva a clear lake with a lot of vegetation, had a catch rate of nearly 50 per gill net. The majority of those fish were also 6-8 inches.

Bigger bluegill tend to be found in lakes with lower overall densities. Vermont, Irene and Andrew all fit that model with fewer overall bluegill surveyed but larger fish on average, including some measuring more than 8 inches.

Yellow perch

The DNR considers Page Lake in Stevens County to be one of the few consistent jumbo perch fisheries in their work area.

Of the lakes surveyed in 2020, Andrew had the most perch by numbers (more than 25-per gill net). Freeborn was next with just less than 20 fish per gill net, but almost all of the fish caught on Andrew and Freeborn measured less than eight inches.


Vermont did not see a lot of perch sampled, but the fish that were caught averaged 10.3 inches, with the largest of those measuring 11.9 inches.

Eric Morken is a sports and outdoor editor at the Echo Press Newspaper in Alexandria, Minnesota, a property of the Forum News Service. Morken covers a variety of stories throughout the Douglas County area, as well as statewide outdoor issues.
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