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What fisheries stood out from the Glenwood DNR standard lake surveys in 2021?

A look at what lakes had good numbers and size structure of fish for multiple species from the standard lake surveys conducted by the Glenwood DNR fisheries staff in 2021.

Walleye
A walleye is measured during survey work done by the Glenwood DNR fisheries department on Lobster Lake west of Alexandria. There are plenty of waters for anglers to choose from around Douglas County, but Elk, Mary, Turtle, Chippewa and Thompson all had good walleye numbers when the DNR surveyed those lakes in 2021.
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The Glenwood Area DNR fisheries staff conducted standard lake surveys on 13 waters within their work area in 2021 and tallied information that could be useful for anglers who are trying to decide on what lakes to target around the Alexandria area for opener on May 14.

The lakes surveyed last year included Elk, Mary, Turtle, Chippewa, Thompson, Signalness, Pelican, Winona, Lobster, Devils, Latoka, Whiskey, and Crooked.

There are plenty of waters for anglers to choose from around Douglas County, but Elk, Mary, Turtle, Chippewa and Thompson all had good walleye numbers when the DNR surveyed those lakes. Mary, Elk and Chippewa had plenty of fish between 15-20 inches, while Thompson had a high proportion of the walleyes surveyed measuring over 20 inches.

“Elk, Mary and Turtle would all be good options for anglers seeking walleyes for the dinner table, while walleyes in Thompson were larger than average,” Glenwood DNR fisheries specialist Nick Rydell said. “All of those lakes would also be good options for opener as they are relatively shallow and should warm up faster after the late ice out. Chippewa did have a very strong walleye population in the 2021 survey, but it is fairly deep and may be a better option as the water warms up into June.”

The DNR conducts its standard lake surveys using electrofishing methods, along with trap nets and gill nets. The electrofishing targets bass in the spring, while the gill and trap nets are used to sample most of the remaining fish species.

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Sturgeon – dozens upon dozens of them – congregated in an obvious act of spawning, the first verified sighting in more than 100 years of lake sturgeon actively spawning in the Red River Basin.

Nets are checked and moved daily on each lake for about a week in the summer. They are placed in the same locations within a lake each year. That allows the DNR to track trends in fish populations over the course of many years. Each sampling gear has bias, and the largest and smallest fish in a population are typically underrepresented in the sampling.

The late ice out and how that impacts water temperatures could play a role on what lakes produce a good bite and which ones may be better later in the season.

“Water temperatures will likely be much cooler this year,” Rydell said. “Anglers should focus on shallow, turbid lakes that will warm more quickly and have active fish. Some of the shallower lakes west of Alexandria, such as Barrett, Pomme de Terre, and Stowes can be great early season lakes. Deep, clear lakes will be better later in the season as the fish in those systems may be more lethargic around opener. Walleyes may still even be spawning, or at least near spawning areas around opener. So focusing on wind-swept points with gravel and cobble, or lake inlets with flow that attract walleyes to rivers mouths would be good strategies.”

Glenwood area Fisheries outlook
Walleye and northern pike numbers from the 2021 standard lake surveys conducted by the Glenwood DNR fisheries staff.
Contributed graphic

While walleyes will be the target of many anglers around Alexandria this weekend, there are plenty of other good opportunities to go after other species.

Here is a breakdown of what waters stood out for other popular fish species from the waters the Glenwood DNR surveyed in 2021.

Northern pike

Northern pike
A northern pike is measured during survey work done by the Glenwood DNR fisheries staff. Many of the lakes in Douglas County have high pike numbers.
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Many of the lakes in Douglas County are full of northern pike.

Latoka had the greatest number of pike of the lakes surveyed in 2021 with more than 15 fish per gill net. The large majority of those measured less than 22 inches.

Anglers looking to have some fun targeting a little bigger size class could look at Signalness Lake — a small body of water in Pope County near Starbuck. Signalness had the most northerns between 22-26 inches and the second most number of pike netted overall.

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Alex Letvin says many lakes in his work area are going through a transition with clearing waters and expanded vegetation. It's a change that naturally benefits fish species like northern pike and largemouth bass. What might that look like for walleye on some of these waters going forward?

Anglers can keep 10 northern pike, but not more than two pike longer than 26 inches. One exception is a special regulation on Rachel Lake, where all pike from 24 to 36 inches must be immediately released. The possession limit on Rachel is three and only one over 36 inches.

Crappie

The late ice out could mean a good crappie bite is still going on in the Alexandria area on the opener.

“Black crappie are not sampled well in the summer using our nets, so even lakes with low catch rates may still support good populations,” the DNR report stated.

Lake Winona had very high catch rates from 2021 with almost 35 crappies per gill net, but almost all of those measured less than 8 inches. Lobster produced some better-size fish between 8-12 inches. Crooked, Turtle and Mary also had good numbers and size structures that would make for better eating-sized fish.

Crappie
A big crappie is put back into the water after survey work conducted by the Glenwood DNR fisheries staff on an area lake. There are many good crappie fisheries in the Alexandria area, and Lake Winona, Lobster, Crooked, Turtle and Mary all had had good catch rates of the waters surveyed in 2021.
Contributed photo

Several other special panfish surveys were conducted in the spring of 2021 where lakes such as Gilchrist, Osakis, Irene and Whiskey showed respectable crappie populations.

Bluegill

Glenwood area Fisheries outlook
Yellow perch numbers from the 2021 standard lake surveys, along with black crappie and bluegill data from targeted spring sampling conducted for those two species by the Glenwood DNR fisheries department.
Contributed graphic

Anglers should often look at clear, vegetated lakes such as Elk, Turtle, Lobster and Mary when it comes to finding good numbers of bluegill.

Signalness produced the highest number of bluegills from lakes surveyed in 2021, but the large majority of those were under 6 inches. Whiskey had the eighth highest number of bluegills netted of the 13 lakes surveyed, but Whiskey also had the most bluegills that measured over 8 inches. Devils Lake also had lower overall numbers, but larger fish on average.

Anglers are reminded to check bluegill regulations on daily limits before fishing. Many lakes within the Glenwood DNR’s work area are now part of the Quality Bluegill Initiative that has lowered daily limits to 5 or 10 in an attempt to produce a better overall fishery with bigger bluegills. Anglers can help protect large bluegill by releasing them and keeping fish that are 8 inches or less.

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Largemouth and smallmouth bass

Glenwood area Fisheries outlook
Largemouth bass, bluegill and crappie numbers from the Glenwood DNR fisheries staff's standard lake surveys conducted in 2021.
Contributed graphic

The catch-and-release season for bass opens with the walleye and pike opener on May 14. Anglers can begin keeping bass on May 28.

The Alexandria area has many good largemouth bass waters right now, and Elk and Thompson were a couple of the highest quality fisheries sampled in 2021. A large proportion of the bass sampled on those lakes measured between 15-18 inches, as well as some fish over 18 inches. Crooked, Chippewa and Whiskey also had good numbers of bass, with some good-size fish as well.

Latoka was the only lake surveyed in 2021 with a smallmouth population. Only eight were sampled, with the fish ranging from 15-19 inches. Grants, Miltona, Ida and Minnewaska are some of the other popular smallmouth fisheries in the area.

“Smallmouth bass have been recorded in several other area lakes at low densities, but their numbers appear to be expanding,” the DNR survey stated.

Muskies

Muskie season opens June 4.

The Glenwood Area DNR conducted a targeted muskie survey in the spring of 2021 on Lake Miltona. A total of 257 muskies were tagged across two years of sampling. Nineteen of those were over 50 inches.

Miltona has an estimated adult muskie population of fish measuring 30 inches or longer of 757 fish. Oscar and Lobster are the two other lakes within the Glenwood DNR’s work area that are stocked with muskies.

Oscar is stocked at lower levels in order to try to make it a trophy fishery. Lobster is stocked at a higher rate in an attempt to produce an “action” fishery, though muskies in Lobster still grow to 50-plus inches.

Yellow perch

Page Lake, while not sampled in 2021, is one of the few consistent jumbo perch fisheries in the Glenwood DNR's work area.

Of the lakes sampled last year, Lake Winona had the most yellow perch caught with more than 25 per gill net, but all of those measured at less than 8 inches.

Related Topics: NORTHLAND OUTDOORSFISHING
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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