Area lakes in ‘great shape’ for catching walleye

Weather may keep some anglers off the water

Photo by Deb Gau The weather forecast may be cloudy and rainy for this weekend’s fishing opener, but the DNR said walleye populations at several area lakes should be good for fishing this season.

MARSHALL — It was a rough winter — for fish as well as people, the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources said. But while some area lakes may have seen partial fish die-offs due to this year’s extreme winter weather, populations in southern Minnesota are looking good for Saturday’s fishing opener.

The DNR’s spring fishing outlook report for southern Minnesota said lakes in the region should be in “great shape” for catching quality walleye. Lake Shetek, Lake Sarah, and Currant Lake in Murray County were all rated as having better prospects for walleye fishing this season.

Lake Sarah is “kind of our premier” walleye fishing lake in the area, said Windom area fisheries supervisor Ryan Doorenbos. However, he said this year Lake Shetek was also looking very good. The spring fishing outlook also said Lake Benton and Dead Coon Lake in Lincoln County should be good spots for walleye angling.

Doorenbos said some area lakes did experience winterkill caused by the unusually deep snow that fell on the region this winter.

“It was kind of a tough winter” for lakes, Doorenbos said. As the drifts piled up on frozen lakes, less light could get through to underwater plants and algae that produce oxygen — Doorenbos compared it to a window shade being pulled further and further closed. Low oxygen levels in lakes can lead to fish dying.

While residents may have seen dead fish at some area lakes, Doorenbos said it doesn’t necessarily mean the fishing will be poor this spring. Southwest Minnesota’s lakes shallow lakes tend to be productive for fish.

“That’s one of the benefits of our area,” he said. The lakes warm up more quickly than deeper bodies of water, and begin producing fish sooner.

In the Marshall region, Lake Yankton was hardest hit by winterkill, he said. A DNR survey last summer showed good fish populations, but after the winter, green sunfish are no longer present in the lake.

Doorenbos said there are still a variety of fish in Lake Yankton, and the lake has been stocked with walleye, yellow perch and black crappies.

Walleye can typically be found in bigger lakes, Doorenbos said. Both Lake Sarah and Lake Shetek should be good places to fish for them this year. Lake Sarah is one of two lakes in the region that has a self-sustaining walleye population, the DNR said. Surveys last year found good populations in both Lake Sarah and Lake Shetek, the fishing outlook report said.

Zebra mussels were found in Lake Sarah last year, so it’s also important that anglers take steps to avoid spreading the invasive species. Doorenbos said anglers should drain and clean their boats, and make sure they remove all vegetation from boat trailers before moving them.

The DNR fishing outlook for southern Minnesota also suggested fishing on other area lakes, and the Minnesota River. In Yellow Medicine County, the report said said Wood Lake offered chances to catch walleye, black crappie and channel catfish. In Lincoln County, Lake Shaokotan had good populations of northern pike. Lake Hendricks offers walleyes, northern pike and bullheads in a range of sizes, as well as yellow perch and white bass. In Lyon County, Island Lake is home to both northern pike and yellow perch.

It remains to be seen if many area anglers will be out on the lakes for Saturday’s opener — the area forecast for Saturday shows mild temperatures, but rain showers are likely, the National Weather Service in Sioux Falls said. Winds could gust as high as 30 miles per hour. Sunday is predicted to be drier, but still partly cloudy.

At Borch’s Sporting Goods in Marshall, people were still coming in to get their fishing licenses, Jeremy Barck said Thursday. Typically the week before the fishing opener is the busiest time for people buying licenses, he said.