The Free Press, Mankato, MN

Outdoors

May 6, 2012

Several area lakes provide chance for opening-day walleyes

— “Up North” is a traditional opening day destination for many Minnesota anglers.

But gas prices flirting with $4 a gallon likely will inspire some anglers to scratch their fishing itch a little closer to home.

Fortunately, there are scores of lakes within about an hour’s drive from Mankato that thanks to regular stocking efforts, offer the potential for bringing home the key ingredient to a walleye dinner.

A list compiled by the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources Region 4 Fisheries Division based on recent fish population surveys names several lakes that hold the promise of hooking a gamefish or two next weekend:

Madison Lake (1,439 acres, Blue Earth County): Madison Lake is a perennial opening day destination. A 2011 survey revealed a catch of 11 walleye per net, averaging 18.7 inches and weighing a little over two pounds. The lake also has a good northern pike population at 8/net and a healthy population of black crappie. But be forewarned: It’s a very popular opening day lake, so if you choose to snooze, you lose. Access locations are North Shore Park in town, in Bray County Park and the DNR landing north of the park.

Marion Lake (594 acres, McLeod County): Test nettings of this lake about eight miles south of Hutchinson conducted in 2010 turned up an excellent walleye catch rate of 26.4/net. There was a strong 2008 year-class present that should now measure over 15 inches. The access is located in the Lake Marion County Park on the east side. The park also offers shore-fishing opportunities.

Scotch Lake (596 acres, Le Sueur County): The lake has been stocked with fry in odd numbered years since 2009, and northern pike in even-numbered years. In 2009, 21.5 walleye and 13.7 northern turned up per net. Walleyes averaged 18.7 inches and about three pounds. Northerns averaged about 2.5 pounds. Access is on the northwest end of the lake.

Albert Lea Lake (2,658 acres, Freeborn County): Stocked with 5.2 million walleye fry in 2004 and since followed by stockings in odd-numbered years, this shallow sprawling lake near the community by the same name turned up 41 walleye/net in 2010, ranging from 13-20 inches. Yellow perch also were abundant at 141/net. A good number of the perch were over 8 inches long but the majority were smaller. Translated, it means the walleye already are well-fed and could be tough to catch. Accesses are located in Albert Lea, at Myre-Big Island Park and on the south side of the lake.

Fountain  Lake (521 acres, Freeborn County): This lake, also located at Albert Lea has a healthy walleye population at 6/net, measuring an average of 21 inches. But a 2011 test netting turned up 14 pike/net, averaging about two pounds and measuring from 19 to 26 inches. If fish with scales aren’t cooperating, Fountain Lake also has abundant catfish. Fourteen cats per net were caught in 2011, stretching from 21 to 31 inches. Accesses are located at the north side of the lake in Edgewater Park and on the east side of the lake in the narrows.

Mazaska Lake (681 acres, Rice County): Test nettings in 2007 turned up 7 walleye/net and 11 northern/ net. Information on sizes wasn’t listed. Public accesses are located on the southeast and southwest sides of the lake.

Fox Lake (312 acres, Rice County): Walleyes were captured at 8.6/net and pike were caught at 8.4/net. The majority of the walleyes were “eaters” ranging from 13 to 20 inches. Northerns were on the small side measuring from 17-23 inches. The public access is located on the south shore.

Sabre Lake (258 acres, Le Sueur County): The DNR reports made no mention of walleyes in this small lake. Northerns were netted at the rate of 7/net in 2009. The majority of the fish were longer than 20 inches and exceptionally chunky, weighing in at an average weight of 3.5 pounds.

Horseshoe Lake (417 acres, Le Sueur County): Northern pike were caught in the most recent lake survey at a rate of 6.3/net with most of the fish ranging from 20-30 inches long. The largest fish stretched to 37 inches. While test nettings revealed few walleyes, a good walleye bite last fall suggests anglers could do well on them this spring. Access to the lake is located on the southeast shore.

Depending how much rain falls between now and the opener, anglers also might consider poking around the Minnesota River or the Blue Earth River, both of which hold good numbers of walleye. The Minnesota holds the possibility of producing some real lunkers.

Finally, while walleyes are in the crosshairs of most opening day anglers, recent warm temperatures should have panfish in local lakes going gangbusters.

And a pile of crappie or bluegill fillets fried to a golden brown can salve even the most injured ego of a walleye angler done gone skunked on opening day.

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