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Minnesota DNR Fisheries Stocks Deer Lake
A recent meeting of the DLA featured Chris Kavanaugh, DNR Fisheries, as guest speaker. He reported on the DNR's efforts to stock Deer Lake:
A summary of his report can be found in these documents:
DEER LAKE FISH STOCKING FUND
The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources would like to thank those who contributed to the "Deer Lake Stocking Fund" to help offset transportation costs associated with our walleye fingerling stocking efforts on Deer Lake last fall.* The contribution was very much appreciated. Deer was stocked last fall with 919 pounds or 8,598 fingerling and yearling walleyes. These fish ranged in length from 4 to 8 inches. This past year was the first year of an accelerated stocking frequency on Deer Lake. Rather than stocking the lake every other year, as has generally been the practice in the past, Deer Lake will be stocked every fall with walleye fingerlings. Natural reproduction is rather limited in Deer and the lake has historically responded very well to walleye fingerling stocking. Prior to 2000, one of the goals of the stocking regime was to allow for evaluation of natural reproduction. Due to the large, deep nature of the lake, spring water temperatures increase very slowly, resulting in delayed incubation of the walleye eggs and production of zooplankton. As a result, many eggs do not hatch and those that do, don't have sufficient food to survive after hatching. Therefore, fingerling walleye stocking is required to provide a fishable walleye population.
This past summer, the Grand Rapids Area Fisheries staff of the DNR conducted a fisheries lake survey on Deer Lake. The survey was conducted the week of July 25 to evaluate the status of the fish population including the impact of walleye stocking. The results from that survey indicated a catch rate of 8.1 walleye/gill net. This was one of the highest catches recorded over the past 57 years and similar to what was observed in the first (1948) survey. The walleye population appears to be in good condition based on the size and age structures sampled. Walleye from 9.8 to 28.2 inches were sampled with an average size of 15.2 inches. Eight year classes were identified by scale analysis. The 2003 (54%) and 2001 (30%) year classes represented the majority of the fish sampled and both corresponded to stocked years. Both of these year classes should provide good fishing this summer. Walleye growth was very good with four year old fish averaging 16.3 inches.
Northern pike numbers have always been low in Deer Lake due to the lack of spawning habitat. Low northern pike numbers usually result in good size distribution. This is the case in Deer Lake. The northerns sampled ranged in length from 23.8 to 34.6 inches and averaged 27.4 inches.
Bluegill, rock bass, largemouth and smallmouth bass have all increased in numbers in the past years. Bluegill were seldom sampled prior to 1990 but have increased substantially since then. Most of the bluegills are small, averaging only 5.4 inches.
Deer is known for its smallmouth bass fishing. This species has also increased substantially since the initial survey in 1948. Catch rates were less than 0.6/gill net from 1948 to 1980 but have ranged from 2.3 to 5.3/gill net since 1984. The catch of 4.3/gill net in 2005 was the second highest observed. The average size of 1.5 pounds was similar to what has recently been observed. High numbers of smaller fish were sampled in the electrofishing portion of the survey.
Deer Lake has always had excellent habitat for rock bass. This population has also increased substantially since 1948. Catch rates from 1948 to 1984 averaged nearly 12 fish/gill net compared to almost 28 fish/gill net from 1990 to 2005. It is unclear what has led to the increased catch rates in recent assessments.
The increases observed in rock bass, bluegill and largemouth bass in recent assessments appear to be more than just random variation in catch rates or variable recruitment. Water quality, changes in habitat and impacts on the fish community from walleye stocking are possible reasons for these increases.
Richard Thompson, Fisheries Specialist
Area Fisheries, 1201 East Highway 2, Grand Rapids, MN 55744 PHONE NO. 218-999-7827
NOTE; * Our thanks to Ginny Johnston who raised the money thru the sale of DLA Logo Caps and to Dick Thompson ( DLA member and lake resident) who coordinated the DNR program.