Fisheries

Fisheries

We will provide information on these Fisheries pages dealing with the fishing issues on our lakes (see the menu bars to the left under Fisheries). We will provide statistical information about recent lake fishery netting surveys. We have information on the Walker Area Walleye Coalition and other fishing information.

We hope you find these pages enlightening. Let us know what other information you would like to see here! !


DNR Lake Management Plans

Our Fisheries Committee meets with the Minnesota DNR, Walker Area Office, at least annually to discuss the DNR Fisheries Management Plans for each of our lakes. The Minnesota DNR creates plans to help manage the fisheries on each lake. The plans discuss a number of items including results of lake surveys, netting information, long range goals, operational plans and many other items.

We meet with the DNR in December and/or FebruaryMarch timeframes to discuss the fishery management plans for our four lakes. We work together with the DNR to make changes to the plans and discuss stocking and netting recommendations. We continue to be actively involved in the Walker Area Walleye Coalition to try to ensure the future of the walleye fishery in our lakes by participating with them in discussions with the DNR about these plans.

Select the lake below to view the appropriate fisheries management plans.

Little Boy Wabedo Cooper and Rice

2021 DNR Full Survey Results

The current DNR Lake Management Plan (from 2019) is for the DNR to complete a full survey on our lakes every three years (2021, 2024, 2027, 2030, 2033). The most recent survey was completed 6/28/2021 on Little Boy and 7/12/2021 on Wabedo. The full surveys are posted at www.wabedolakes.org/fisheries/dnr-fish-studies. Below are some highlights:

Walleye

This is the first standard survey completed since the walleye protected slot limit of 18"-26" was implemented in 2018. For both lakes the number of fish per net, average size, and number of fish greater than 18" increased from the last survey done in 2018. This indicates that so far the protected slot limit is having the intended effect of increasing numbers and size. One cannot draw conclusions from a single survey, however; trends must be analyzed over multiple surveys. There is a strong 2018 year class in both lakes, supported by both the fish aging done in the 2021 Standard Survey, and the 2018 Fall Young of Year electrofishing.

Walleye fry were stocked into Little Boy Lake in the spring of 2018. The average size of the 2018 walleye year class was 14.6". There were very low numbers of walleye less than 12" that would have been born in 2019 or 2020. There were no walleye stocked in either lake those years. The current plan is to stock only on even years, and the 2020 stocking was cancelled statewide due to COVID.

I draw two conclusions from this, one good and one bad:

  1. Walleye fry stocking is effective;

  2. Walleye natural reproduction is small. Hopefully the size and age of walleye will continue to increase and those older/bigger fish will be more effective spawners. We are also hopeful that the Wabedo Creek culvert replacement project will make it easier for fish to go upstream to spawn. As reported in the 2021 spring newsletter, the DNR did netting on Wabedo Creek early spring in 2021 and found that fish are attempting to go upstream to spawn. We’d like to make it easier for them to do so.

Smallmouth Bass

Little Boy 3.17 per net—2nd highest on record

Wabedo 1.75 per net—highest on record

Note: Primary forage for smallmouth are crayfish.

Yellow Perch

The clear trend over the last 10-15 years on both lakes is reduced numbers of perch. This is concerning because perch are primary forage for walleye. Little Boy is in relatively better shape as it’s numbers are just below the 50% quartile for similar lakes in the Walker area. Wabedo, on the other hand is well below the 25% quartile for similar lakes in the Walker area. Perch size on Wabedo is also smaller. This may contribute to the lower numbers caught, as smaller fish aren’t surveyed as effectively in the gill nets.

Little Boy: 15.5 per net—3rd lowest on record.

Wabedo - 5.25 per net, an historic low.

Tullibee (aka Cisco)

For both lakes, the long term trend is a significant drop in numbers. Tullibee are important forage for large fish. Statewide there is a trend of lower numbers of tullibee.

Wabedo Creek Culvert Replacement Project

Wabedo township is in the design phase, which will be followed by permitting and selection of a contractor. We are hoping for completion of the project in the fall of 2022.

2019 Update

The DNR completed surveys on both Little Boy and Wabedo Lakes the summer of 2018. Below is a brief summary of the findings from that survey, and also the resulting fish management plan going forward. The full reports for both Little Boy and Wabedo are located on the in the “Fisheries” menu on the right.

Walleye

In 2018 a new slot went into effect on both Little Boy and Wabedo. Similar slot limits have been used on other lakes in the region, and have proven to be successful in the following areas.

The Walleye protected slot is 18”-26” with a possession limit of 4, one over 26”

  1. Increased number of walleyes captured in gill nets during surveys.

  2. Increased numbers of large walleyes. Large walleyes are more effective spawners than small/young walleyes.

  3. Improved recruitment. Recruitment is defined as the number of walleye living to their first birthday. Improved recruitment is believed to be the result of the more effective spawning of large walleye.

NOTE: There is some reduction in overall harvest, but an increase in catch rate. (there are fewer walleye kept, but more caught)

On Little Boy Lake the DNR will stock 1,000 fry per littoral acre (466,000) on even numbered years. This is a decrease from the 2,000 fry per littoral acre that were stocked in 2014, 2016 and 2018. The DNR expects natural production to increase as a result of the 18”-26” protected slot. If stocking were continued at the previous high level, the forage base may be overwhelmed, leading to reduced recruitment and slower growth rates. Overall, the walleye population on Little Boy is in good shape. The numbers of fish are fairly close to historical averages. Slot limits on other area lakes have proven to be effective. If the slot limit is as effective on Little Boy as expected, there is potential to develop an outstanding walleye fishery.

On Lake Wabedo the DNR will start stocking 1,000 fry per littoral acre (295,000) on even numbered years beginning in 2020. This is a fairly major change in stocking strategy. Starting in 2006 the DNR has been stocking 590 lbs. of fingerlings in Wabedo on even number years. No fry have been stocked in Wabedo since 2004. The walleye results from the 2015 and 2018 surveys were poor in regard to numbers, recruitment and growth rates, leading the DNR to conclude that fingerling stocking hasn’t been successful. Overall the walleye population on Wabedo is NOT in good shape. The two most recent surveys in 2015 (2.67 fish per net) and 2018 (2 fish per net) found some of the lowest walleye numbers on record. However, the good news is that there have been instances in past surveys of very low numbers, and each time the population recovered (1985/2.08 fish per net, 1993/1.83 fish per net, 2005/1.58 fish per net. The combination of the new protected slot and change in stocking strategy have good potential to improve walleye numbers.

Northern Pike

The existing special regulation for both Little Boy and Wabedo will remain unchanged for now. This special regulation has been in effect since 2003, and has been determined by the DNR to have been effective in improving size structure.

The Northern Pike protected slot is 24”-36”. Possession limit of 3, with only 1 over 36”

The DNR may consider changing the regulation in the future to conform to the new, uniform, zone regulation. Before any such change can be made, the DNR will provide an opportunity for public comment. The North/Central regulation is a 22”-26” protected slot. Possession limit of 10, with not more that 2 over 26”. The recent lake survey indicates that our lakes are not experiencing the problem of large numbers of “hammer handle” northern. This problem is common around the state of MN, but survey results indicate that the size structure of northern in our lakes is in good condition. The DNR does strongly recommend harvesting small northern, and protecting larger fish.

Muskies

Little Boy and Wabedo Lakes are included in a broad multi-lake Muskie diet study. Brian Herwig, a research scientist in Bemidji is leading the study. You may have noticed the nets that were out on both lakes over the weekend of the fishing opener. These nets were part of the study. They are inserting “chips” below the dorsal fin that gather information. These “chips” can be scanned to retrieve the information when the fish is caught again. They will be netting again in 2020 and retrieving some of this information. Total muskies netted were 43 in Little Boy and 16 in Wabedo. They felt that the cool weather contributed to the low number caught in Wabedo. They also caught other fish in their nets. The largest Pike was 36”. Many walleye in the 18”-26” protected slot, and also many greater than 26” were netted. Walleye numbers were better in Little Boy than Wabedo. Quality Crappie with many 14” caught and good numbers at the 9” size. Sunfish had good size and numbers. They also caught a few Burbot (eel pout), which is an indicator of overall good water quality.


DNR Technical Terms

There are some technical terms and abbreviations used in the DNR reports. I will try to explain some of them here (give me a call if you have other questions).

CPUE - Catch Per Unit Effort - a measure of fish taken in a defined effort. For these reports it is number of fish per net for the netting survey results.

PSD - Proportional Stock Density - a measure of the size stucture of a population. It represents the percentage of fish attractive to anglers.

RSD - Relative Stock Density - proportion of fish to any designated size group of fish. RSD is generally followed by a subscript indicating the size group (S-stock, Q-quality, P-preferred, M-memorable, T-trophy). Generally, RSD-P is used to measure the preferred or larger size fish.

WR - Relative Weight - is a measure of body condition. The measured weight of a fish is compared to an established standard for a fish of the same length. Values greater than 100 indicate the fish weighs more than the standard and values less than 100 indicate the fish weighs less than the standard. Average values close to 100 indicate fish populations are in balance with their food supply. Fish with values less than 85 are underweight.

NOP PSL - Northern Pike Protected Slot Limit (both Little Boy and Wabedo have a 24-36" protected slot limit for Northern Pike)

BLC-Black Crappie; BLG-Bluegill; LMB-Largemouth Bass; NOP-Northern Pike; MUE-Musky; SMB-Smallmouth Bass; YEP-Yellow Perch

For additional explanation of terminology and a full glossary visit the DNR Fisheries Website