Wednesday, February 8th, 2023
Wednesday, February 8th, 2023

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Todd County’s Little Birch Lake tends to be big on smallies

Sometimes, the fishing’s so good, you can’t keep em off the

While that’s seldom the case, there are, in fact, a few Little
Birch Lake anglers who have tried in vain to keep the lake’s
smallmouth bass from inhaling the shiner minnow meant for a

But few will complain about a good smallie population in a
central Minnesota lake.

“The lake is well-known for its smallie fishing,” says John
Young, of Big Birch Bait. “There were a few guys pulling in 4- to
5-pounders this year.”

Jim Lilienthal, DNR area fisheries supervisor in nearby Little
Falls, says the Todd County lake contains a nice mix of smallmouth

“There’s a nice size distribution right now,” he says. “There
are quite a few in the 10-, 11-, and 12-inch range, but we see some
up to 18 to 22 inches. It’s a great fishery.”

While smallies tend to keep anglers’ lines taut, walleyes can as
well, though probably on a less consistent basis.

“Since Little Birch doesn’t have a walleye population like Big
Birch (Little’s neighbor to the east), it has more smallmouth,”
Lilienthal said.

But that doesn’t mean the walleye population is poor, or that it
is ignored. Quite the contrary.

Walleye fishing can be good, and the DNR stocks young walleyes
at least once every other year. What was once a fingerling stocking
program is now a fry stocking program with the possibility of
complementary fingerlings.

“Because of fry success on Big Birch (which is connected to
Little Birch by a creek, but one that has a fish barrier in it) we
thought we’d try it on Little Birch,” Lilienthal said. “Every other
spring we’ll stock it with fry and then back it up with fingerlings
if fall electrofishing shows we need to bolster the

The fry program began last year so that the two lakes would be
on the same stocking cycle.

Eventually, the fry stocking program will be evaluated. If the
return is not good, the program could return to fingerling

In the meantime, members of the Little Birch Lake Association,
along with DNR personnel, have attempted to improved the chances of
natural reproduction for walleyes in a lake that in the past has
had little.

In the summer of 1999, rocks and boulders were placed in an
approximate one-acre area near the inlet from Big Birch.
Previously, the area had been built up with sand.

“We wanted to make the area the best walleye spawning habitat it
could be,” Lilienthal said.

Smaller rocks, about one inch in diameter, were put in position
to cover about a one-acre section over a sand bar that extends out
from the east side of the upper basin. Again, this project was
meant to enhance spawning productivity in a shallow, wind-swept
area of the lake.

Lilienthal said this project should help stimulate bulrush
growth farther out from shore, enhancing habitat for other species,
as well.

One of those vegetation-favoring species is the largemouth bass,
which has a noticeable presence in Little Birch, as do northern
pike. Crappies also can be located by the astute angler.

Recently, a couple catfish likely rogues from the Sauk River
have made their way into angler catches.

“We’re not sure if it’s a good thing or a bad thing,” Lilienthal
said. “But we’re asking anglers to keep us appraised of what
they’re catching.”

Ice fishing is minimal on Little Birch, primarily, Lilienthal
believes, because the lake, with a maximum depth of 89 feet, is one
of the last in the area to freeze over. However, walleyes and
crappies are available to those who patiently await good ice.

PROFILE: Little Birch Lake

Nearest town…………Grey Eagle

Surface water area……838 acres

Shore length…………5.6 miles

Maximum depth………..89 feet

Water clarity………..4.0 feet

Fish species present: Smallmouth bass, walleye, northern pike,
largemouth bass, bluegill, tullibee, perch, black crappie,
bullhead, carp, channel catfish, sucker.

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