Wright County’s Buffalo Lake unfazed by angling pressure
Buffalo Lake in Wright County is located just off the fast-moving traffic of Highway 55 near the town of its namesake, Buffalo. Its proximity to town and short jaunt from the Twin Cities and St. Cloud areas makes this 1,552-acre lake quite popular with anglers.
But Buffalo is big enough and healthy enough that it seems to handle a high load of fishing pressure just fine. Walleyes draw the most attention, but black crappies are a close second and both provide excellent year-round fish-catching opportunities.
“It’s one of the bigger lakes in the area and it offers some pretty good fishing,” said Kurt Segner, owner of Little Jim’s Sport Shop in nearby Annandale. “From a fishing standpoint, I’d say it’s also one of the more popular lakes in Wright County.”
Walleye fry are stocked in Buffalo on an every-other-year basis, and they’ve historically provided a pretty strong walleye population. Based on DNR lake survey results from 2018, that trend seems to be continuing.
With an average of 6.4 walleyes per gill net, the catch rate last year was pretty comparable to past surveys. Walleyes also grow fast in Buffalo, and the overall size structure is currently in fine shape.
According to Joe Stewig, DNR Fisheries supervisor in Sauk Rapids, the walleyes sampled in 2018 ranged from 13- to 251⁄2 inches, averaged just more than 17 inches in length, and 20% of them were longer than 20 inches.
“It only takes about two years for the walleyes in there to reach 15 inches in length,” Stewig said. “Buffalo has always been a consistent walleye producer, and I know people have experienced some good walleye fishing in recent years.”
A stable, even robust, crappie population also has been a staple of Buffalo for years. Hard-bottom areas provide excellent spawning habitat, and the lake’s limited water clarity provides the ingredients for consistently producing large batches of crappies.
In 2018, there were two distinct size structures that stood out: crappies from 41⁄2 to 51⁄2 inches and another group from 71⁄2 to 91⁄2 inches. Crappies over 10 inches also were sampled and seem to show up regularly.
“Next year or the year after, we’ll see another boom of crappie fishing out there. They’ll be quite a few fish over 10 inches,” Stewig said. “There doesn’t seem to be any problem with natural reproduction.”
Bluegills generally are average in size – somewhere around 6 inches in length, and they are less abundant than crappies. That’s not to say that the right pod of fish won’t produce some bluegills in the 8-inch class.
Buffalo Lake supports an average but healthy bass population as well. Largemouths and smallmouths are both caught here, and even though largemouth bass are more prevalent, both provide opportunities to catch quality fish.
“I don’t hear much from people going to Buffalo and targeting bluegills,” Segner said. “But I do know guys that fish it specifically for bass, and they do well.”
Northern pike numbers have been declining in recent surveys, but their size has been increasing during this period. Although the sample size was relatively small, pike averaged 26 inches in length in the 2018 survey, and 16% of the fish recorded were longer than 30 inches.
Buffalo Lake is connected to the Crow River, which likely contributes to its smallmouth bass population. The river is the reason that channel catfish are present in the system.
Stewig said a couple of cats were first sampled in 1993, their numbers spiked in 2013, and they’ve shown a decline during the two most recent surveys.
Surface area…………..1,552 acres
Maximum depth………….33 feet
Shore length…………………6 miles
Water clarity…………………..3 feet
AIS present…………….Eurasian water milfoil
Fish species present:
Walleye, black crappie, largemouth bass, smallmouth bass, bluegill, northern pike, channel catfish, yellow perch, hybrid sunfish, yellow bullhead, white sucker, common carp, bigmouth buffalo, bowfin (dogfish).
DNR area fisheries office (320) 223-7878, the DNR website http://www.dnr.state.mn.us/lakefind or Little Jim’s Sport Shop (320) 274-5297.