Maple’s staples: It’s all about largemouth bass, panfish
By Glen Schmitt
Located adjacent to a town of the same name, Maple Lake in Wright County is a popular year-round fishing destination.
Because it’s a relatively short drive from the Twin Cities metro and easily accessible off Highway 55, local anglers and those from just outside the immediate area frequent this 739-acre lake regularly, especially during the ice-fishing season.
Maple’s fish community is pretty typical – not unlike most lakes in this region. It’s a panfish/bass lake first, full of pickling-size northern pike, and features windows of OK walleye-fishing opportunities.
“Crappie and bluegill numbers are pretty good, but you have to pick through them,” said Kurt Segner, owner of Little Jim’s Sport Shop in nearby Annandale. “It’s kind of always been that type of lake – good numbers with some bigger fish mixed in.”
Although the lake hasn’t been surveyed by the DNR since 2015 (it was on the schedule for this summer, but may not be surveyed due to state COVID-19 rules), the panfish population has remained consistent according to past survey results.
Anglers typically find a good supply of crappies in the 9- to 11-inch class, with a few larger fish mixed in. On the upper end of the tape, bluegills average right around 7 inches in length, but 8- and 9-inch fish are not out of the question.
According to Jason Neuman, DNR assistant fisheries supervisor in Sauk Rapids, a targeted bluegill study was conducted on the lake in May of 2015.
At that time, bluegills averaged 61⁄2 inches long, but fish up to 9 inches were sampled. Crappies averaged 10.7 inches, with some bigger fish present, which is exactly what anglers are currently catching.
“We saw some really nice bluegills and crappies in that survey, so Maple has the potential for quality panfish,” Neuman said. “It has good panfish habitat, water quality has improved a lot over the past 30 years, and there’s healthy vegetation throughout the lake.”
Those same habitat characteristics also result in a robust largemouth bass population in Maple Lake. It’s well known for producing good numbers of fish and plenty of good-sized largemouth as well.
DNR electrofishing work in 2015 yielded bass over 19 inches, and 21% of the bass sampled were longer than 15 inches. Those numbers were comparable to past survey results as well, and Neuman says those also are the types of bass that anglers can currently expect to catch.
“Like many lakes in the Annandale area, if it has panfish, it probably has good bass fishing, too,” Neuman said. “Maple Lake fits that mold.”
Northern pike numbers have always been on the high side and well above the preferred range for lakes similar to Maple. They also have run on the small side, typically averaging somewhere in the vicinity of 20 inches in past surveys.
But the excessive number of hammerhandles recently has drawn the interest of some anglers. Segner says it seems as though more people are taking advantage of the opportunity to keep 10 small pike and release the bigger fish under the new, statewide northern pike zone regulations.
The current walleye population is limited; it mostly always has been in Maple. Simply put, there are better walleye lakes in this area.
Despite being stocked with young walleyes, along with some larger, carry-over walleyes on an every-other-year basis, building and maintaining healthy walleye numbers just hasn’t happened.
Natural forage in the way of perch and minnows is limited, and it’s likely all those small pike in the lake are chewing up many of the smaller, stocked walleyes.
“We just don’t hear from a lot of people who go to Maple for walleyes,” Segner said.
Nearest town……….Maple Lake
Surface area………………739 acres
Maximum depth…………..76 feet
Shore length…………………9 miles
Water clarity………………….13 feet
AIS present……………..Eurasian watermilfoil, flowering rush
Fish species present:
Bluegill, black crappie, largemouth bass, northern pike, walleye, pumpkinseed, hybrid sunfish, green sunfish, bullhead, yellow perch, common carp, white sucker, greater redhorse, 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.