Wednesday, February 1st, 2023
Wednesday, February 1st, 2023

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Minnesota Lake Profile – Sugar Lake, Wright County

 

Beneath Sugar’s ice swim many things nice (for anglers)

 

By Glen Schmitt
Staff Writer

Muskie-fishing options are pretty limited in Wright County and the surrounding area. Which means Sugar Lake in Annandale is probably the best offering for muskie anglers have in these parts. Thus, Sugar sees a fair share of muskie-fishing activity.

 

 

Muskies were introduced in this 1,000-acre lake back in the 1960s, and Sugar is currently stocked with muskie fingerlings annually. Sugar’s muskies are a primary management species for the DNR.

 

Those stocking efforts are working and have provided a unique opportunity in this area to catch a 50-inch fish.

 

“It gets hit pretty hard at times and has a strong local following of muskie anglers,” said Kurt Segner, owner of Little Jim’s Sport Shop in Annandale. “Sugar is the only lake we have with muskies, and it does give up some quality fish.”

 

Results from a 2016 DNR ice-out spring muskie assessment revealed what many local muskie anglers already knew: Sugar has pretty strong numbers and some fish worthy of photographs.

 

In all, 73 muskies were sampled that spring. They averaged 441⁄2 inches in length and 24 pounds. One fish sampled was over 51 inches, and 11% of all fish sampled were over 50 inches in length.

 

“Regular stocking has worked out there and it holds some really healthy muskies,” said Joe Stewig, DNR Fisheries supervisor in Sauk Rapids. “That 51-incher we sampled in 2016 weighed 42 pounds.” 

 

Sugar also is a well-developed, clear-water lake that receives heavy recreational use during the summer months. 

 

As a result, the muskie anglers Segner knows tend to fish during low-light periods of the day and during the fall fishing season.

 

“It can get busy out there in the summer,” he said. “But I know of one guy who caught five fish this fall, and he had a 50-incher.”

 

Panfish opportunities are decent in Sugar. Crappies tend to be larger and get more attention than do its bluegills.

 

Bluegills are abundant, but you’ll have to fish through numbers of small fish before coming across a few worth keeping. During a standard lake assessment in 2016, 46% of the bluegills sampled were  less than 6 inches long.

 

Sugar Lake’s crappies can be good-sized, likely aided by a reduced bag limit of five fish that’s been in place since 2007. Stewig says that reduction has helped sustain a pretty quality size structure in recent years.

 

“The average crappie size has gone up from 81⁄2 to 91⁄2 inches since 2007,” he said. “The percentage of crappies larger than 10 inches increased from 27% in 2007 to 61% in 2016.”

 

Two time periods seem to be best for crappies on Sugar. Anglers find success just before the ice goes out or in its bays during the spring.

 

The lake’s walleye population also is maintained through regular stocking. Walleye numbers aren’t overly high, but the cupboard isn’t bare, either.

 

Most notable is that the lake does kick out quality fish. Walleyes averaged 17 inches in the 2016 survey, and one fish was measured right at 31 inches long.

 

“It’s not fished hard for walleyes, but there are some nice humps that people catch fish on,” Segner said. “Don’t expect numbers, but the fish you catch are usually nice.”

 

Northern pike and largemouth bass are overly abundant, but not impressive in size. In short, there’s no problem catching both along any of the lake’s weeded areas.

 

There is a 24- to 36-inch protected slot and three-fish limit for pike on Sugar. Stewig says the number of pike over 30 inches has increased a bit in recent years.

Sugar Lake

Nearest town………..Annandale

Surface area……………1,014 acres 

Maximum depth………….69 feet

Shore length……………….11 miles

Water clarity……………………9 feet

AIS present……..Zebra mussels

 

Fish species present: muskie, black crappie, walleye, largemouth bass, northern pike, bluegill, pumpkinseed, hybrid sunfish, green sunfish, yellow perch, rock bass, bullhead, tullibee (cisco), bowfin (dogfish). 

 

For information: 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.

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