Friday, February 3rd, 2023
Friday, February 3rd, 2023

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Lake Minnie Belle, Meeker County

 

Lake Minnie Belle’s unique character is attractive to anglers

 

By Glen Schmitt
Staff Writer

 

Lakes throughout Meeker County tend to have a few similar characteristics. Generally, they’re shallow bodies of water that feature turbid water.

 

But Lake Minnie Belle, just south of Litchfield, bucks that trend. This 596-acre lake is considered one of the clearest lakes in the county, with water clarity typically between 10 and 15 feet and an abundance of deep water, maxing out at nearly 50 feet.

 

It’s also one of the local gems from a fishing standpoint. With a healthy walleye population, nice panfish, good numbers of largemouth bass, and a pike population that has improved in size structure in recent years, Minnie Belle is one of the county’s destination fishing lakes.

 

“It’s hard to say what Minnie Belle is known for because it is such a good multi-species lake. It kind of depends on who you ask,” said Scott Mackenthun, DNR Fisheries supervisor in Hutchinson. “It has amazing depth, really clear water, and a diverse plant community. That’s different from most lakes in the area.” 

 

Minnie Belle’s walleyes are highlighted by a great mix of sizes. Walleye fingerlings are stocked during even-numbered years by the DNR, but natural reproduction plays a large role in maintaining high numbers of fish as well.

 

During a DNR survey conducted last summer, walleyes from 8 to almost 26 inches were sampled. Gill nets averaged close to 11 walleyes per lift with a mean length of 17 inches.

 

The 2013 and 2017 year-classes of walleyes were most abundant, accounting for 17% and 33% of the catch, respectively. Not surprisingly, those were both naturally produced walleyes.

 

“The lake has the right substrate for walleyes to spawn, along with good numbers of adult fish,” Mackenthun said. “We don’t always see huge year-classes, but we see consistent year-classes.”

 

Bluegills tend to be more numerous than crappies in Minnie Belle, and the lake has the potential to grow large panfish. Anglers can expect to catch high numbers of bluegills, but they should plan on doing some sorting to connect on bigger ‘gills.

 

Last summer’s survey produced only one bluegill over 8 inches and just one crappie, although it was 16 inches long. Summer surveys tend not to provide a clear picture of a lake’s panfish population, according to Mackenthun.

 

“We need to get out there in the spring to conduct a fair panfish evaluation,” he said. “We know there are really nice  bluegills and crappies in it, and we hear plenty of anecdotal reports to indicate that.”

 

Minnie Belle is being proposed for a bag-limit reduction of five fish in order to increase the number of large bluegills in the lake. Mackenthun added that public input to gauge support for it will be gathered this fall.

 

The size structure of the lake’s northern pike population has benefited from a 24- to 36-inch protected slot that’s been in place since 2003. The lake once was riddled with hammerhandle-sized pike, but anglers now are catching better numbers of medium-sized and large fish.

 

Last summer, the DNR sampled two pike over 35 inches, which is pretty rare for a lake in this area. In addition, the average size of pike continues to improve, and there are plenty of fish less than 24 inches in length for anglers to keep. 

 

“It has a history of big pike, but they pretty much disappeared in the early 2000s,” Mackenthun said. “The regulation has moved the needle on (pike) size structure. We’re happy with the results.”

 

Largemouth bass anglers can expect more of a numbers game with the occasional bigger fish in the mix. Minnie Belle is rich with submerged vegetation, with much of it deeper than in most lakes in the area. It holds plenty of bass in the 15-inch range.

Minnie Belle Lake

Nearest town………………Meeker

Surface area………………596 acres 

Maximum depth………….49 feet

Shore length……………4.86 miles

Water clarity………………….10 feet

AIS present……………..Eurasian watermilfoil

 

Fish species present: Walleye, bluegill, black crappie, northern pike, largemouth bass, pumpkinseed, hybrid sunfish, green sunfish, yellow bullhead, brown bullhead, yellow perch, white sucker, common carp, bowfin (dogfish). 

 

For information: DNR area fisheries office (320) 753-0324 and the DNR website http://www.dnr.state.mn.us/lakefind.

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