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

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Big Kandiyohi Lake, Kandiyohi County

Angling near Willmar? You’ll want a taste of this Kandi

By Glen Schmitt
Staff Writer

Big Kandiyohi Lake, or Big Kandi, as it’s known, is one of west-central Minnesota’s prized fisheries.

It’s a prairie lake that’s big in size, but relatively shallow in depth, and it’s incredibly fish-productive and loaded with a wide range of fish species.

Walleyes and perch tend to be primary targets for anglers, although a growing smallmouth bass population garners plenty of attention as well. With some good-size channel catfish, northern pike, and just enough bigger panfish to keep things interesting, there’s no shortage of angling opportunities to be had.

Dave Coahran, DNR Fisheries supervisor in Spicer, refers to Big Kandi as the most important lake in his work area south of Willmar. From management practices to fish production and fishing pressure, it’s a high-priority water body.

“For the type of lake it is, being a prairie lake, Big Kandi is a really diverse game fish fishery,” Coahran said. “It’s a shallow, productive, multi-species lake – kind of a mini-destination lake in this area.”

The DNR completed a survey of Big Kandi just last month, and it showed that its walleye population remains in good shape. Gill nets averaged an impressive 18 walleyes per lift, and most fish were between 16 and 25 inches in length.

The lake is stocked regularly with walleye fry, and they typically take well and grow fast, reaching about 14 inches in length within three years of age. While the number of adult fish was impressive in nets this summer and should provide good fishing, there was a lack of small walleyes in the survey. That could be an issue down the road.

“The 2019 year-class looked thin. They should be 12 to 15 inches in length now, and we didn’t hardly see any at all,” Coahran said. “Right now (the walleye fishery is) in great shape, but in a few years it won’t be 18 fish per net if we have another poor year-class.”

Respectable perch – those in the 10-inch range – have come to be expected from Big Kandi, providing good angling during both summer and winter. According to Coahran, perch numbers were off-the-charts high in this summer’s survey, with nets averaging 40 fish per lift.

While the lake still has decent numbers of 8- to 10-inch perch, along with some over 10 inches in length, most of the perch sampled this summer were small. Ideally, they grow quickly and good perch fishing continues.

“We just saw tons of little perch, and the number of perch 10 inches or larger was down compared to past surveys,” Coahran said. “We’ve never had this many perch show up (in a survey), so hopefully they continue to grow.”

Smallmouth bass first showed up in Big Kandi during the 1998 DNR survey, and they’ve maintained a fishable level that now includes some quality smallies as well.

Based on this summer’s survey, anglers should expect good numbers of smallmouths in the 17- to 18-inch class. There also are small fish coming up, and Big Kandi is now a legitimate smallmouth bass fishery.

“There’s just enough area with rock and boulder habitat for them to spawn,” Coahran said. “Nets averaged 2.3 smallmouths, which is a fairly high number for them to show up in gill nets.”

If you catch a northern pike in Big Kandi, the chances are pretty good it’s going to be a nice fish. Overall numbers aren’t that high, but every pike sampled this summer was over 25 inches long.   

The lake also supports a channel catfish population, with 8- to 12-pound cats quite common. Their numbers have gone down in the past 20 years and it’s now considered a well-maintained catfish population.

“Both (pike and cats) are just a couple more options for people to catch in Big Kandi,” Coahran said.

Big Kandiyohi Lake

Nearest town……………..Willmar

Surface area…………..2,683 acres 

Maximum depth…………..18 feet

Shore length……………….14 miles

Water clarity……………………3 feet

Fish species present:

Walleye, yellow perch, smallmouth bass, northern pike, black crappie, bluegill, channel catfish, green sunfish, bullhead, white sucker, common carp, bigmouth buffalo. 

For information:

DNR area fisheries office (320) 796-2161, the DNR website or Mel’s Sport Shop (320) 796-2000.

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