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

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Lake Independence, Hennepin County

Metro anglers declare: Lake Independence muskies are plentiful

By Glen Schmitt
Staff Writer

Anglers around the Twin Cities metro area have some pretty good muskie-fishing options. Among them are Lake Minnetonka, Lake Waconia, and the 832-acre Lake Independence.

Independence has a storied reputation for not just producing good numbers of muskies, but also trophy-caliber fish. In short, these toothy critters at the top of the food chain do quite well in this system.

Muskies in the mid-40-inch range are quite common from Independence, while fish over 50 inches – which seem to be the goal for muskie anglers – show up regularly as well.

According to Jason Harris, fisheries specialist at the DNR’s west metro office, Independence is set up well to maintain a high level of muskie-fishing success.

“It’s in the top three lakes for muskies in this area, right up there with Minnetonka and Waconia,” Harris said. “It’s consistently been a good muskie producer. You can catch 50-inch fish out there.”

There are several factors at play that lead to the lake’s healthy muskie numbers. Forage, in the way of yellow perch, is strong, northern pike numbers are low, and the lake’s vegetation and deep water provide ideal habitat.

In addition, muskie fingerlings are stocked on an every-other-year basis, and they do well. That’s something that has not gone unnoticed by anglers.

“People know the lake holds a lot of muskies, and they know the DNR stocks the heck out of it,” said Bob Sonenstahl, of Wayzata Bait and Tackle. “It’s also not as chaotic with other boats as is a lake like Minnetonka, so I think anglers can pattern (the fish) a bit better on Independence.”

The lake’s panfish are not large, but they are plentiful. Despite their lack of size, crappies and bluegills both draw a lot of angling interest, with an edge toward crappies for most anglers, especially during the ice-fishing season.

A 2019 DNR survey confirmed high numbers of panfish, but only 3% of the crappies sampled were longer than 9 inches. Most bluegills ran between 6 and 7 inches in length, with none over 8 inches measured.

“They’re eating-size sunfish, and 7- to 8-inch crappies are routine from Independence, with a few 9- to 10-inchers on the big end,” Sonenstahl said. “But they bite year-round and the crappies get pounded during the winter over deep water. There will be a lot of (fish) houses out there.” 

Walleye catches in gill nets during the 2019 survey averaged almost four per lift. They averaged 181⁄2 inches in length and although they didn’t show up in sample nets, Independence carries a lot of smaller walleyes.

“Independence has a nice, catchable walleye population for a metro lake,” Harris said.

The lake is stocked annually with walleye fingerlings along with some carry-over yearlings and adult walleyes during years that they are available. Like its crappie fishing, Independence walleye fishing is most productive during the winter months.

“They tend to be mixed with crappies during the winter in deep water,” Sonenstahl said. “As a rule, 12- to 14-inch walleyes are common, but you’ll catch some bigger fish to eat.”

Northern pike numbers are low in Independence, but their size structure is impressive. Just 17 pike were sampled in 2019 and the they were all good-sized, with 11 of them measuring between 30 and 34 inches in length.

The DNR did not electrofish Independence to sample largemouth bass in 2019, but it’s generally known as a fair bass fishery. Electrofishing was conducted in 2016 and bass up to 16 inches were recorded, along with an abundance of short fish.

“We saw a lot of small bass in 2016, but it holds some bigger fish,” Harris said. “There are plenty of bass to be caught.”

Lake Independence

Nearest town………Maple Plain

Surface area………………832 acres 

Maximum depth………….58 feet

Shore length…………………8 miles

Water clarity……………………4 feet

Fish species present:

Muskie, black crappie, bluegill, walleye, northern pike, largemouth bass, pumpkinseed, hybrid sunfish, green sunfish, bullhead, yellow perch, common carp, bowfin (dogfish). 

For information:

DNR area fisheries office (952) 236-5171, the DNR website or Wayzata Bait and Tackle (952) 473-2227.

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