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

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Lake Washington, Le Sueur County

It’s no lie: Washington is a proven producer of panfish

By Glen Schmitt
Staff Writer

You could make the argument that Lake Washington is one of the better panfish lakes in southern Minnesota. It certainly is in Le Sueur County.

The bluegills and crappies in this 1,516-acre fishery northeast of Mankato are plentiful and they grow large. It’s been that way for a long time, and anglers continue to experience some of the best panfish-catching opportunities they’ll find in these parts.

Most people don’t blink an eye when catching 8-inch bluegills from Washington, but it’s those fish pushing 10 inches in length – and they show up regularly – that draw quite a bit of angler interest.

“It’s the premier, trophy bluegill lake in this area,” said Sky Wigen, DNR Fisheries specialist in Waterville. “The expectation on Washington is that we see bluegillls around 10 inches long.”

The lake’s black crappies also are good-sized, averaging about 10 inches in length with fish up to 14 inches not out of the question. The lake also has a few white crappies in it, along with some hybrids. They tend to be large fish, too.

Washington features ideal spawning and rearing habitat for its panfish. Recruitment is typically strong, and the fish tend to bite well year-round.

The DNR conducted a creel survey of Washington anglers from December 2019 to November 2020, and it provided a clear picture of what those anglers can expect to catch in the way of panfish.

Bluegills and crappies were the most targeted species by anglers, the survey indicated. Bluegills up to 11 inches and crappies over 13 inches were recorded. Bluegills received more pressure during the open-water season, and crappies were targeted more in the winter.

“It seems like Washington has always had a good panfish population that run nice in size,” said Nate Greene, owner of Corner Bait in Madison Lake. “It’s definitely a destination sunfish and crappie lake.”

The walleye fishing isn’t bad, either. Walleye fry stocking during odd-numbered years and significant natural reproduction seem to be maintaining a healthy walleye population.

During a 2019 DNR standard survey, the walleyes sampled averaged 17 inches in length, over 80% of them were at least 15 inches long, and walleyes up to 27 inches were measured.

According to Greene, there are plenty of spots to catch walleyes throughout Washington. The lake is divided into two basins that both produce fish, so you don’t usually have to work around other anglers.

“The number of 15- to 19-inch walleyes is strong, and you do see those fish over 28 inches caught out there,” he said. “The points are always good, year-round spots for walleyes.”

Largemouth bass are abundant, with good numbers of 2- to 3-pound fish and some bigger bass in the mix. There is no shortage of submerged vegetation, lily pads, or docks to target bass on Washington.

Washington’s northern pike population is limited, and the pike that do exist tend to run decent size. The few pike sampled in 2019 averaged 24 inches in length, with fish up to 34 inches long in test nets.

“We had just two pike per gill net in 2019, and that’s good to see,” Wigen said. “That’s probably leading to the good panfish and walleye fishing as well.”

You might stumble upon the occasional pod of keeping-size perch, most of which will top out around 10 inches in length. Bullheads are plentiful and another option on Washington if one chooses to chase them, and the lake has always had an abundance of freshwater drum (sheepshead).

“Washington is one of the cornerstone lakes in our area,” Wigen added. “It provides consistently good fishing opportunities year after year.”

Lake Washington

Nearest town……………Mankato

Surface area……………1,516 acres 

Maximum depth………….51 feet

Shore length……………….12 miles

Water clarity……………………3 feet

Fish species present:

Bluegill, black crappie, white crappie, walleye, largemouth bass, northern pike, yellow perch, pumpkinseed, bullhead, freshwater drum, common carp, bigmouth buffalo, bowfin (dogfish). 

For information:

DNR area fisheries office (507) 497-1821, the DNR website http://www.dnr.state.mn.us/lakefind or Corner Bait (507) 243-4464.

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