DNR hoping to brighten Lake Wakanda’s fishing future
By Glen Schmitt
There’s a lot going on in Kandiyohi County’s Lake Wakanda beyond the fish-catching opportunities it offers.
Wakanda a big lake with an abundance of shallow water, which makes its fish subject to winterkill, despite an aeration system that operates annually. Wakanda is managed for fish and also as a waterfowl feeding and resting area. Both have been compromised over the years due to poor water quality and habitat.
This has resulted in some intense and ongoing management practices for fish and waterfowl, with the goal being a more diverse fishery, better water quality, and improved habitat for both things that fly and that swim.
To accomplish this, Wakanda water levels are currently being drawn down, and there’s an ongoing effort to remove its abundant rough fish population, primarily carp.
Fish barriers have been put in place to minimize fish movement between the other lakes in this system, and Wakanda is currently going through its second winter of liberalized fishing, which allows people to remove its fish via any methods they choose, short of using dynamite.
“It’s a work in progress, and we opened it to liberalized fishing last winter as part of the management plan,” said Dave Coahran, DNR Fisheries supervisor in Spicer. “It’s likely going to see some winterkill again this year, so you might as well let people have the fish.”
The idea is to continue eliminating the lake’s carp population, which negatively affects water quality, especially in a shallow lake like Wakanda. But the lake also has an abundance of walleyes and keeping-size perch in it. So, from a fishing standpoint, you might want to get after them right now, because a lot of them will likely perish during the remaining days of winter.
The lake last experienced a (partial) winterkill in 2018, which resulted in high numbers of dead carp. But DNR survey work the following spring yielded high numbers of walleyes as well – likely stocked fish from 2016. Walleye fry also were stocked in 2018 and 2019, and survey results last July showed they also took to the lake.
DNR gill nets averaged a whopping 44 walleyes per lift last summer, and most of them were in the 16-inch class. It takes only two years for Wakanda walleyes to reach “keeper” size, according to Coahran.
“It’s likely most of them will be gone after this winter, but right now oxygen levels are still adequate,” Coahran said late last week. “The walleyes are there, and if they bite it could be good fishing. That might not be the case in another three weeks or so as oxygen level go down.”
There are some nice perch to be had, too. Fish up to 12 inches in length and decent numbers of 10- to 11-inch perch were sampled in July. Coahran said the lake is as good at this point as it’s ever been for larger perch.
Northern pike showed up to the tune of six per gill net, with most being small to medium-sized fish and a few bigger pike in the mix. A handful of crappies also were sampled in July, but not a single bluegill, which is something improvements to the lake may change.
Maybe most importantly, the biomass of carp moderated compared with past surveys. That’s certainly a step in the right direction to improving habitat throughout Wakanda.
“It has the capability to be a good perch lake. We’ll assess what’s left in the spring,” Coahran said. “I suspect we’ll see some pike and perch survival.”
Wakanda will again be stocked with walleye fry in the spring, so it basically remains a work in progress, whose future as a fishery and waterfowl lake continues to hang in the balance.
Surface area……………1,760 acres
Maximum depth…………..15 feet
Shore length……………….19 miles
Water clarity……………………3 feet
Fish species present:
Walleye, yellow perch, northern pike, black crappie, white crappie, bullhead, white sucker, common carp, bigmouth buffalo.
DNR area fisheries office (320) 409-2044, the DNR website http://www.dnr.state.mn.us/lakefind or J&J Highway 71 Bait and Tackle (320) 235-4097.