Southern Round’s about its walleyes and more
By Glen Schmitt
Round Lake, this southern Minnesota version, is located a bit north of the Minnesota-Iowa border in Jackson County. At just over 900 acres and no more than 9 feet deep during a high-water year, it’s arguably the best fishing lake in this part of the state.
Round is a shallow, bowl-shaped lakes that’s pretty featureless. There’s been more vegetation showing up in recent years, but it doesn’t offer much else in the way of classic structure.
Despite lacking character regarding its physical features, Round does hold walleyes, and a lot of them. Round also supports a strong crappie population of both the black and white varieties, surging white bass numbers, along with some bonus northern pike and channel catfish.
“Round Lake is just a go-to for a lot of local anglers, especially for walleyes,” said Ryan Doorenbos, DNR Fisheries supervisor in Windom. “It is a decent-size lake that’s basically a bowl, and there isn’t much depth, so it’s pretty easy to fish.”
Since 2018, Round has been included in a stocking research project that’s evaluating the effectiveness of two walleye strains – the Lower Mississippi strain (LMS) and the Mississippi (MIS) strain. The MIS walleyes come from the northern part of the state, while the LMS fish originated in the Cannon River system in southern Minnesota.
Lower Mississippi strain walleyes have been stocked annually in Round since 2018, and there is some evidence that the walleyes are faring well. Those fish, combined with some natural reproduction, have maintained a robust walleye population.
Gill nets averaged nearly 11 walleyes per lift during a 2019 DNR survey. They ranged from 7 to 28 inches in length and averaged 17.7 inches long. Five year-classes of walleyes were sampled (2013, 2016, 2017, 2018, and 2019), all of which corresponded to fry-stocking years.
Round walleyes also grow fast, taking just two years to reach about 16 inches in length. The 2017 year-class stood out in the last survey, as did the 2019s, which were sampled to the tune of 95 young-of-the-year walleyes per hour during fall electrofishing work.
“One of the benefits to southern Minnesota is that our fish grow fast, and we certainly see that with Round’s walleyes,” Doorenbos said. “Anglers should expect quite a few 20-inch walleyes right now, but there are consistent numbers of shorter fish coming up.”
Based on 2019 survey results, black and white crappie numbers appear to be doing fine. The lake’s black crappie population has steadily shown increases since 2009, while white crappie numbers increased from what showed up in a similar survey conducted in 2017.
Additional vegetation could be leading to better black crappie numbers, while Round’s turbid water continues to suit the white crappie population. Both crappie species measured up to 14 inches in length during the most recent survey.
Round’s white bass population has become a talking point in recent years. Trap nets averaged 31 fish per lift in 2019 – the highest total ever recorded on the lake. Fish up to 17 inches were part of the mix. They didn’t start showing up in surveys until 2005.
“They are reproducing well, and abundance has steadily increased,” Doorenbos said. “People are targeting them and (the fish are) aggressive, so they’re fun to catch.”
Channel catfish remain present in the lake, but numbers have moderated from high catch rates in years past. The opportunity to catch bigger catfish still exists.
There aren’t many lakes with northern pike in this area, but Round has them. Doorenbos says they also grow fast and tend be quality fish.
Nearest town………Round Lake
Surface area………………930 acres
Maximum depth…………….9 feet
Shore length…………………5 miles
Water clarity…………………1.5 feet
AIS present………………Bighead, silver carp
Fish species present:
Walleye, black crappie, white crappie, white bass, northern pike, channel catfish, yellow perch, bullhead, green sunfish, freshwater drum, white sucker, shortnose gar, river redhorse, common carp, bigmouth buffalo.
DNR area fisheries office (507) 832-6011, the DNR website http://www.dnr.state.mn.us/lakefind