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

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Island Lake, Becker County

Island Lake’s walleye production among its many great qualities

By Glen Schmitt
Staff Writer

By filtering through DNR survey reports on Minnesota’s lakes, you can usually get a pretty good idea what they have to offer from a fishing standpoint.

Take a look at the report on Becker County’s Island Lake and one aspect instantly jumps off the page: It’s an excellent multi-species lake.

While Island’s walleye population might be its shining star, this 1,179-acre fishery between Detroit Lakes and Park Rapids also supports healthy numbers of largemouth and smallmouth bass, crappies, and bluegills – all of which can be good-sized.

“If there’s one lake in that area I’d have to pick to target a variety of species, Island would be that lake,” said Nathan Olson, DNR Fisheries supervisor in Detroit Lakes. “It’s just a really good fishing lake with a lot of excellent habitat.”

Its habitat drives a healthy walleye population, although plenty of forage, including shiner minnows, and a limited northern pike population help as well. An abundance of submerged islands and rubble allow the walleyes in Island Lake to pull off consistent years of naturally reproduced fish.

The lake has not been stocked with walleyes since 1985, and it doesn’t appear that it needs to be, considering that survey nets have averaged more than 16 walleyes per lift since 1986. Island is one of only three fisheries in the Detroit Lakes management area that continues to support a walleye population completely through natural reproduction.

The most recent DNR survey, conducted in 2020, produced an average of 13 walleyes per gill net lift – a very solid number. Walleyes between 12 and 14 inches were most abundant, the mean length was 15 inches, and fish just over 26 inches were sampled.

“Numbers were down a bit in the last survey, but there were a lot of young walleyes coming up, so there’s no concern there,” Olson said. “We continue to see fantastic year-classes in Island. It’s a really good lake for eating-size fish, with some bigger walleyes mixed in.”

The lake’s panfish population also benefits from healthy habitat both above and below the surface. That habitat provides plenty of ideal spawning and rearing locations, ultimately allowing its crappies and bluegills to maintain solid numbers of quality fish.

Bluegills between 8 and 10 inches can be expected by anglers, and there are plenty of shorter bluegills coming up. There’s also a 10-fish bag limit for bluegills that’s in place for Island.

Crappie numbers have historically been low in surveys, but they don’t tend to show up well in standard survey gear. Bottom line: There’s a healthy crappie population in Island that includes some quality fish.

“When you look at recent survey results, there’s been a lot of bluegills over 8 inches,” Olson said. “Anecdotally, we hear about good crappies as well – fish up to 15 inches (in length).”

The lake’s bass-fishing opportunities are well known among local anglers. With an abundance of rock for smallmouths and plenty of vegetation for largemouths, both bass species are thriving in Island.

Olson says smallmouth bass might be more prevalent, and there is an opportunity to catch smallies over 19 inches. But Mike Witt, of Delaney’s Sporting Goods in Park Rapids, believes there’s a pretty even distribution of the lake’s two bass species.

“I fish bass out there and see a lot of big smallmouths and largemouths,” Witt said. “It has a little bit of everything as far as (bass) habitat, and I’d say it’s a 50/50 split between largemouths and smallmouths.”

Island’s pike population isn’t high – rarely above three fish per net in surveys. That lack of northerns is a key to allowing a larger percentage of Island’s young walleyes to survive potential pike predation.

Island Lake

Nearest town…………..Snellman

Surface area……………1,179 acres

Maximum depth………….38 feet

Shore length………………14 miles

Water clarity……………………9 feet

AIS present…………..None listed

Fish species present:

Walleye, bluegill, black crappie, smallmouth bass, largemouth bass, northern pike, pumpkinseed, hybrid sunfish, green sunfish, yellow perch, bullhead, rock bass, white sucker, common carp, bowfin (dogfish). 

For information:

DNR area fisheries office (218) 846-8290, the DNR website or Delaney’s Sporting Goods (218) 732-4281.

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