Tuesday, January 31st, 2023
Tuesday, January 31st, 2023

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Cannon Lake, Rice County

Current fish boom from Cannon is that of walleyes

By Glen Schmitt
Staff Writer

At more than 1,500 acres, Cannon Lake is a good-sized body of water by Rice County standards. It’s also part of the Cannon River system, which means – when one thinks of a southern Minnesota river system – rough fish might first come to mind.

But Cannon Lake has some quality game-fish populations – walleyes, largemouth bass, and yellow perch lead the way. Combined with traditional river fish species, Cannon is quite a diverse fishery.

It’s long been known as an excellent walleye lake, a reputation that remains solid given high numbers of walleyes maintained through natural reproduction and every-other-year fry stocking.

The DNR’s most recent survey of Cannon was conducted in 2020, and gill nets averaged more than nine walleyes per set. That was well above the long-term average of just over six walleyes per net. The fish sampled two years ago averaged an impressive 19 inches in length.

“When you see nine walleyes per net, especially in the southern part of the state, that indicates a very good walleye population,” said Tyler Fellows, DNR Fisheries specialist in Waterville. “As far as walleyes, Cannon might be the best lake in the area for both numbers and size.”

Cannon’s walleyes also grow extremely fast. It’s a fertile system that’s loaded with an abundance of forage in the way of perch, shiner minnows, suckers, and various other minnow species that lead to accelerated growth rates.

By two years of age, most walleyes in Cannon are already longer than 15 inches. By the time they reach 3 years old, the majority are over 18 inches in length.

“They do grow really fast, just ridiculous growth rates,” Fellows said. “We’ve seen 20-inch fish in surveys that were only 2 years old.”

Yellow perch also have been a constant in Cannon, providing anglers with quality fishing opportunities over the years, primarily during the winter months.

Currently, perch numbers remain high, but their overall size structure has diminished a bit. The bigger fish are now more of a bonus and there are still some larger perch hiding in the lake, but fish over 9 inches have become the exception.

“There are some years when perch go on fire just about everywhere on the lake during the winter,” said Craig Finnesgard, owner of Lake Country Convenience and Bait in nearby Faribault. “They aren’t those true jumbos, but you’ll still catch perch up to 9 inches on the big side.”

During the past decade or so, noticeable habitat changes have occurred in Cannon Lake. Go back to about 2012, and there was almost no vegetation in the lake.

That’s changed a lot, and certain parts of Cannon are now rich with vegetation. According to Fellows, that’s also led to some improved bass numbers and much better bass-fishing opportunities.

“Bass numbers have increased in the last 10 years likely due to those habitat changes,” he said. “We now see good-sized bass, too. Three- to 5-pound fish are pretty common.”

Panfish and pike don’t garner much attention. Cannon’s crappie population tends to fluctuate, providing a boom-or-bust-type fishery when numbers are high. Fish over 13 inches were sampled in 2020.

Bluegill numbers have always been minimal, and while some northern pike over 30 inches are present, their overall numbers are limited as well.

Channel catfish and white bass provide additional fishing opportunities in Cannon. Both are available in good numbers, including some quality fish.  

“The entire chain, including Cannon, has nice white bass in it,” Fellows said. “We’ve seen catfish up to 10 pounds. Both are worth targeting.”

Cannon Lake

Nearest town……………Faribault

Surface area……………1,593 acres

Maximum depth…………..15 feet

Shore length……………….12 miles

Water clarity……………………2 feet

AIS present……Flowering rush

Fish species present:

Walleye, yellow perch, largemouth bass, black crappie, bluegill, northern pike, channel catfish, white bass, bullhead, pumpkinseed, freshwater drum, white sucker, common carp, bigmouth buffalo, bowfin (dogfish). 

For information:

DNR area fisheries office (507) 497-1822, the DNR website http://www.dnr.state.mn.us/lakefind or Lake Country Convenience & Bait (507) 334-9711.

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