Fishing Under the Surface
2022 DNR "Mini" Fishing Survey
Results of DNR's fishing surveys - published May 2023.
2023 Fishing Outlook
NR Spec. Sr – Fisheries, Leech Lake
Minnesota Department of Resources
Anglers Should Expect Good Fishing Season
The 2023 fishing outlook on Leech Lake is promising. Walleye numbers were within or above various management objectives in the 2022 September survey. Walleye in the fall sample ranged in length from 6 to 27 inches, with strong year classes from 2019 that are averaging 15 inches and 2017 averaging 19 inches. The walleye regulation of 4 fish with only 1 over 20.0 inches allowed in possession implemented in 2019 will remain in place again this season. We will continue to follow population trends and adjust as needed based on management plan objectives and action items.
In March of 2021, daily limits for sunfish and Black Crappie were reduced on Leech Lake. Specifically, anglers can harvest 5 sunfish and 5 crappie daily; statewide possession limits of 20 sunfish and 10 crappie remain unchanged. The purpose of the reduced bag limits is to ensure the size quality of panfish in Leech Lake is maintained. Crews sampled Bluegill and Black Crappie populations in the spring of 2022. Catch rates for both species were similar to previous years with Bluegill lengths ranging from 2 to 10 inches and Black Crappie ranging from 4 to 14 inches.
Northern Pike catch rates in fall netting have historically ranged from 4 to 6 fish per net and the lower management goal is at least 4.1 fish/net. Catch rates in 2022 were a historic low at 3.1 fish per net, fish up to 32 inches long were sampled. Northern Pike zone regulations were put in place in 2018, and should benefit the Northern Pike population on Leech Lake.
Leech Lake continues to be a destination for several largemouth bass, muskellunge, and walleye fishing tournaments each year. There has been anecdotal and creel survey evidence of increasing smallmouth bass catches in Leech Lake as well as increasing numbers of young ones showing up in our shoreline seining and electrofishing in recent years.
Like the previous year, Yellow Perch numbers in the 2022 fall survey were again below management objectives but there were many reports of anglers finding good perch fishing during the winter season. Perch sampled ranged from 5 to 12 inches with close to 40 percent of fish longer than 8.0 inches.
We will conduct our annual standard sampling in 2023 which includes July seining, August trawling, September gill netting, September electrofishing and monthly zooplankton sampling. We also have a creel survey scheduled starting with the winter season in 2023-24 and summer open water season of 2024.
A continued focus on Leech Lake is the impacts that zebra mussels will have in the future. Immature zebra mussel larvae, called veligers, were found in 2016. Adults are now being reported lake-wide. There are currently no known methods to control or reduce numbers of zebra mussels once they are found in natural systems.
Starry stonewort, which is an invasive algae, was also found in the lake in Steamboat Bay. The Leech Lake Band of Ojibwe and Cass County are working control methods for the starry stonewort. If it spreads it can impact the native vegetation in the lake. Aquatic invasive species (AIS) like zebra mussels and starry stonewort are moved from infested to non-infested waters by anglers, boaters, and lake shore owners and can adversely impact lakes and fish populations. To avoid spreading AIS, lake users are required to remove all aquatic plants or animals from their watercraft and drain all water from their boat before leaving the access. Additional information on all of these topics can be found on the DNR website (www.dnr.state.mn.us) or by contacting the Walker Area Fisheries office.
NR Spec. Sr – Fisheries, Leech Lake
Minnesota Department of Natural Resources
07316 St. Hwy 371 NW
Walker, MN 56484
Office (218) 552-2333
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