When you go in search of walleyes this summer, don't overlook these southern Minnesota favorites. They may have what it takes to catch your 'eye.(May 2010)
As temperatures in Minnesota's southern waters warm, the spawn might be well underway -- or perhaps over -- before your season begins, but that doesn't mean the bite won't still be hot.
Photo by Ron Sinflet.
As the walleye opener approaches, the lakes in southern Minnesota are beginning to warm. Walleyes have begun their spawn and will likely be finished with this spring ritual long before the first nightcrawler hits the water. When that day comes, where will this warm water result in a hot bite? The following is a look at several lakes that might be the answer to that question.
Found in Blue Earth County, southwest of Mankato along State Highway 60, Lake Crystal is a 380-acre body of water with a maximum depth of only 8 feet. An aeration system is used here to prevent fish kills during the winter months. The town of Lake Crystal shares the name of this prairie pothole and serves as the western shoreline for the shallow lake. A public access is located within the city in the lake's southwestern corner.
This may not be the most popular fishery in the Mankato area, but it has the potential to be a local hotspot in 2010. In addition to a limited amount of natural reproduction, Lake Crystal is regularly stocked with walleyes. The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources placed more than 600,000 walleye fry in the lake in 2007 and again in 2008. This large boost to the population will be reaching desirable size in the coming year and should provide anglers with an opportunity to catch numerous fish for the frying pan. In addition, test net surveys from previous years indicate that the lake maintains a good population of fish distributed over a wide range in size. The most recent survey, performed by the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources in 2006, showed a large number of walleyes in the 15- to 19-inch range. These fish have likely surpassed 24-inches and should still be fairly numerous.
Lake Crystal warms quickly in the spring and walleyes are usually well beyond the spawn by the start of the angling season. The bottom consists mainly of sand, silt and clay, with little discernible structure. Look for walleyes to be scattered throughout the lake. Trolling crankbaits has produced opening day success in the past. The fish will spook easily in the shallow water, and some anglers may prefer to use planer boards at this location. You will want to visit Lake Crystal early in the season, as algae growth becomes a problem as the water temperature continues to rise late in the summer. For more information regarding Lake Crystal, contact the Greater Mankato Convention and Visitors Bureau at 1-800-657-4733, or visit www.greatermankato.com.
A southern favorite in any given year, Madison Lake is once again primed for a banner season. This popular lake is located in Blue Earth County along the southern shoulder of State Highway 60. A city-owned public access is located in the town of Madison Lake, with two additional accesses found on the lake's eastern shoreline near Bray Park. This lake is large and deep, covering nearly 1,500 acres with a maximum depth that approaches 60 feet.
Madison Lake is managed primarily as a walleye fishery and is regularly stocked accordingly. During the summer of 2006, more than 1 million walleye fry were released into the lake, along with 800 adults, 2,300 fingerlings and 1,000 yearlings. In 2008, the Minnesota DNR conducted a test net survey in Madison Lake and the results were encouraging. A large percentage of the fish recorded were in the 20- to 24-inch range, with good numbers of fish that exceeded that slot.
Madison Lake is comprised of two main basins, divided by a shallow and rocky narrowing. Early in the season, as the fish begin to filter away from their spring spawning areas, jig and minnow combinations will often produce walleyes along the steep drop on either side of the narrows. Trolling crankbaits and spinners at the outer edge of the weedlines or around any of the lake's numerous points can also be productive. Later in the year, slip bobbers and live bait may be the answer to locate walleyes in the deepest holes. For more information pertaining to Madison Lake, contact the Greater Mankato Convention and Visitors Bureau at 1-800-657-4733, or visit www.greatermankato.com.
If the autumn of 2009 is any indication, this lake is going to be explosive in 2010. A 1,900-acre lake with a maximum depth of 12 feet, Lake Elysian has been gradually regaining some respect from southern Minnesota fishermen. Located primarily in Waseca County, this lake is bordered to the north by State Highway 60. A large public access is located along the highway, just to the east of the town of Elysian. During October and early November of 2009, a late-season bite had shore anglers sitting shoulder-to-shoulder at this location nearly every evening. A southern access to the lake is located north of U.S. Highway 14 in the city of Janesville.
Lake Elysian has had its ups and downs over the last decade. Following an expansive winterkill in 2004, the lake finally appears to have made a full recovery. In the past six years, approximately 10 million walleye fry have been released here by the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources. Walleyes in this lake have a history of fast growth, and it appears that this has been the case once again.
Like a majority of prairie potholes, Lake Elysian is going to be most productive early and late in the season, with low-light periods producing the best action. The water will warm quickly in the spring, and the fish will spook easily throughout the year. Long-line trolling of crankbaits and spinners can be effective. While walleyes are scattered throughout the fishery, several points in the central portion of the lake are worth a good look. This is definitely a lake to keep an eye on this season. For more information, contact the Elysian Tourism Center at 1-800-507-7787.
Located in Le Sueur County, Lake Tetonka is a part of the Cannon River chain of lakes. A public access is located in the city of Waterville, just to the west of State Highway 13. A 1,300-acre body of water with a maximum depth of 35 feet, this lake has a reputation for producing trophy walleyes. However, it may be the availability of fish for the pan that will have anglers smiling this season.
The structure and forage found in Lake Tetonka is fairly suitable for the natural reproduction and growth of walleyes, but the lake also benefits from a Minnesota DNR stocking program. Therefore, the lake generally maintains a stable population of fish with a good size distribution. In the summer of 2006, more than 800,000 walleye fry were placed in Lake Tetonka, with an additional 1.5 million fry being placed in Sabre Lake and Upper Sakatah Lake.
Early in the season, anglers should find walleyes near the inlet, outlet, and on the gravel bars extending from Lake Tetonka's numerous points. As the water warms, expect the fish to gradually slide deeper and scatter around the humps, holes and deep weedlines found throughout this lake. It is a good idea to take a look at a map of Lake Tetonka before going in search of its walleyes. The structure and depth of this lake varies greatly. For more information about Lake Tetonka, contact the Elysian Tourism Center at 1-800-507-7787.
To obtain a map of Lake Tetonka, or any of the lakes mentioned in this article, contact the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources at 1-800-657-3757.