The 25th Annual "FOXMASTERS" Fishing Tournament

Fox Lake  *  June 11, 2011  *  Martin County  *  Sherburn, MN

For complete info on Fox Lake click here:

www.dnr.state.mn.us/lakefind/showreport.html?downum=46010900

Water Level Data:

Period of record: 5/9/1939 to 1/30/1996  *  # of readings: 488  *  Highest recorded: (feet above sea level) 1239 ft (6/16/1944)  *  Lowest recorded 1236.45 ft. (11/30/1939)  *  Recorded range: 2.55 ft.  *  Average water level 1238.12 ft.  *  Last reading 1238.12 ft. (1/30/1996)  *  Ordinary high water mark elevation: 1239.3 ft.  *  Datum 1929 ft.

Status of the fishery from the DNR (as of 8/30/99)

Fox Lake is a unique system in the pothole prairie region because of the lake's physical characteristics.  Fox Lake is one of the deeper lakes in this area and the orientation of the lake is mostly east and west.  Fox Lake is the only lake managed by the Windom office that has been sampled on a yearly basis since 1991.  This unique sampling situation enables the Windom office to follow the fish population trends and thus increases the effectiveness of evaluating and managing the populations.  Additionally, Fox Lake is the only lake in this area that is managed secondarily for Muskellunge (Muskie).  Approximately 520 Muskellunge (age 2+) were stocked in the fall of 1999 after a public comment period.  The general public had overwhelming support of the concept so Muskellunge (1-2 pounds/fish) were stocked.  The following information was collected before Muskellunge were stocked so no effect of this species was observed in this data.

The average walleye gill net catch was 3.13 fish/net set which was within the normal range for this type of lake.  Despite the walleye catch rates being normal compared to other area lakes, only one other time in the last 10 consecutive surveys (1987) has catch rates been so low.  The average gill net sample weight however was the highest (2.37 lbs/fish) in the last ten consecutive surveys.  Total lengths of walleye sampled by our gill nets ranged from 9.9 to 25.9 inches and had a mean of 18.5.  Many walleye were 17 to 18 inches in length, which would make these fish 3 or 4 years old.  All this means that walleye numbers may be lower than in the past but the average size is larger.  Fall electrofishing for young of the year walleye indicated some natural reproduction and/or fry survival in 1999 (23 young of the year walleye/hour).  This data is important because historical fall electrofishing and shoreline seining indicate very limited natural reproduction.  Another year class of walleye recruiting to the population is highly possible if survival is good for the young of the year walleye sampled in the fall.  Survival of young of the year walleye would probably be improved if aquatic vegetation could be abundant.  Aquatic vegetation, acting as nursery habitat, enables smaller walleye and other forage fish to escape from larger predators.  The current Fox Lake walleye stocking regime calls for fry three out of four years at a rate of 1000 per surface acre.

Crappie population densities are susceptible to extreme fluctuations in the prairie region.  Examining the historical catches from Fox Lake, it appears both black and white crappie populations are in or nearing a high point in the cycle.  Based on trap netting, the black crappie population is looking quite promising for anglers.  The average black crappie trap net catch was 13.08 fish/net which was higher than normal for this type of lake.  Historically, average black crappie trap net catches have been higher during two other periods (1998, 1995) in the last nine consecutive surveys.  Total lengths of black crappie sampled in our trap nets ranged between 4.2 and 8.4 inches, with a mean of 7.0.  A mode was recorded in the range of 6.5 to 7.0 inches.  Over the last few years the white crappie population has become more abundant than the black crappie population.  Fisheries literature indicates that the white crappies tend to survive better in more turbid environments (less transparent water).  The average white crappie trap net catch was 53.17 fish/net set which was eight times higher than normal for this lake type. Total lengths of white crappie sampled in trap nets ranged between 6.1 and 9.8 inches, with a mean of 7.3 inches.  Since 1997, the average white crappie trap net catches have been steadily increasing.  All of this data suggest the white crappie population is relatively dense and consists mostly of smaller individuals.  Fishing for both white and black crappie could be phenomenal for the next couple of years.

Bluegill and largemouth bass do considerably better when aquatic vegetation is abundant.  The average bluegill trap net catch was 2.0 fish/net set which was below normal for this lake type.  However, the average bluegill trap net catches have been above normal only once in the last nine consecutive surveys.  Total lengths of bluegill sampled in trap nets ranged between 3.8 and 7.3 inches, with a mean of 6.3.  Historical shoreline seining has revealed varying numbers of young of the year bluegill which suggests some natural reproduction.  This data suggests the bluegill population is self-sustaining but at a low density.  Aquatic vegetation would likely enhance this population.

The average channel catfish gill net catch was 7.5 fish/net set which was the second highest catch in the last 10 consecutive surveys.  The highest catch was 7.83 fish/net set in 1997.  Total lengths of channel catfish sampled in our gill nets ranged between 11.5 and 21.3 inches, with a mean of 14.5.  Nearly 76% of the channel catfish aged were 5 years old (average length=14.8 inches) while the remaining were age 4 (average length=12.5 inches).  Channel catfish were last stocked in 1986 which indicates the population was basically self -sustaining.

Freshwater drum, black bullhead and common crap populations in Fox Lake could provide the opportunity to teach some kids how to fish.  The freshwater drum population was doing quite well in spite of the moderate "summerkill" in 1999.  The average gill net catch was 45.13 fish/net set which was above normal.  Based on the last ten consecutive surveys, the average freshwater drum gill net catches have only twice been lower than normal.  Total lengths of freshwater drum sampled in the gill nets ranged between 4.6 and 9.7 inches, with a mean of 8.2.  This data suggest the freshwater drum population density was relatively high and consisted mostly of smaller individuals.  The average black bullhead gill net catch was 27.88 fish/net set which was higher than normal for this type of lake.  Total lengths of black bullhead ranged between 7.7 and 10.6 inches, with a mean of 8.8.  This data suggests a normal to above normal black bullhead density and a population size structure that consisted mostly of smaller individuals.  The average common carp trap net catch 3.17 fish/net set which was higher than normal for this type of lake.  Total lengths of common carp sampled in the nets ranged between 16.7 and 32.3 inches, with a mean of 25.5.  Fox Lake has a common carp population density that was relatively low and a size structure that consisted mostly of larger individuals.

To promote and maintain healthy fish populations, pollution and other inputs need to be controlled.  Fish habitats are directly affected by water quality.  Nutrient, sediment and other waste inputs can drastically alter the biological, chemical, and physical components of a lake.  It is paramount to maintain if not improve the current water quality of Fox Lake through watershed management to preserve this fishery for future generations to enjoy.