Fisheries Lake Survey

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Name: Big Sandy

Nearest Town: McGregor
Primary County: Aitkin
Survey Date: 07/08/2013
Inventory Number: 01006200

Public Access Information

Ownership Type Description
Township Concrete
DNR Concrete
Corps of Engineers Concrete
DNR Concrete


Fishing Regulations:

Special and/or Experimental Fishing Regulations exist on this lake. Please refer to our online Minnesota Fishing Regulations.

Lake Characteristics

Lake Area (acres): 6088.13
Littoral Area (acres): 3085
Maximum Depth (ft): 84
Water Clarity (ft): 3.8 (1.5-7)

Dominant Bottom Substrate: N/A
Abundance of Aquatic Plants: N/A
Maximum Depth of Plant Growth (ft): 5.2 (4-7)


Did you know? Each year, DNR fisheries personnel stock game fish fry and fingerlings in lakes lacking habitat for natural reproduction.

Fish Sampled for the 2013 Survey Year

Species

Gear Used

Number of fish per net

Average Fish Weight (lbs)

Normal Range (lbs)

Caught

Normal Range

Black Bullhead Trap net 0.05 0.3 - 2.1 0.62 0.4 - 0.8
Gill net 0.13 0.5 - 4.1 0.52 0.6 - 1.0
Black Crappie Trap net 4.75 0.3 - 1.7 0.64 0.3 - 0.6
Gill net 2.73 0.2 - 1.1 0.33 0.2 - 0.5
Bluegill Trap net 3.75 3.7 - 42.9 0.54 0.1 - 0.2
Gill net 0.13 N/A 0.61 N/A
Bowfin (dogfish) Trap net 3.00 0.3 - 1.1 4.96 3.9 - 5.1
Gill net 0.20 0.1 - 0.2 4.40 3.0 - 5.2
Brown Bullhead Trap net 0.40 0.3 - 1.7 1.20 0.7 - 1.1
Burbot Gill net 0.07 0.1 - 0.2 2.89 1.1 - 2.7
Hybrid Sunfish Trap net 0.20 N/A 0.50 N/A
Muskellunge Gill net 0.07 0.1 - 0.3 12.45 3.1 - 5.3
Northern Pike Trap net 1.15 N/A 1.35 N/A
Gill net 4.47 3.0 - 7.9 2.09 1.7 - 2.8
Pumpkinseed Trap net 0.75 1.6 - 6.9 0.40 0.1 - 0.3
Rock Bass Trap net 2.30 0.7 - 3.3 0.65 0.2 - 0.5
Gill net 2.73 1.0 - 6.6 0.46 0.3 - 0.5
Shorthead Redhorse Trap net 0.45 0.1 - 0.8 1.24 1.5 - 4.0
Gill net 3.53 0.1 - 0.5 1.74 1.5 - 2.7
Silver Redhorse Trap net 0.30 N/A 3.85 N/A
Gill net 0.13 N/A 4.05 N/A
Smallmouth Bass Gill net 0.07 0.2 - 0.9 2.02 0.9 - 1.8
Trout-perch Trap net 0.05 N/A 0.02 N/A
Tullibee (cisco) Gill net 0.13 0.5 - 5.2 0.93 0.4 - 1.0
Walleye Trap net 0.65 0.3 - 0.9 1.58 1.0 - 2.2
Gill net 4.67 4.0 - 9.6 0.71 1.1 - 1.9
White Sucker Trap net 0.10 0.2 - 0.8 2.10 1.4 - 2.7
Gill net 3.00 1.0 - 3.5 2.04 1.5 - 2.3
Yellow Bullhead Trap net 0.65 0.9 - 4.8 1.08 0.7 - 1.0
Gill net 0.33 0.6 - 6.4 0.88 0.6 - 0.9
Yellow Perch Trap net 1.05 0.7 - 3.7 0.20 0.1 - 0.2
Gill net 32.27 7.1 - 33.9 0.36 0.1 - 0.2
Normal Ranges represent typical catches for lakes with similar physical and chemical characteristics.


Length of Selected Species (Trapnet, Gillnet) Sampled for the 2013 Survey Year

Species Number of fish caught in each category (inches)
0-5 6-8 9-11 12-14 15-19 20-24 25-29 30+ Total
black bullhead 0 1 2 0 0 0 0 0 3
black crappie 12 64 36 24 0 0 0 0 136
bluegill 6 48 23 0 0 0 0 0 77
bowfin (dogfish) 0 0 0 0 6 36 21 0 63
brown bullhead 0 0 2 6 0 0 0 0 8
burbot 0 0 0 0 0 1 0 0 1
hybrid sunfish 0 4 0 0 0 0 0 0 4
muskellunge 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 1 1
northern pike 0 0 4 4 46 22 12 2 90
pumpkinseed 0 15 0 0 0 0 0 0 15
rock bass 5 34 48 0 0 0 0 0 87
shorthead redhorse 0 1 5 7 49 0 0 0 62
silver redhorse 0 0 0 0 3 5 0 0 8
smallmouth bass 0 0 0 0 1 0 0 0 1
trout-perch 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 1
tullibee (cisco) 0 1 0 0 1 0 0 0 2
walleye 0 9 20 41 10 1 2 0 83
white sucker 0 0 0 9 38 0 0 0 47
yellow bullhead 0 1 6 11 0 0 0 0 18
yellow perch 40 255 210 0 0 0 0 0 505


For the record, the largest Yellow Bullhead taken in Minnesota weighed 3 lbs., 10.5 oz. and was caught:

    Where: Osakis Lake, Todd County
    When: 8/5/02
    Statistics: 17 7/8" length, 11 3/4" girth

Fish Consumption Guidelines

These fish consumption guidelines help people make choices about which fish to eat and how often. Following the guidelin es enables people to reduce their exposure to contaminants while still enjoying the many benefits from fish.

Pregnant Women, Women who may become pregnant and Children under age 15

LAKE NAME
County, DOWID
Species Meal Advice Contaminants
Unrestricted 1 meal/week 1 meal/month Do not eat
BIG SANDY
Aitkin Co., 01006200
Crappie   All sizes     Mercury
Northern Pike     All sizes   Mercury
Walleye     All sizes   Mercury

General Population

LAKE NAME
County, DOWID
Species Meal Advice Contaminants
Unrestricted 1 meal/week 1 meal/month Do not eat
BIG SANDY
Aitkin Co., 01006200
Crappie All sizes        
Northern Pike   All sizes     Mercury
Walleye   All sizes     Mercury

DOWID - MN DNR, Division of Waters' lake ID number.

Contaminants listed were measured at levels that trigger advice to limit consumption.

Listing of consumption guidelines do not imply the fish are legal to keep, MN DNR fishing regulations should be consulted.

Dioxin
Mercury
PCBS - Polychlorinated biphenyls
PFOS - Perfluorooctane sulfanate


Status of the Fishery (as of 07/08/2013)

Big Sandy Lake is located about nine miles north of McGregor in northeastern Aitkin County. It is a popular lake for angling as well as a variety of water oriented recreation. The lake is heavily developed with permanent and seasonal homes and cabins. There are several public accesses, a few private resorts, and the Army Corps of Engineers also operates a recreation area with a campground and access facilities. There are special harvest regulations for walleye (14-18" harvest slot, with one over 26" allowed) and bluegill (bag limit of 5), which began in 2011. In addition to this standard population assessment, nearshore sampling using seining and backpack electrofishing was also conducted to develop an index of biological integrity (IBI); basically a fish index of lake health.

Big Sandy Lake has a large watershed, which is covered primarily by forests and wetlands. The lake is subject to dramatic water level fluctuations under certain climatologic conditions, with severe flooding occurring on an infrequent but regular basis. The most recent significant flooding event took place in 2012, when the area received unusually large rainfall events in late May and June resulting in approximately 20 inches of precipitation in this short period. While conditions appeared dismal for fish during and after the flooding, results from the 2013 population assessment indicate several species appeared to have benefited from the conditions.

The walleye catch of 4.7 per gill net remained similar to the 2010 survey. Average size increased from 10.7" and 0.5 pounds in 2010 compared to 12.2" and 0.7 pounds in 2013. Fish ranged from age 1 to age 10 with 8 year classes identified in the sample. Fall night electrofishing was conducted in October to monitor young of the year walleye abundance. Results indicate 2013 had by far the highest young of the year catch rate of all previous electrofishing surveys dating back to 2009 and among the highest observed anywhere. This high index of reproduction illustrates the importance of good habitat and adequate spawning stock. The harvest regulation for walleye (14-18" harvest slot, with one over 26" allowed) is intended to reduce mortality on small fish, increase female spawning stock and age diversity, and improve angler catch of fish greater than 14".

Northern pike catch rate increased to 4.5 per gill net, which is within the expected range for similar lakes, and similar to the historic catch rate from twelve previous surveys of Big Sandy Lake. Pike ranged from age 1 to age 8 with each year class represented indicating annual recruitment. Size was similar to the last survey and averaged 20.9" and 2.1 pounds, with 22% measuring at least 24", up to 33.4".

Black crappie catches were above the expected range for similar lakes and above historic averages for this lake in both gill nets and trap nets. Size and growth are among the best in the area with memorable size fish present. Age analysis revealed variable recruitment with strong year classes identified for 2006 and 2010, while 2007 and 2009 were absent.

Bluegill abundance appeared similar to the previous two surveys dating to 2005 (3.75 per trap net). While this level of abundance is low compared to similar lakes, all five surveys prior to 2005 had trap net catch rates of only 0-0.3 per trap net. Size and growth of bluegill are also among the best in the area with memorable sized fish present in the population. Age analysis revealed inconsistent recruitment with strong 2006 and 2007 year classes accounting for most of the catch, and weak 2008 and 2009 year classes nearly absent. The harvest regulation for bluegill (bag limit of 5) is intended to preserve the quality size structure found in this fishery.

Tullibee, a coldwater species, is the one species that declined dramatically as a result of poor temperature and oxygen levels that persisted for several weeks in 2012, as a result of the flood. Some tullibee were captured during the 2013 assessment, suggesting enough survival to reestablish the population, although it may be a few years before anglers would be able to take advantage of them again. On the other hand, yellow perch were captured in high numbers compared to the previous survey. In addition to being an important forage species, yellow perch also provide a unique angling opportunity for the area. Sizes ranged from 4.6 to 11.9", and averaged 8.6" with a good number of fish over 10".

While not numerous, smallmouth bass were once again observed in the gill net assessment. In addition, young smallmouth bass and largemouth bass were also observed in the near-shore seining and electrofishing assessments. Both species have been observed at low levels in Big Sandy Lake for many years, and offer alternative angling opportunities.

The single muskellunge captured during this survey likely migrated from the Mississippi River, which has been stocked annually for several years. Water levels during the 2012 flood were nearly equal between the Mississippi River and Big Sandy Lake, allowing for movement that normally is impeded by high discharge flow rates at the Corps of Engineers dam.


For more information on this lake, contact:

Area Fisheries Supervisor
PO Box 138
1200 Minnesota Ave S
Aitkin, MN 56431
Phone: (218) 927-7503
Internet: Aitkin Fisheries
E-Mail: Aitkin.Fisheries@state.mn.us

Lake maps can be obtained from:

Minnesota Bookstore
660 Olive Street
St. Paul, MN 55155
(651) 297-3000 or (800) 657-3757
To order, use B0017 for the map-id.


For general DNR Information, contact:

DNR Information Center
500 Lafayette Road
St. Paul, MN 55155-4040
TDD: (651) 296-6157 or (888) MINNDNR
Internet: www.dnr.state.mn.us
E-Mail: info.dnr@state.mn.us

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