Lake information report

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Name: Big Sandy

Nearest Town: McGregor
Primary County: Aitkin
Survey Date: 07/12/2010
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): 6438.77
Littoral Area (acres): 3085
Maximum Depth (ft): 84
Water Clarity (ft): 6.1 (4.5-7)

Dominant Bottom Substrate: Sand (Abundant)
Abundance of Aquatic Plants: 32 Varieties Sampled
Maximum Depth of Plant Growth (ft): 5.2 (4-7)


Did you know? Fisheries personnel monitor and regulate aquaculture, fishing tournaments, commercial fishing operations, aquatic plant management, and aeration.

Fish Sampled for the 2010 Survey Year

Species

Gear Used

Number of fish per net

Average Fish Weight (lbs)

Normal Range (lbs)

Caught

Normal Range

Black Crappie Trap net 5.40 0.3 - 1.7 0.62 0.3 - 0.6
Gill net 0.33 0.2 - 1.1 0.43 0.2 - 0.5
Bluegill Trap net 2.95 3.7 - 42.9 0.53 0.1 - 0.2
Bowfin (dogfish) Trap net 1.15 0.3 - 1.1 5.57 3.9 - 5.1
Brown Bullhead Trap net 0.15 0.3 - 1.7 1.18 0.7 - 1.1
Hybrid Sunfish Trap net 0.40 N/A 0.48 N/A
Northern Pike Trap net 0.80 N/A 1.48 N/A
Gill net 2.33 3.0 - 7.9 2.16 1.7 - 2.8
Pumpkinseed Trap net 0.50 1.6 - 6.9 0.46 0.1 - 0.3
Rock Bass Trap net 0.55 0.7 - 3.3 0.50 0.2 - 0.5
Gill net 0.67 1.0 - 6.6 0.63 0.3 - 0.5
Shorthead Redhorse Trap net 0.35 0.1 - 0.8 2.29 1.5 - 4.0
Gill net 0.53 0.1 - 0.5 1.27 1.5 - 2.7
Silver Redhorse Trap net 0.50 N/A 3.97 N/A
Tullibee (cisco) Gill net 8.00 0.5 - 5.2 0.72 0.4 - 1.0
Walleye Trap net 0.30 0.3 - 0.9 0.47 1.0 - 2.2
Gill net 4.27 4.0 - 9.6 0.47 1.1 - 1.9
White Sucker Trap net 0.60 0.2 - 0.8 3.09 1.4 - 2.7
Gill net 2.27 1.0 - 3.5 1.82 1.5 - 2.3
Yellow Bullhead Trap net 0.30 0.9 - 4.8 1.32 0.7 - 1.0
Gill net 0.07 0.6 - 6.4 1.44 0.6 - 0.9
Yellow Perch Trap net 1.45 0.7 - 3.7 0.26 0.1 - 0.2
Gill net 5.13 7.1 - 33.9 0.29 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 2010 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 crappie 2 10 99 2 0 0 0 0 113
bluegill 0 54 5 0 0 0 0 0 59
bowfin (dogfish) 0 0 0 1 0 10 11 1 23
brown bullhead 0 0 0 3 0 0 0 0 3
hybrid sunfish 0 8 0 0 0 0 0 0 8
northern pike 0 0 0 7 23 16 2 3 51
pumpkinseed 0 10 0 0 0 0 0 0 10
rock bass 0 13 8 0 0 0 0 0 21
shorthead redhorse 0 2 0 2 10 1 0 0 15
silver redhorse 0 0 0 2 0 8 0 0 10
tullibee (cisco) 0 10 77 11 22 0 0 0 120
walleye 0 19 36 10 4 1 0 0 70
white sucker 0 2 1 7 31 5 0 0 46
yellow bullhead 0 0 0 7 0 0 0 0 7
yellow perch 12 66 28 0 0 0 0 0 106


For the record, the largest Rock Bass (tie) taken in Minnesota weighed 2 lbs. and was caught:

    Where: Lake Winnibigoshish, Cass County
    When: 5/10/98
    Statistics: 12.6" length, 12.4" 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 07/12/2010)

Big Sandy Lake is located in northeastern Aitkin County approximately 9 miles north of McGregor. At 6,526 acres, it is second only to Mille Lacs in size and popularity in the Aitkin area. The lake is heavily developed with 936 homes/cabins around the lake and several resorts/campgrounds. The Army Corps of Engineers also operates a campground/recreation area at the outlet on the northwest side of the lake. There are also multiple public accesses surrounding the east, west, and south sides. Special regulations for walleye (14-18" harvest slot with 1 over 26") and bluegill (bag of 5 fish) will begin on May 14, 2011.

The lake is characterized as a fertile walleye lake comprised of several habitat types. These include the open, windswept main basin; the deep cool eastern basin, Bill Horn Bay; the shallower and more isolated south basin, Webster Bay; and shallow bays containing dense rice beds on the south, east and northeast sides of the lake. The maximum depth is 84' and about 47% of the lake is 15' deep or less. Walleyes are the most popular target for anglers and it is managed essentially as a walleye lake. Big Sandy has been deemed "impaired", due to high phosphorus levels, by the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency, and is undergoing watershed and water quality analysis via the Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL) study and plan for the lake.

Walleye were commonly stocked in Big Sandy prior to 1995. Most were fry stockings, although the frequency varied from annual to every third year. Relative success of stocked vs non-stocked year classes was similar, therefore walleye stocking was discontinued in 1996. In the years shortly after the cessation of stocking, excellent year classes were produced, however recruitment in this decade appears to have been relatively poor.

The walleye catch increased from 2.3/gill net in 2009 to 4.3/gill net in 2010. Past catches have averaged 5.5/gill net. Average length and weight were 10.7" and 0.5 lbs in 2010, compared to 11.7" and 0.6 lbs in 2009. The increase in relative abundance and smaller average size are largely due to a strong 2008 year class (age 2) that accounted for 38% of the walleyes sampled. Historically 25% to 72% of all walleyes sampled by gill net were less than 12" with the average near 50%. In 2010, 77% were less than 12", again, due primarily to the presence of the 2008 year class. Six additional year classes were present in the gill nets with 89% being ages 1-4 (2006-2009). Recent analyses of this young age structure suggest that relatively high angler exploitation may be limiting recruitment into the spawning stock, which has affected annual recruitment this decade. Growth of Big Sandy walleyes is typically slow, though they are in good condition.

Northern pike abundance was also relatively low at 2.3/gill net. Past catches have ranged from 0.9 to 5.8/gill net with an average of 5.3/gill net. Average length and weight were 20.6" and 2.2 lbs with 14% measuring at least 24". Age 2-4 fish (2006-2008 year classes) were most abundant, accounting for 69% of all northern pike sampled.

Tullibee and yellow perch are important forage species for the lake's game fish and also provide additional opportunities for anglers. Yellow perch catches have been declining since 1990, falling to 5.1/gill net in 2010. The average size of perch was 8.2" and 26% were 9" or longer. Tullibee are a cold-water fish and are usually limited to the confines of Bill Horn Bay during the summer months. While they provide quality forage for northern pike and walleye, with fish averaging 11.8" and individual fish measuring nearly 17", they also appear to be of interest to anglers. Anecdotal reports indicate a relatively new winter angling fishery for tullibee appears to be developing on Big Sandy.

Smallmouth bass were sampled for the first time in Big Sandy in 2009, though none were sampled in 2010. Although only 2 fish were caught (0.13/gill net), it corroborates angler observations of an emerging smallmouth bass population.

Bluegill abundance has never been high on Big Sandy, ranging from 0-4.5/trap net. The 2010 catch of 3.0/trap net is low compared to similar lakes, even though it is the second highest catch to date. Black crappies were caught in good numbers in 2010 and both species had a good size structure, providing a unique fishery for the area. The crappie fishery in recent years has been the mainstay of the fishery while walleye abundance was low. As walleye increase in numbers, crappies will be expected to decrease, while still maintaining good size structure and catchable population levels. Anecdotal observations of young of year crappie in the fall electrofishing survey suggest that 2010 year class may be very strong.

Note: Special regulations for walleye (14-18" harvest slot with 1 over 26") and sunfish (bag of 5 fish) will begin on May 14, 2011.


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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