Fisheries Lake Survey

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Name: Winnibigoshish

Nearest Town: Bena
Primary County: Cass
Survey Date: 06/24/2013
Inventory Number: 11014700

Public Access Information

Ownership Type Description
US Forest Service Earthen
US Forest Service Concrete
US Forest Service Concrete
US Forest Service Concrete
US Forest Service Concrete
US Forest Service Concrete
US Forest Service Concrete
US Forest Service Concrete

Fishing Regulations:

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

Fish Health:

Disease:Viral Hemorrhagic Septicemia (VHS)Date Tested:9/30/2009Result:Negative
Source: MNDNR
Disease:Heterosporis sp.Date Tested:9/29/2009Result:Positive
Source: MNDNR

Lake Characteristics

Lake Area (acres): 56471.4
Littoral Area (acres): 18904
Maximum Depth (ft): 69.8
Water Clarity (ft): 9.7 (4.1-19.5)

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

Did you know? The DNR Section of Fisheries has a full-time staff of 285. There are 4 regional and 28 area fisheries offices.

Fish Sampled for the 2013 Survey Year


Gear Used

Number of fish per net

Average Fish Weight (lbs)

Normal Range (lbs)


Normal Range

Black Crappie Gill net 0.13 0.1 - 0.7 0.35 0.2 - 0.5
Brown Bullhead Gill net 0.30 0.1 - 0.6 1.16 0.6 - 1.2
Burbot Gill net 0.09 0.0 - 0.2 2.43 1.1 - 2.1
Northern Pike Gill net 14.13 0.9 - 4.3 1.96 2.4 - 4.3
Rock Bass Gill net 0.22 0.1 - 1.1 0.78 0.3 - 0.6
Shorthead Redhorse Gill net 0.43 0.1 - 0.9 1.92 0.9 - 2.5
Tullibee (cisco) Gill net 8.61 4.9 - 17.6 0.53 0.4 - 0.5
Walleye Gill net 6.30 3.3 - 14.8 1.80 0.9 - 1.5
White Sucker Gill net 2.39 0.8 - 2.4 1.63 1.6 - 2.1
Yellow Perch Gill net 74.43 9.9 - 57.1 0.17 0.2 - 0.3
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 crappie 1 1 1 0 0 0 0 0 3
brown bullhead 0 0 1 6 0 0 0 0 7
burbot 0 0 0 0 2 0 0 0 2
northern pike 0 0 0 5 150 136 32 2 325
rock bass 0 1 4 0 0 0 0 0 5
shorthead redhorse 0 0 0 3 7 0 0 0 10
tullibee (cisco) 1 72 18 106 1 0 0 0 198
walleye 0 0 9 39 68 25 4 0 145
white sucker 0 6 13 1 33 2 0 0 55
yellow perch 475 1105 132 0 0 0 0 0 1712

For the record, the largest Atlantic Salmon taken in Minnesota weighed 12 lbs., 13 oz. and was caught:

    Where: Baptism River, Lake County
    When: 10/12/91
    Statistics: 35.5" length, 16.5" girth

Fish Stocking Activity

Fish Stocked by Species for the Last Ten Years

Year Species Size Number Pounds
2012 Lake Whitefish fingerlings 22,177 213.2
2010 Lake Whitefish fingerlings 15,669 140.0
  Lake Whitefish fry 486,000 10.9
2008 Lake Whitefish fingerlings 14,406 147.0
2007 Lake Whitefish fingerlings 20,658 156.0
2005 Lake Whitefish fry 95,000 1.0
  Lake Whitefish fingerlings 16,824 251.1

Stocking Notes
1 - indicates fish purchased and stocked by private citizens and sporting groups.
2 - indicates fish purchased by the DNR for stocking.

Stocking Fish Sizes
Fry - Newly hatched fish that are ready to be stocked usually called "swim-ups". Walleye fry are 1/3 of an inch or around 8 mm.
Fingerling - Fingerlings are one to six months old and can range from a size of one to twelve inches depending on the species. Walleye fingerlings range from three to eight inches each fall.
Yearling - Yearling fish are at least one year old. A one-year-old fish can range from three to twenty inches depending on the species. Walleye yearlings average from six to twelve inches.
Adult - Adult fish are fish that have reached maturity. Depending on the species, maturity can be reached at two years of age. Walleye reach maturity between the ages of four and six years.

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

County, DOWID
Species Meal Advice Contaminants
Unrestricted 1 meal/week 1 meal/month Do not eat
Cass Co., 11014700
Bullhead   All sizes     Mercury
Cisco All sizes        
Northern Pike   All sizes     Mercury
Walleye   All sizes     Mercury
Yellow Perch   All sizes     Mercury

General Population

County, DOWID
Species Meal Advice Contaminants
Unrestricted 1 meal/week 1 meal/month Do not eat
Cass Co., 11014700
Bullhead All sizes        
Cisco All sizes        
Northern Pike   All sizes     Mercury
Walleye All sizes        
Yellow Perch All sizes        

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.

PCBS - Polychlorinated biphenyls
PFOS - Perfluorooctane sulfanate

Status of the Fishery (as of 06/24/2013)

Lake Winnibigoshish is sampled annually to track changes in abundance and growth of fish species, and physical and chemical characteristics of the lake. The assessment season typically starts with seining and gill netting in late June to early July. The goal of seining is to sample young game and non-game species (including minnows) and to track growth of age 0 Walleye and Yellow Perch (perch). Gill netting is conducted from late June through July to sample game and non-game species age 1 and older. Abundance, growth rates, maturity, presence of parasites etc. is determined from these data. Trawling is conducted in August to continue tracking growth rates of age 0 Walleye and perch. Trawling gives us the first clue to abundance of age 0 Walleye and perch for that year. Temperature and dissolved oxygen profiles are taken from June through August and water chemistry analysis is completed in August to track changes in the system that may affect the ability of some species to prosper or exist in the lake. Plankton sampling was included in standard sampling beginning in 2012 and were continued in 2013. Five samples were taken on seven dates for a total of 35 samples in 2013. These samples were collected to determine baseline planktonic species composition.

Walleye; Walleye were sampled at a rate of 6.6 per net (Figure 1). Walleye sampled varied from 11.2 to 28.8 inches with a mean length of 17.1 inches and mean weight of 1.8 pounds. The Walleye population generally appeared to be healthy with most age-classes sampled between age 2 and 13. Year-class strength was computed for Walleye between age 2 and 7. Two average year-classes (2007, and 2011), three strong year-classes (2006, 2009, and 2010), and one weak year-class (2008) were sampled (Figure 2). Mean back-calculated growth was similar to the Lake Winnibigoshish and statewide average for all ages, attaining 17.4 inches after five growing seasons. The 17 to 26 inch protected slot limit has been in place since 2000. During this time, age and length at maturity has increased from a low of 14.6 inches and 3.2 years to 17.2 inches and 4.2 years (Figures 3 and 4). Spawning stock biomass has increased from 0.5 to 2.7 pounds per acre (Figure 5). This may indicate that the Walleye population has fully recovered from a period of high harvest and reduced recruitment between the mid 1980's and mid 1990's.

The mean trawl catch rate of 5.5 Walleye per hour was the lowest observed since 1983, however, low catch rates may not result in low abundance of that year-class. For example, the trawl catch rate of 20.5 young of the year Walleye per hour in 2005 resulted in an above average year-class. An important factor in year-class strength is growth of those fish during their first year. Young of the year Walleye growth for trawl sampled fish was far below average in 2013. Low catch rates can be explained by extremely clear water during the summer of 2013. Fish of many species were observed avoiding the boat during trawling. Due to this (and to collect samples for the "Walleye Fry Stocking in Egg-Take Lakes" project) night electrofishing was conducted during August. Results of electrofishing were counter to those of trawling. Walleye were sampled at a rate of 88 per hour (data available in the Grand Rapids Area Fisheries Office) and growth was faster than average when compared to historic trawl growth rates. Fast growth of age 0 Walleye often results in a strong year class.

Yellow Perch; Perch are an important species to anglers and as a prey item for predators. The catch of perch in assessment nets reached a historic low (at the time) in 2005, largely due to poor year-classes in 2000 and 2002. A strong 2003 year-class moved through the system resulting in higher catch rates through 2007. Catch rates declined from 2007 through 2011 to a new historic low catch of 43.6 per net. The catch rate for perch increased to 57.5 per net in 2012 and increased again to 74.4 in 2013 (Figure 6). Sampled Perch varied from 5.0 to 11.0 inches with a mean length of 7.0 inches and mean weight of 0.2 pounds. Age-classes 3 through 7 were sampled by gill nets. An index of year-class strength was computed for all year-classes sampled from 2006 through 2010. The 2006 and 2007 year-classes were weak while the 2009 and 2010 year-classes were strong and the 2008 year-class was average (Figure 7). The 2010 year-class appeared to be the strongest since 2003. Natural mortality of perch increases at age 8 and few individuals live past age 10. The catch of perch in 2013 was primarily represented by younger individuals with 95% of the catch made up of age 3 through age 5 fish. Growth was relatively slow through age 2, then increased to average from age 3 to age 8. Perch grew to an average length of 9 inches at age 6.

Relative health of the perch population can be described by the percent of perch longer than nine inches in the gill net catch. The catch of large perch (longer than 9 inches) declined to 6% in the early 1990's driven by high angler harvest. Changes in Lake Winnibigoshish and other lakes prompted a statewide change in the perch bag limit to 20 daily and 40 in possession in 2001. Several strong year classes were produced during the same time period and the assessment catch of perch longer than nine inches increased to 30% in 2004. In 2005, the proportion of large perch sampled in near-shore gill nets declined for the first time since 1998. The proportion of perch longer than nine inches was about 17% in 2005 and 2006, then declined to 9.8% in 2007 as young perch were recruited to the fishery. No strong year classes were produced between 2003 and 2009. As a result the percent of perch longer than 9 inches fluctuated between 10% and 13% between 2007 and 2012. Strong year classes of perch were produced in 2009 and 2010. This resulted in increased catch rates (mostly young fish) and a reduced catch of perch longer than 9 inches (7.7%) in 2013 (Figure 8).

The catch rate for age 0 perch of 6,952 per hour of trawling was below average. Growth of age 0 perch was slower than average with a mean length of 1.8 inches in mid-August. The clear water conditions that appear to have affected trawl catch rates of young of the year Walleye likely affected catch rates of young of the year Yellow Perch also. No correlation is evident between trawl catch rates or growth of age 0 perch and year-class strength.

The microsporidian parasite heterosporis has been documented in Lake Winnibigoshish Yellow Perch. No evidence of heterosporis was observed in perch during the 2013 population assessment, although anglers report the presence of heterosporis in a few perch each year.

Northern Pike; Catch rates of Northern Pike (pike) showed an increasing trend from 1999 through 2005 and exceeded the third quartile (9.6 per net) in five years between 2002 and 2009. The pike catch rate decreased to 7.3 per gill net in 2010 from 10.0 in 2009 then rose to 8.5 in 2011 and was the third highest observed in 2012 at 10.3 per net. The gill net catch of 14.1 per net in 2013 was the highest observed (Figure 9). Pike sampled in 2013 varied from 13.0 to 32.6 inches with a mean length of 20.6 inches. Mean length of pike has been declining as catch rates have increased. Average pike length of 20.6 inches in 2013 was the lowest observed since 1983 (Figure 10). Age-classes from 1 to 5 were sampled by gill net. Growth rates were similar to the statewide mean through all ages.

Size structure of the pike population improved between 2010 and 2012. That trend was reversed in 2013 as a strong component of small young pike were recruited to the gill net catch. Only two pike longer than 30 inches were sampled in the 2013 assessment vs 10 in the 2011 and 9 in the 2012 assessments (Figure 11). Decreased size structure may be attributed to several causes. Reproduction and recruitment was strong for the 2010 and 2011 year classes which made up 74% of the catch, and Cisco abundance decreased due to summer kill in 2012 (Cisco are preferred prey that provides more energy than other similar size prey). A strong prey base of Cisco may lead to faster pike growth rates. High angler harvest of pike may result in a recruitment response (increased reproduction to replace individuals removed from the system). Larger numbers of small pike vs smaller numbers of medium to large pike may cause reduced growth rates due to increased competition for food and space. The recent increase in catch rate may result in slower pike growth in the future. Anglers can help maintain the pike size structure by releasing most pike longer than 25 inches and harvesting pike smaller than 24 inches.

Cisco; Cisco are a primary prey for Muskellunge, pike and Walleye. Growth rates of these species may be less if Cisco are not present in the system. The gill net catch of 8.6 per net in 2013 was the second lowest since 1983 and decreased by nearly 50 percent from the catch of 16.0 per net in 2012 (Figure 12). Cisco sampled varied from 6.0 to 15.5 inches with a mean length of 11.2 inches. Cisco catch rates were lower than average for 6 of the last 10 years. This is likely due to warmer than average summer and fall water temperatures that may affect reproduction and cause occasional summer kills. Summer water temperatures were warm during the summer of 2012 and caused a summer kill of Cisco. Effects of that summer kill were a likely cause of decreased catch rate in 2013.

Water Quality; Seven temperature and dissolved oxygen profiles were taken between June 24 and August 13, 2013. Dissolved oxygen stratification was evident between June 24 and July 24. No evidence of thermal stratification was found in 2013. Thermal and dissolved oxygen stratification may result during periods of high air temperatures and low wind. When wind speeds increase to moderate levels (15 mph) the entire water column appears to mix.

Water chemistry measurements have been recorded for most years since 1983. Water clarity as measured by Secchi disc in 2013 was higher than in most years. Secchi disc measurement varies between 10.0 and 18.0 feet. The measurement on August 13 was 11.0 feet compared to the long term average of 7.0 feet. The Total Phosphorous concentration of 0.023 parts per million (ppm) in 2013 was within the recorded range of 0.015 to 0.051ppm, but was 30 percent lower than the long term mean of 0.030ppm.

Invasive Aquatic Species; Species that have been introduced through human activities to a location where they don't naturally occur are termed "invasive". Some invasive species are not necessarily harmful, but others cause ecological or economic problems. Several invasive species have been introduced to Lake Winnibigoshish. Three species of snail: banded mystery, Chinese mystery, and faucet have become established since 2000. Both species of mystery snail appear to have no negative effect at this time. The faucet snail carries a trematode parasite that can kill several species of ducks if ingested. Thousands of ducks were killed by these parasites during the falls of 2007 and 2008. Emerald shiners (often used as bait) are not native and were first sampled in 2005. Juvenile zebra mussel (veliger), were discovered while sampling for plankton in 2012. No zebra mussel veliger were found while sampling for zooplankton in 2013 No adults were found during 2012 or 2013 assessments. Each of these invasive species were likely introduced through human activities.

For more information on this lake, contact:

Area Fisheries Supervisor
1201 East Hwy 2
Grand Rapids, MN 55744
Phone: (218) 327-4430
Internet: Grand Rapids Fisheries

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 B0010 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

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    Toll-free: (800) 652-9093