Fisheries Lake Survey

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Name: Winnibigoshish

Nearest Town: Bena
Primary County: Cass
Survey Date: 06/23/2014
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.

Lake Characteristics

Lake Area (acres): 56471.63
Littoral Area (acres): 18904
Maximum Depth (ft): 69.8
Water Clarity (ft): 9.9 (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? Each year, DNR fisheries personnel stock game fish fry and fingerlings in lakes lacking habitat for natural reproduction.

Fish Sampled for the 2014 Survey Year


Gear Used

Number of fish per net

Average Fish Weight (lbs)

Normal Range (lbs)


Normal Range

Black Crappie Gill net 0.08 0.1 - 0.7 0.44 0.2 - 0.5
Brown Bullhead Gill net 0.12 0.1 - 0.6 1.53 0.6 - 1.2
Burbot Gill net 0.08 0.0 - 0.2 1.27 1.1 - 2.1
Hybrid Sunfish Gill net 0.04 N/A 0.25 N/A
Northern Pike Gill net 9.62 0.9 - 4.3 2.04 2.4 - 4.3
Rock Bass Gill net 0.25 0.1 - 1.1 0.87 0.3 - 0.6
Shorthead Redhorse Gill net 0.54 0.1 - 0.9 2.32 0.9 - 2.5
Tullibee (cisco) Gill net 9.25 4.9 - 17.6 0.54 0.4 - 0.5
Walleye Gill net 4.62 3.3 - 14.8 1.91 0.9 - 1.5
White Sucker Gill net 2.29 0.8 - 2.4 1.80 1.6 - 2.1
Yellow Perch Gill net 53.88 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 2014 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 0 1 1 0 0 0 0 0 2
brown bullhead 0 0 0 3 0 0 0 0 3
burbot 0 0 0 1 1 0 0 0 2
hybrid sunfish 0 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 1
northern pike 0 0 1 9 73 131 15 2 231
rock bass 1 1 4 0 0 0 0 0 6
shorthead redhorse 0 0 0 1 10 2 0 0 13
tullibee (cisco) 0 78 42 101 1 0 0 0 222
walleye 0 8 1 18 59 21 4 0 111
white sucker 1 2 6 12 31 3 0 0 55
yellow perch 283 922 88 0 0 0 0 0 1293

For the record, the largest Brown Bullhead taken in Minnesota weighed 7 lbs., 1 oz. and was caught:

    Where: Shallow Lake, Itasca County
    When: 5/21/74
    Statistics: 24.4" length

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

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

No fish consumption guidelines are available for this lake. For more information, see the "Fish Consumption Advice" pages at the Minnesota Department of Health.

Status of the Fishery (as of 06/23/2014)

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 was continued through 2014. Six samples were taken on seven dates for a total of 42 samples in 2014. These samples were collected to determine baseline planktonic species composition.

Walleye; Walleye were sampled at a rate of 4.6 per net. Walleye sampled varied from 7.6 to 26.6 inches with an average length of 17.3 inches and average weight of 1.9 pounds. The Walleye population generally appeared to be healthy with most age-classes sampled between age 2 and 13. Walleye year-class strength was computed for fish from age 2 to 7. Two average year-classes (2007, and 2011), two strong year-classes (2009, and 2010), and two weak year-classes (2008, and 2012) were sampled. The 2012 year class of Walleye was as weak as any year class observed since the start of the large lake program (1983). Poor Walleye year classes are expected occasionally. Historic early ice out (April 3 - 2012) with a cold spring following likely affected reproduction and growth of the 2012 year class.

Growth of Walleye 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 17.3 inches and 4.2 years. Pounds of mature female Walleye increased from 0.5 lbs. per acre in 2002 to 2.7 lbs. per acre in 2013. This may indicate that the Walleye population fully recovered from a period of high harvest and reduced recruitment between the mid 1980's and mid 1990's.

The average trawl catch rate of 5.5 Walleye per hour in 2014 was the same as in 2013. These catch rates were the lowest observed since 1983. Both 2013 and 2014 saw increased water clarity which may have affected trawl catch rates. Electrofishing was accomplished between late August and mid-September in 2013 and 2014. Electrofishing catch rates for 2013 and 2014 indicated higher abundance than trawl catch rates would indicate. Electrofishing catch rates in 2013 (88 per hour) were substantiated by higher than average catch of yearling Walleye in 2014 summer gill nets. Walleye may either avoid the trawl during years with high water clarity, or they utilize habitat that is not sampled by trawling.

Low catch rates can be explained by extremely clear water during the summer of 2014. 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 60 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.

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. The gill net catch rate for perch declined to 53.9 per net in 2014.

Sampled perch varied from 5.0 to 11.0 inches with an average length of 7.1 inches and average weight of 0.2 pounds in 2014. Age-classes 2 through 9 were sampled by gill nets. Natural mortality of perch increases at age 8 and few individuals live past age 10. An index of year-class strength was computed for all year-classes sampled from 2007 through 2011. The 2007 year-class was weak while the 2008 and 2009 year-classes were average and the 2010 year-class was strong. The 2011 year class appears weak, however, that year class has not been fully evaluated. The catch of perch in 2014 was primarily represented by younger individuals with 80% of the catch made up of age 2 through age 4 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 8.9 inches at age 6.

Relative health of the perch population can be described by the percent of perch longer than 9 inches in the gill net catch. The catch of perch longer than 9 inches (large perch) declined to 5.5% 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 gill net catch of large perch 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 large perch 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 large perch fluctuated between 10% and 13% between 2007 and 2012. A strong year class of perch was produced in 2010. This resulted in increased gill net catch rates (mostly young fish) and a reduced catch of large perch (7.7%) in 2013. The catch of perch continued to be dominated by small young fish in 2014. The perch catch of 6.8% longer than 9 inches in 2014 was the third lowest observed since 1983.

The trawl catch rate for age 0 perch of 10,351 per hour of trawling was similar to average catch rates since 1983. Growth of age 0 perch was average with a average length of 2.0 inches in mid-August. Clear water conditions that appear to have affected trawl catch rates of young of the year Walleye may have affected catch rates of young of the year perch also. Few age 0 perch were sampled in trawl hauls less than 10 feet of water during the first week of trawling. Catch rates of age 0 perch are typically highest in less than 8 feet. 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 perch. No evidence of heterosporis was observed in perch during the 2014 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 1994 through 2005 and exceeded the third quartile (9.6 per net) in four years between 2002 and 2009. The pike catch rate was relatively stable and generally within the interquartile range between 2006 and 2011. Gill net catch rates increased dramatically between 2011 and 2014, reaching a new historic high of 14.1 per net in 2013. Catch rates decreased to 9.6 per net in 2014. Pike sampled in 2014 varied from 11.4 to 36.2 inches with a average length of 20.7 inches. Average length of pike has been declining as catch rates have increased. Average pike length of 20.7 inches in 2014 was the near the lowest observed since 1983. Age-classes from 1 to 6 were sampled by gill net. Growth rates were similar to the statewide average 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 and 2014 assessment vs 10 in the 2011 and 9 in the 2012 assessments. Decreased size structure may be attributed to several causes. Reproduction and recruitment was strong for the 2011 and 2012 year classes which made up 75% 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 22 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 9.3 per net in 2014 was the third lowest since 1983, but increased somewhat from 2013. Cisco sampled varied from 6.5 to 16.3 inches with an average length of 10.8 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. Water temperatures were warm during the summer of 2012 and caused a summer kill of Cisco. Increased catch rate in 2014 may indicate that recovery from the 2012 summer kill has begun.

Water Quality; Seven temperature and dissolved oxygen profiles were taken between June 24 and August 14, 2014. Dissolved oxygen stratification was evident on August 5th and August 14th. No evidence of thermal stratification was found in 2014. 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. As in 2013, water clarity as measured by Secchi disc in 2014 was higher than in most years. Secchi disc measurement varied between 10.0 and 12.0 feet. The measurement on August 14 was 11.0 feet, compared to the long term average of 7.0 feet. The Total Phosphorous concentration of 0.022 parts per million (ppm) in 2013 was within the recorded range of 0.015 to 0.051ppm, but was nearly 30 percent lower than the long term average 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 and 2014. Shoreline and mid lake areas of rock were investigated for adult zebra mussel in August of 2014. No adults have been discovered in any 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

Tip Logo    Turn in Poachers (TIP):

    Toll-free: (800) 652-9093