Fisheries Lake Survey

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Name: Sisseton

Nearest Town: Fairmont
Primary County: Martin
Survey Date: 08/19/2013
Inventory Number: 46002500
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Public Access Information

Ownership Type Description

Lake Characteristics

Lake Area (acres): 138.2
Littoral Area (acres): 100
Maximum Depth (ft): 19
Water Clarity (ft): 2.4

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

Did you know? The annual budget for the Section of Fisheries is approximately $17 million, which is funded primarily by fishing license and stamp fees and by a federal excise tax on fishing and boating equipment.

Fish Sampled for the 2013 Survey Year


Gear Used

Number of fish per net

Average Fish Weight (lbs)

Normal Range (lbs)


Normal Range

Black Bullhead Trap net 0.25 0.7 - 25.7 0.79 0.3 - 0.6
Gill net 1.33 2.5 - 45.0 0.88 0.3 - 0.7
Black Crappie Trap net 3.75 1.8 - 21.2 0.67 0.2 - 0.3
Gill net 0.33 2.5 - 16.5 0.68 0.1 - 0.3
Bluegill Trap net 4.38 7.5 - 62.5 0.30 0.1 - 0.3
Gill net 0.67 N/A 0.60 N/A
Channel Catfish Trap net 0.88 N/A 3.91 N/A
Gill net 6.67 N/A 2.08 N/A
Common Carp Trap net 2.50 0.4 - 2.0 8.01 2.6 - 6.0
Gill net 0.67 0.3 - 3.0 9.59 1.9 - 5.2
Freshwater Drum Trap net 17.62 0.5 - 4.2 0.86 0.4 - 1.2
Gill net 29.67 4.0 - 32.3 0.88 0.3 - 1.1
Largemouth Bass Trap net 0.25 0.2 - 0.7 4.08 0.2 - 0.9
Gill net 0.33 0.3 - 0.8 1.77 0.4 - 1.0
Northern Pike Trap net 0.38 N/A 5.66 N/A
Walleye Trap net 1.62 0.3 - 1.2 0.99 0.8 - 2.8
Gill net 0.67 1.2 - 6.3 1.04 1.2 - 2.7
White Crappie Trap net 1.75 0.5 - 6.6 0.57 0.2 - 0.4
Gill net 0.33 0.7 - 10.4 0.53 0.2 - 0.3
White Sucker Trap net 1.12 0.2 - 1.0 2.59 1.6 - 2.8
Gill net 0.67 0.4 - 2.2 2.04 1.5 - 2.4
Yellow Bullhead Trap net 0.38 0.9 - 5.7 0.77 0.5 - 0.8
Gill net 9.00 0.5 - 7.5 0.58 0.5 - 0.8
Yellow Perch Trap net 0.12 0.3 - 1.7 0.48 0.1 - 0.2
Gill net 7.67 2.0 - 27.9 0.41 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 0 4 2 0 0 0 0 6
black crappie 1 1 28 1 0 0 0 0 31
bluegill 12 19 0 0 0 0 0 0 37
channel catfish 0 0 0 7 7 13 0 0 27
common carp 0 0 0 0 0 10 11 0 22
freshwater drum 1 0 33 190 2 0 0 0 230
largemouth bass 0 0 0 1 2 0 0 0 3
northern pike 0 0 0 0 0 0 2 1 3
walleye 0 0 0 11 4 0 0 0 15
white crappie 0 0 15 0 0 0 0 0 15
white sucker 0 0 0 0 10 1 0 0 11
yellow bullhead 0 4 26 0 0 0 0 0 30
yellow perch 0 10 12 0 0 0 0 0 24

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 Stocking Activity

Fish Stocked by Species for the Last Ten Years

Year Species Size Number Pounds
2012 Walleye adults 257 33.0
  Walleye fingerlings 634 103.0
2011 Walleye fingerlings 1,656 105.0
2010 Walleye yearlings 792 132.0
2008 Walleye fingerlings 1,300 100.0
2006 Walleye fingerlings 1,920 96.0

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 08/19/2013)

INTRODUCTION Sisseton Lake is a 139-acre lake, located in the City of Fairmont, in Martin County. Sisseton Lake is part of the Fairmont chain of lakes which includes Wilmert, Mud, Amber, Hall, Budd, Sisseton, and George lakes. Sisseton Lake has a maximum depth of 19.0 feet, which is relatively deep for lakes in southwest Minnesota. Residential development has altered much of the Fairmont chain of lake's shoreline, especially within city limits. In areas with residential development, lawns are typically maintained to the water's edge and shorelines are altered with rock rip rap or sand blankets, thereby disrupting the natural riparian buffer. Excessive nutrient runoff from lawns and impervious surfaces likely contribute to the chain's turbid water, which prevents aquatic vegetation from establishing in the system. Dredging has occurred on some of the chain's lakes, likely contributing to the low abundance of aquatic vegetation. Sisseton Lake's gravel and sand shoreline substrate with abundant woody debris provides good habitat for fish and invertebrates. Angling pressure on the Fairmont chain of lakes is typically high due to its close proximity to the city of Fairmont. Sisseton Lake is managed primarily for walleye and secondarily for bluegill, yellow perch, channel catfish, and crappie. A combination of walleye fingerlings, yearlings, and adults have been stocked in 2004, 2006, 2008, and 2010  2012, with the current stocking regime calling for walleye fingerlings to be stocked every other year (2014, 2016, &). A population assessment was conducted during the week of August 19, 2013 to monitor fish populations using three gill nets and eight trap nets.

WALLEYE The 2013 walleye catch rate of 0.7 per gill net equaled the lowest observed catch rate of walleye in Sisseton Lake (0.7 per gill net in 2001). Historically, catch rates have varied from 0.7 per gill net in 2001 and 2013 to 4.0 per gill net in 2005, and have averaged 2.4 per gill net since 1984. The 2013 trap net catch rate of walleyes (1.6 per trap net) was high when compared to similar lakes, suggesting that walleyes may be more abundant than the gill nets indicated. Size structure of walleyes was small, as walleyes ranged from 12.5 to 18.5 inches and averaged 14.3 inches, with 77 percent being less than 15 inches in length. Various stocking strategies for walleye have been tried in Sisseton Lake with varying degrees of success. Walleye fry stocking has been tried sporadically throughout the history of management on Sisseton Lake, but has been mostly ineffective. Fingerling stocking appears to be the most successful strategy, likely because the walleye fingerlings have attained a size at which they are not vulnerable to predation by crappies and bluegills.

BLUEGILL Historically, bluegill catch rates in Sisseton Lake have been low. Bluegill catch rates have ranged from 0.9 per trap net in 1993 to 19.5 per trap net in 1984 and have averaged 6.5 per trap net since 1984. The 2013 catch rate (4.4 per trap net) was slightly below average and lower than the expected range of catch rates (7.5 to 62.5 per trap net) for similar lakes, but was nearly double the catch rate observed in 2005 (2.6 per trap net). Size structure of bluegills was decent as bluegills ranged in length from 3.6 to 8.7 inches and averaged 6.4 inches. Slightly over half of the bluegills sampled were greater than 7.0 inches in length. Bluegills typically do well in lakes that are relatively clear and have abundant aquatic vegetation. Sisseton Lake's turbid water and lack of aquatic vegetation may be preventing the bluegill population from attaining an abundance that is more characteristic of lakes like Sisseton.

YELLOW PERCH Yellow perch abundance has steadily declined since surveys began in 1984, going from a high of 79.0 per gill net in 1984 to a low of 3.0 per gill net in 2005 and averaging 26.8 per gill net. In 2013, yellow perch were captured at a rate of 7.7 per gill net, which is within the expected range of catch rates (2.0 to 27.9 per gill net) for similar lakes, and up from the 2005 catch rate of 3.0 per gill net. Size structure of yellow perch was decent as lengths ranged from 7.1 to 11.0 inches and averaged 8.9 inches. Sixty-five percent of yellow perch captured were greater than 8 inches in length.

CRAPPIE Black crappie and white crappie populations have been highly variable in Sisseton Lake. Black crappie abundance has ranged from 0.0 per trap net in 1984 to 12.0 per trap net in 2001, and has averaged 3.7 per trap net since 1984. White crappie abundance has ranged from 0.3 per trap net in 1993 to 17.9 per tap net in 1984, and has averaged 11.7 per trap net since 1984. In 2013, catch rates of both black and white crappies were within the expected ranges for similar lakes at 3.8 per trap net (1.8 to 21.2 per trap net) and 1.8 per trap net (0.5 to 6.5 per trap net), respectively. Crappie populations tend to be driven by occasional strong year classes that are produced every 3 to 5 years, which results in a boom or bust fishery. In Sisseton Lake, it appears that the black crappie population is dominated by a year class in the 9.0 to 11.0 inch range, with two additional year classes present but in low numbers. The white crappie population appears to be dominated by a single year class in the 9.0 to 11.0 inch range, illustrating the boom or bust concept. Lengths of black crappies ranged from 3.3 to 12.5 inches and averaged 10.0 inches. Lengths of white crappies ranged from 9.4 to 10.8 inches and averaged 9.9 inches. Crappies tend to spawn in shallow areas where woody debris or vegetation is present. Strong year classes of crappies could be limited to years in which precipitation is high and terrestrial vegetation is inundated, which provides spawning habitat for crappies.

CHANNEL CATFISH Channel catfish were first sampled in Sisseton Lake in 1997, and have been increasing in abundance ever since. The 2013 catch rate of channel catfish was the highest observed catch rate on Sisseton Lake since surveys began in 1984, being sampled at a rate of 6.7 per gill net. Channel catfish ranged in length from 12.6 to 24.5 inches and averaged 19.0 inches. Channel catfish populations tend to be increasing throughout southwest Minnesota, so it is not surprising to see an increase in abundance in Sisseton Lake. Some evidence suggests that channel catfish are highly effective at controlling black bullhead populations, which may account for the low catch rates of black bullheads (1.3 per gill net and 0.3 per trap net) in Sisseton Lake.

OTHER SPECIES Since the early 1990's, trap net catch rates of black bullheads have been below the expected range (0.7 to 25.6 per trap net) for similar lakes. The trend continued in 2013 as black bullheads were captured at a rate of 0.3 per trap net, well below the long term average of 59.1 per trap net. Black bullheads ranged from 9.7 to 12.5 inches in length.

Freshwater drum are abundant in Sisseton Lake as the 2013 gill net catch rates (29.7 per gill net) and trap net catch rates (17.6 per trap net) were high when compared to similar lakes. Historical catch rates have also been high in Sisseton Lake, averaging 29.4 per gill net since 1984. Freshwater drum ranged in length from 3.1 to 16.6 inches and averaged 12.6 inches.

Common carp catch rates decreased from 4.7 per gill net in 2005 to 0.7 per gill net in 2013 which is within the expected range of catch rates (0.3 to 3.0 per gill net) for similar lakes. The 2013 trap net catch rate of common carp (2.5 per trap net) exceeded the expected range (0.4 to 2.0 per trap net) for similar lakes, but decreased from the 2005 catch rate of 5.4 per trap net. Common carp ranged in length from 20.2 to 29.2 inches and averaged 25.7 inches.

Three largemouth bass were caught during the survey. Largemouth bass have a tendency to avoid gill nets and trap nets; therefore, the presence of largemouth bass in the sampling gears suggests that they may be relatively abundant in this system.

Northern Pike have historically occurred in low abundance in Sisseton Lake. That trend continued as three northern pike were captured in trap nets during the survey. The northern pike had total lengths of 26.1, 26.9, and 33.8 inches, and a mean weight of 5.7 pounds.

The yellow bullhead catch rate was the highest observed catch rate for that species since surveys began, at 9.0 per gill net, which exceeds the expected range of catch rates (0.5 to 7.5 per gill net) for similar lakes. Yellow bullheads ranged in length from 8.0 to 11.5 inches and averaged 9.1 inches.

Another species sampled was white sucker (1.1 per trap net, 0.7 per gill net).

Anglers can help maintain or improve the quality of fishing by practicing selective harvest. Selective harvest allows for the harvest of smaller fish for table fare, but encourages release of medium- to large-sized fish. Releasing these fish can help maintain balance in the fish community and provide anglers the opportunity to catch more and larger fish in the future.

Shoreline areas on the land and into the shallow water provide essential habitat for fish and wildlife that live in or near Minnesota's lakes. Overdeveloped shorelines cannot support the fish, wildlife, and clean water that are associated with natural undeveloped lakes. Shoreline habitat consists of aquatic plants, woody plants, and natural lake bottom soils.

Plants in the water and at the water's edge provide habitat, prevent erosion, and absorb excess nutrients. Shrubs, trees, and woody debris such as fallen trees or limbs provide good habitat both above and below the water and should be left in place. By leaving a buffer strip of natural vegetation along the shoreline, property owners can reduce erosion, help maintain or improve water quality, and provide habitat and travel corridors for wildlife.

Best management practices within the watershed (no-till farming, cover crops, buffer strips, targeted fertilizer application, reduced or metered tiling) would help reduce nutrients entering the lake. High nutrient and sediment input can cause algae blooms and reduce overall water quality. Any improvements in the watershed are likely to have positive impacts on the fishery.

Prepared by Jonah Dagel

For more information on this lake, contact:

Area Fisheries Supervisor
175 Co Rd 26
Windom, MN 56101-1868
Phone: (507) 831-2900
Internet: Windom 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 C0460 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