Fisheries Lake Survey

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Name: Fox

Nearest Town: Sherburn
Primary County: Martin
Survey Date: 09/02/2014
Inventory Number: 46010900
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Public Access Information

Ownership Type Description
Private Property Concrete Fox Lake Club access on east end of lake. 103N 32W S34
DNR Concrete State access on the NE end of lake. 103N 32W S34


Lake Characteristics

Lake Area (acres): 951.02
Littoral Area (acres): 780
Maximum Depth (ft): 20
Water Clarity (ft): 3.0 (1.8-10.5)

Dominant Bottom Substrate: N/A
Abundance of Aquatic Plants: N/A
Maximum Depth of Plant Growth (ft): 3.6 (0-5.7)


Did you know? Much of Minnesota's fisheries program is reimbursed by the Federal Aid in Sport Fish Restoration Program (federal excise tax), administered by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

Fish Sampled for the 2014 Survey Year

Species

Gear Used

Number of fish per net

Average Fish Weight (lbs)

Normal Range (lbs)

Caught

Normal Range

Bigmouth Buffalo Trap net 1.08 0.2 - 0.8 0.26 2.5 - 5.7
Gill net 44.17 0.3 - 1.7 0.19 N/A
Black Bullhead Gill net 0.17 2.5 - 45.0 0.74 0.3 - 0.7
Black Crappie Trap net 6.92 1.8 - 21.2 0.25 0.2 - 0.3
Gill net 6.83 2.5 - 16.5 0.33 0.1 - 0.3
Bluegill Trap net 0.67 7.5 - 62.5 0.39 0.1 - 0.3
Channel Catfish Trap net 0.58 N/A 6.42 N/A
Gill net 2.17 N/A 5.35 N/A
Common Carp Trap net 2.00 0.4 - 2.0 8.83 2.6 - 6.0
Gill net 0.33 0.3 - 3.0 7.94 1.9 - 5.2
Freshwater Drum Trap net 23.08 0.5 - 4.2 1.39 0.4 - 1.2
Gill net 42.50 4.0 - 32.3 0.76 0.3 - 1.1
Largemouth Bass Trap net 0.08 0.2 - 0.7 0.09 0.2 - 0.9
Muskellunge Trap net 0.17 0.4 - 0.5 21.57 1.5 - 7.0
Walleye Trap net 1.25 0.3 - 1.2 3.57 0.8 - 2.8
Gill net 5.67 1.2 - 6.3 1.24 1.2 - 2.7
Yellow Bullhead Trap net 0.08 0.9 - 5.7 1.06 0.5 - 0.8
Yellow Perch Trap net 1.58 0.3 - 1.7 0.24 0.1 - 0.2
Gill net 25.00 2.0 - 27.9 0.23 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 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
bigmouth buffalo 234 34 0 1 0 0 2 0 271
black bullhead 0 0 1 0 0 0 0 0 1
black crappie 70 32 9 11 0 0 0 0 122
bluegill 3 4 1 0 0 0 0 0 8
channel catfish 0 0 0 0 0 9 11 0 20
common carp 0 0 0 0 0 13 11 2 26
freshwater drum 66 23 24 240 161 0 0 0 514
largemouth bass 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 1
muskellunge 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 2 2
walleye 0 1 19 7 10 8 1 0 46
yellow bullhead 0 0 1 0 0 0 0 0 1
yellow perch 1 167 0 0 0 0 0 0 168


For the record, the largest Pumpkinseed taken in Minnesota weighed 1 lb., 5.6 oz. and was caught:

    Where: Leech Lake, Cass County
    When: 6/6/99
    Statistics: 10.1" length, 12 1/8" girth

Fish Stocking Activity

Fish Stocked by Species for the Last Ten Years

Year Species Size Number Pounds
2014 muskellunge fingerlings 520 108.6
  walleye 79,765 75.2
2013 Walleye 79,066 57.0
  Walleye fingerlings 16,951 737.0
  Walleye fingerlings 2,300 100.0
  Walleye 23,688 33.0
2012 Muskellunge fingerlings 527 98.8
2011 Walleye 113,943 43.3
2010 Muskellunge1 yearlings 250 120.2
  Walleye 117,159 61.5
2009 Walleye1 fingerlings 10,185 780.0
2008 Muskellunge1 fingerlings 520 36.5
  Walleye1 fingerlings 8,103 780.0
2007 Walleye fingerlings 8,993 822.0
2006 Muskellunge1 fingerlings 520 43.3
  Walleye fingerlings 14,160 708.0
  Walleye yearlings 370 74.0
2005 Walleye1 fingerlings 8,580 780.0

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

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
FOX
Martin Co., 46010900
Bluegill Sunfish All sizes        
Carp All sizes        
Channel Catfish All sizes        
Crappie   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
FOX
Martin Co., 46010900
Bluegill Sunfish All sizes        
Carp All sizes        
Channel Catfish All sizes        
Crappie 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.

Dioxin
Mercury
PCBS - Polychlorinated biphenyls
PFOS - Perfluorooctane sulfanate


Status of the Fishery (as of 09/02/2014)

INTRODUCTION

Fox Lake is a 1,041 acre lake located in south-central Minnesota near the city of Sherburn in Martin County. Fox Lake has a maximum depth of 20 feet with nearly 75 percent of the lake having water less than 15 feet deep. Minnesota lakes managed for fishing are grouped into classes based on physical and chemical similarities and Fox Lake is assigned to lake class 24. Lake class 24 consists of shallow relatively turbid lakes high in nutrients with a smaller littoral area and irregular shape. The lake-to-watershed ratio for Fox Lake is 4-to-1, which indicates a relatively small influence of the watershed to the lake. Watershed improvements have helped the return of aquatic vegetation. As a result water clarity is gradually increasing. A Martin County Soil and Watershed District led program started in 2012 is focused on further improving watershed conditions for Fox Lake as well other Martin County Lakes. Improvements in the watershed for Fox Lake will continue to show up as improvements in water quality and clarity within the lake that will ultimately lead to healthier conditions for the fish community.

Like many lakes in southern Minnesota, Fox Lake is managed primarily for Walleye and secondarily for panfish; in this case crappie. However, Fox Lake is unique because it is also managed primarily for Muskellunge and is the southernmost Muskellunge lake in the state, which provides a unique angling opportunity. In addition, Fox Lake has been gill netted and trap netted annually since 1991, which has provided an exceptional fish catch history to analyze fish population trends and make the best fish management decisions. Finally, unlike many lakes in southern Minnesota, Fox Lake has never been aerated during the winter and provides a more stable dissolved oxygen profile during winter when compared to other area lakes. Ultimately, Fox Lake has proven to be a valuable and unique resource in southern Minnesota for lakeshore owners, local and regional anglers, as well as general recreational users.

The management goals for Fox Lake are to maintain a Walleye population at an abundance that will consistently yield gill net catches above 6 fish per net with a balanced length distribution (fish of all possible sizes in the sample). Another management goal is to continue efforts to establish a fishery for trophy size Muskellunge. Lastly, another goal is to maintain secondary populations of crappie within interquartile ranges for trap net catches which are 0.5 to 6.6 fish per net for white crappie and 1.8 to 21.2 fish per net for Black Crappie. Populations of the above mentioned species will be maintained through stocking (Walleye and Muskellunge) or natural reproduction (White and Black Crappie). In order to assess the management goals for Fox Lake, a fish population assessment is conducted each September. The following information outlines the information collected during the latest population assessment in September 2014 using 12 trap nets and 6 gill nets.

WALLEYE

The expected gill net catch rate of Walleye in Fox Lake is between 1.2 and 6.3 per net and the expected range for the trap net catch rate is between 0.3 and 1.2 per net. The gill net catch rate in 2014 was 5.7 per net which is within the expected range and nearly equal to the management goal of 6 per net. In addition, the trap net catch rate was 1.3 per net which is equal to a normal catch rate for lakes similar to Fox Lake. Historically, the Fox Lake gill net catch rate has been sporadic with catches ranging from 0.5 to 45.2 from 1981 to 2001 with an average catch rate of 9.8 per gill net during that same time frame. Since 2002, the catch rates have varied to a lesser degree from 0.5 to 5.7 with an average catch rate of 2.4 Walleye per gill net indicating a more stable and less abundant fish population. The reduction in the average catch rate from 9.8 Walleye per gill net from 1981 to 2001 to 2.4 Walleye per gill net from 2002 to 2013 is not easily explainable and is most likely the result of many factors. From 1979 to 2009 Fox Lake was stocked with Walleye fry, fingerlings, yearlings, and adults. Analyzing the catch rate after each stocking, it appeared that the highest catch rates were correlated to fry stockings in 1983 and 1984 and intensive fingerling stocking in 1992 and 1993. But, suppressed catch rates from 2002 to 2013 occur during similar stocking strategies indicating other factors may be involved. Since 1998, competition for limited prey resources has never been higher in Fox Lake with the emergence of robust populations of White crappie, Black Crappie, Largemouth Bass, and Channel Catfish and the decline of Black Bullhead as an additional forage base. In addition, Muskellunge have been stocked in Fox Lake since 1999 adding an additional predator. Starting in 2010, Walleye frylings (2 to 3 inch fish) have been stocked annually showing some improvement in gill net catch rates, 3.2 to 3.5 fish per gill net from 2011 to 2012. However, competition with other predators or other unknown factors appears to continue to suppress the Walleye population abundance. In response, fingerling Walleye were stocked in the fall of 2013. The gill net catch rate in 2014 (5.7 per net) was 1.6 to 3.1 times greater than catch rates over the previous 3 years. All age-1 Walleye (2013 year class) caught in the 2014 gill net sample were inspected for oxytetracycline (OTC) marks on their inner ear bones (known as otoliths). An OTC mark would indicate that the Walleye is from the fryling stocking (marked fish) in 2013 and not the fingerling stocked fish in 2013. Four of the 23 age-1 Walleye (17%) had an OTC mark. This indicated that the fryling stocking may have only contributed 17% of the Walleye in the 2013 year class. Therefore, the fingerling stocking was highly successful making up 83% of the age-1 fish, assuming no natural reproduction occurred. The size structure of the population was also good in 2014 and shows promise for the perpetuation of catchable size Walleye in the future. Walleye of all sizes are becoming more common in anglers catches with local fishing reports indicating the "best Walleye fishing in recent years". The Walleye in the sample in 2014 ranged from 10.0 to 25.0 inches with an average size of 13.9 inches in the gill net sample and 19.6 in the trap net sample. Aging of otoliths from gill net fish revealed 5 age groups (ages 1, 4, 5, 6, and 17). Interestingly, only 2 age-4 fish and 4 age-1 fish can be directly linked to fryling stocking showing a limited contribution of fryling stocking from the Walleye in the aged sample (n=34). Regardless of stocking method, Walleye in the sample were healthy and had good body condition. Future abundance of the Walleye population appears directly related to other species leading to competition for limited food sources at times and potential negative interactions at the time Walleye are stocked. Improvement of the Walleye population abundance will most likely occur if White Crappie, Black Crappie, or Channel Catfish abundance decreases (none are stocked). Additionally, it may be beneficial to stock Walleye fry in the spring of each year and add additional fingerling Walleye if needed. Without a reduced abundance of other predators in Fox Lake or a change in management it is likely that the population will not exceed current abundance levels.

MUSKELLUNGE

Muskie have been stocked into Fox Lake starting in 1999 with subsequent stockings in 2001, 2004, 2006, 2008, 2010, 2012, and 2014. No natural reproduction of Muskie has been documented in Fox Lake so all fish present are from stocking. Ages of Muskie in Fox Lake range from 2 to 17 years old. Muskies over 10 years old have the ability to reach trophy size so potential exists for the Fox Lake Muskie population to have trophy individuals present in the lake. In 2014, 2 Muskies were caught in the trap net sample (0.2 fish per net). Muskie are not effectively sampled with gill nets or standard trap nets and the long-term catch rates from 2000 to 2014 reflect that with gill net catch rates varying from only 0 to 0.7 fish per net. Therefore, in 2011 a long-term Muskie study was started focusing on obtaining information leading to a population estimate that will help determine the ideal stocking rate for Fox Lake. Large-frame trap nets were used in 2011, 2012, and 2013 in the spring to capture Muskie, particularly Muskie greater than 34 inches (considered mature adults). In 2011, 140 Muskie were caught over 2 weeks in May. The Muskie ranged in length from 14.5 to 48.9 inches with an average length of 41.7 inches. In 2012, 45 Muskie were caught over 3 weeks in April and May. Muskie ranged in length from 31.0 to 48.7 inches with an average length of 41.5 inches. In 2013, 107 Muskie were sampled over 2 weeks in April and May. Muskie ranged in length from 29.0 to 50.4 inches with an average length of 41.1 inches. Fluctuations in catch rates from year-to-year is the result of vastly different spring water temperatures and duration of spring spawning conditions. Population estimates from the 3 year study put the population number of Muskie greater than 34 inches somewhere between 190 to 287 individuals with 95% confidence. This indicates the population is doing well and many large Muskies are present in the lake. The Muskie population will be monitored bi-annually with large frame trap nets starting in the spring 2015.

CRAPPIE

Two species of crappie (Black and White) have been sampled historically in Fox Lake. However, in 2014 only Black Crappie were sampled in gill nets and trap nets. The catch rates of Black Crappie were 6.8 fish per gill net (n=41) and 6.9 fish per trap net (n=83). Catch rates of Black Crappie are not necessarily the best indicator of how well the population is doing. Black Crappie catch rates tend to vary widely from year to year and even from season to season and the population size structure is more indicative of the overall health of the population in the lake. Black Crappie ranged in size from 3.4 to 13.6 inches with an average length of 6.3 inches in the gill net sample and 6.1 inches in the trap net sample. Overall, it appears that the Black Crappie population has a balanced size structure. Production of younger Black Crappie (3-4 inch fish) in the population in 2014 also helped to balance the Black Crappie population. Future assessments, including potential spring trap netting, will monitor the Black Crappie populations to determine relative abundance, size structure, and recruitment.

YELLOW PERCH

Yellow Perch in Fox Lake are the main forage for the Walleye and muskellunge populations. Fluctuations in the abundance of the Yellow Perch population can lead to fluctuations in the Walleye and Muskellunge populations. The historical catch rates of Yellow Perch in the gill nets range from a low of 0.3 per gill net in 1992 to a high of 80.5 in 2012 and from 0 per trap net in 1986, 1989, and 1992 to 22.6 per trap net in 1997. The 2014 gill net catch rate was a more typical catch rate of 25.0 fish per gill net (n=150). However, over the past 4 years the Yellow Perch population has fluctuated from lows of 1.5 (2013) and 1.8 per gill net (2011) to a high of 80.5 per gill net (2012). A cause in the swing in catch rate from very low to very high is not completely understood, but growth of vast aquatic vegetation beds over the last 5 years may give the Yellow Perch population a place to successfully hide from survey nets as well as from predators. Increased survival of the Yellow Perch in Fox Lake will improve the chances of sustaining a consistent abundance of forage sized fish in the lake that will help the Yellow Perch population sustain itself. The size of Yellow Perch in the 2014 sample ranged from 5.2 to 8.8 inches with an average length of 7.8 inches in the gill net sample and 8.0 inches in the trap net sample. This range of sizes may be a little large for Walleye forage but it is adequate for Muskellunge, and at levels that will allow for plentiful availability.

OTHER SPECIES

Other species of fish caught in the 2014 survey were Bigmouth Buffalo (278), Black Bullhead (84), Channel Catfish (20), Common Carp (26), Freshwater Drum (532), and Largemouth Bass (1). Of the species listed above, Bigmouth Buffalo, Channel Catfish, and Freshwater Drum are the most prevalent. Bigmouth Buffalo in the population are mainly 4 to 7 inches indicating successful spawn in recent years. Channel Catfish are doing well in Fox Lake and currently range in length from 20.4 to 28.9 inches with an average weight of 5.7 pounds. The abundant Channel Catfish population is the suspected reason why the bullhead population is not as prevalent as it has been in the past due to predation and competition for common resources. Finally, Freshwater Drum are the most abundant "rough" fish in the population with a gill net catch rate of 42.5 fish per net. Freshwater Drum in the 2014 sample ranged in length from 4.8 to 19.4 inches with an average of 10.9 inches in the gill net sample and 14.9 inches in the trap net sample. With an abundant Muskie and potentially expanding Walleye population, Freshwater Drum will increasingly become important as forage for larger Muskellunge and Walleye.

SUMMARY

Overall, the Fox Lake fish community appears to be doing well with a diverse fish community that is seeing improvements in managed fish species abundance and/or size structure. Further Improvements in the lake for the fish community should focus on best management practices in the watershed. Improvements and education in land stewardship will often have secondary benefits to the lake in the way of quality and quantity of habitat. Generally, improvements in the quality and quantity of lake habitat will result in direct improvements for the fish community. Wise use of our natural resources makes us good stewards to the land and water that all of us use every day.

Prepared by Nate Hodgins


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
E-Mail: Windom.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 D0266 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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    Toll-free: (800) 652-9093