Fisheries Lake Survey

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Name: St. James

Nearest Town: Saint James
Primary County: Watonwan
Survey Date: 04/11/2011
Inventory Number: 83004300
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Public Access Information

Ownership Type Description
City Concrete

Lake Characteristics

Lake Area (acres): 202.76
Littoral Area (acres): 202.76
Maximum Depth (ft): 15.4
Water Clarity (ft): 2.5 (1.9-3)

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

Did you know? Minnesota waters support 153 species of fish.

Fish Sampled for the 2011 Survey Year


Gear Used

Number of fish per net

Average Fish Weight (lbs)

Normal Range (lbs)


Normal Range

Black Bullhead Gill net 2.67 9.6 - 91.4 1.19 0.2 - 0.5
Black Crappie Trap net 0.44 2.4 - 15.1 0.42 0.2 - 0.4
Gill net 2.33 1.5 - 14.7 0.69 0.1 - 0.3
Bluegill Trap net 4.89 1.9 - 29.5 0.09 0.2 - 0.3
Gill net 4.33 N/A 0.29 N/A
Largemouth Bass Trap net 2.56 0.3 - 1.2 0.07 0.4 - 1.2
Gill net 0.33 0.5 - 1.0 2.20 0.2 - 1.5
Northern Pike Trap net 3.78 N/A 0.87 N/A
Gill net 31.33 1.5 - 7.0 0.95 1.5 - 3.4
Walleye Gill net 2.33 1.0 - 7.3 1.55 1.0 - 2.8
Yellow Perch Trap net 0.89 0.5 - 3.4 0.34 0.1 - 0.3
Gill net 67.33 3.0 - 26.5 0.48 0.1 - 0.3
Normal Ranges represent typical catches for lakes with similar physical and chemical characteristics.

Length of Selected Species (Trapnet, Gillnet) Sampled for the 2011 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 2 0 2 4 0 0 0 0 8
black crappie 1 2 7 1 0 0 0 0 11
bluegill 42 14 0 0 0 0 0 0 57
largemouth bass 22 0 0 1 0 0 0 0 24
northern pike 0 0 1 13 113 0 1 0 128
walleye 0 0 0 3 4 0 0 0 7
yellow perch 3 66 137 1 0 0 0 0 210

For the record, the largest Longnose Sucker taken in Minnesota weighed 3 lbs., 10.6 oz. and was caught:

    Where: Brule River, Cook County
    When: 5/19/05
    Statistics: 21" length, 10.25" girth

Fish Stocking Activity

Fish Stocked by Species for the Last Ten Years

Year Species Size Number Pounds
2015 Walleye yearlings 3,222 312.0
2013 Largemouth Bass fingerlings 2,153 11.0
  Walleye fingerlings 5,510 240.0
  Walleye fingerlings 1,800 75.0
2011 Walleye fingerlings 5,875 267.1
2009 Walleye yearlings 20 20.0
  Walleye fingerlings 8,414 358.0
2007 Walleye yearlings 1,912 239.0
  Walleye fingerlings 1,908 212.0
2006 Northern Pike fingerlings 2,651 14.6

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 04/11/2011)

St. James Lake is a 252-acre lake located within the city limits of St. James in Watonwan County. It has a history of dredging and therefore has some deep holes that maintain a maximum depth of 16 feet. Historically, St. James Lake had good water clarity, abundant macrophytes, and a respectable sunfish fishery prior to 1995. However by 1999, St. James Lake had poor water clarity, was virtually devoid of macrophytes, and had a less than respectable fishery for any sportfish. This change was likely a result of low dissolved oxygen during winter due to snow cover and an ineffective aeration system. With support from the community and anglers, St. James Lake was reclaimed in fall of 2001 by the DNR in cooperation with the City of St. James. By the spring of 2002, water clarity and aquatic vegetation returned to foster a good return of the fish community through an intensive stocking program. St. James Lake is managed primarily for largemouth bass and bluegill and secondarily for walleye, northern pike, black crappie, and yellow perch. St. James Lake is one of the two lakes in the Windom Fish Management Area that was selected to be included in a study, known as SLICE (Sustaining Lakes in a Changing Environment), relating possible changes in fish and habitat as a result of a changing climate. SLICE has several different components to monitor. During 2011 a fish population assessment was conducted to monitor the change in the fish community over time and to assess the Windom area management plan for St. James.

It is apparent the partial winterkill of 2010-2011 did impact largemouth bass abundance. Although their abundance is down, they are present in enough numbers to reproduce naturally. Largemouth bass were sampled with spring night electrofishing and standard netting during 2011. In 2011 the spring night electrofishing catch was 9 fish per hour with a mean length of 14.3 inches. The 2011 electrofishing is the lowest catch rate since the 2001 reclamation. Since 2001, the catch rates have ranged from a low of 71.5 fish per hour in 2010 to a high of 394.0 fish per hour in 2003. While the spring night electrofishing was the lowest on record since 2001, the standard summer netting was the greatest on record at 2.6 fish per trap net. The long-term catch rate of largemouth bass via trap netting is 0.5 fish per net. All 24 largemouth bass caught in trap nets were the same age and averaged 5.0 inches. The size structure of the largemouth bass was good with most of the catchable size largemouth bass (usually 8 inches or more) greater than 12 inches but not exceeding 20 inches. Additionally, the condition of largemouth bass is good indicating a population of largemouth bass that is finding adequate food. Overall, the largemouth bass population is doing well and is approaching our management plan of maintaining an electrofishing catch of 30 or more per hour (which has happened every year since 2001 except for the present survey) and containing a good number of fish in the 12 to 20 inch range. As the largemouth bass population matures over the next 2 to 3 years the 5 inch fish caught in the trap nets should reach catchable size and make for good largemouth bass fishing with many fish in the 10 to 20 inch range.

Although the winterkill did influence bluegill abundance, the yellow perch abundance is probably driving their abundance down. Both of these species can compete for similar resources, but yellow perch tend to thrive in scenarios when dissolved oxygen becomes low. We believe this is what happened during the winter of 2010-2011. The catch rate of bluegill in trap nets in 2011 was 4.9 fish per net, which is within the expected range of 1.9 to 29.5 per net. In the 2011 survey bluegill ranged in length from 3.1 to 8.4 inches with a mean length of 4.2 inches. The average weight per individual is low (0.1 pounds per bluegill) but their overall condition is above average compared to other populations of bluegill. The St. James bluegill population appears to be robust and healthy. Currently the population is favoring fish less than 6 inches. St. James was historically a quality bluegill lake and it appears that water quality and habitat improvements gained through the reclamation are allowing the lake to sustain a bluegill population. Overall, the population abundance is lower than we would like to see it but nearshore sampling with backpack electrofishing and seining showed good natural recruitment which should help to increase bluegill abundance over the next 2 to 3 years.

The walleye gillnet catch rate in 2011 was 2.3 per net, which is within the expected range of 1.0 to 7.3 per net for St. James but slightly lower than the long-term average of 4.2 per net. The size structure is average with a mean weight of 1.6 pounds and fish ranging in length from 14.5 inches to 19.1 inches and a 16.1 inch average. The size structure and overall condition of the walleye are good indicating the walleye are able to find adequate food. It appears that the walleye population in St. James is doing well and fingerling stocking in the fall of 2011 will add more fish to the lake and add a chance to catch a walleye.

Northern pike abundances increased dramatically. Natural reproduction is the reason for their high abundance. The northern pike catch rate was 31.3 fish per gillnet, which is the most on record and considerably more than the long-term average of 7.1 fish per gillnet. While the catch rate was high, the mean length of northern pike was only 16.0 inches with a range of 9.8 to 27.6 inches. Three ages of northern pike were represented in the catch (age 1, age 2, and age 4) and 90% of them were age 1. This indicated a very successful hatch of pike in the spring of 2010. In addition to the gillnet catch, the spring ice-out trap net catch targeting northern pike was 28.3 fish per trap net. The size of fish caught was from 11.8 inches to 26.0 inches with a mean of 14.6 inches with 95% of the fish from the same 1 year old year-class. The northern pike have a predominantly small size structure (10-16 inches) but they appear to be finding an ample supply of food due to good condition of the fish. Northern pike should continue to maintain high numbers if fishing harvest does not significantly decrease their abundance because they are the top predator and their abundance is usually only tied to foraging success and angler harvest rates. Northern pike made up 34% of the total catch in the 2011 survey and are a major component of the fish community at this point, and should continue to be for the next 2 to 3 years.

Black crappie in St. James Lake exhibit a boom and bust cycle. The up and down abundance of crappie in a boom and bust cycle is typical in most southern MN systems, even with supplemental stocking. Much of the cycle can be attributed to abiotic (temperature, rainfall, water level, runoff, etc.) factors at spawning times. High catch rates were observed in 1986, 1999, and 2007 and were greater than the mean (5.8 fish per net) for trap nets. In 2011 the trap net catch rate was low at 0.4 fish per net. The black crappie ranged in length from 5.5 to 11.1 inches with a mean length of 8.1 inches. The present sample of crappie indicated a low density population dominated by 8 to 12 inch black crappie all with good condition. Given the cyclic nature of black crappie along with their popularity as a sport fish, it is difficult to manage a crappie population at a level that all anglers will find adequate from year-to-year. All that can be expected for the St. James crappie population is to provide an adequate population for the fishery to reproduce successfully. It is likely their abundance will increase dramatically when abiotic conditions are favorable for strong reproduction.

Lastly, the yellow perch catch rate was 67.3 fish per gill net which is the most on record. The long-term yellow perch catch rate is 24.0 fish per net. This indicated that the current yellow perch population is at a level nearly 3 times average abundance. The yellow perch size structure was very good with fish ranging in length from 4.9 to 12.4 inches. The overall condition of the yellow perch was also very good indicating the yellow perch are finding adequate food and are putting on good weight for their length. Overall, the yellow perch population of St. James is doing very well and is the major component of the fishery given nearly 40% of all of the fish caught in the survey were yellow perch. A great destination for those perch anglers in SW MN.

Black bullheads were also caught in the sample, but they were at a very low abundance. While the abundance was low the size structure of the bullhead was good with an average size of 10 inches. Anglers wishing to target bullheads will find a few fish here and there and when they do land one, they should be happy with the size of the fish.

Overall, St. James offers many great fishing opportunities and provides a unique fishing experience in southern Minnesota due to great water clarity and abundant aquatic vegetation to fish in and around to target bluegill, crappie, bass, pike and perch. St. James should be a good pick for sunfish, pike and bass anglers in 2012.

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

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 C2883 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