Fishing for information with the DNR Lake Finder page has caught on. Year-round, it is the most popular section of the DNR Web site, with more than a half million visits monthly. In spring, as fishing season arrives, the number of visits climbs to nearly 1 million a month.
Developed by the DNR Web team in 1998, Lake Finder is the only tool of its kind in the nation. DNR staff spent thousands of hours to compile the data, which is continually updated with information gathered from more than 4,500 lakes statewide.
With a few clicks of a computer mouse, Web users can learn about a specific lake's location, public access, surface and littoral acreage, fish species and relative abundance, water clarity, water-depth fluctuations, and fish contamination reports and associated health risks.
Most lakes also have a depth map, useful for deciding where to go fishing, boating, or swimming. "I'm a huge fan of the free depth maps," says Roland Sigurdson, DNR aquatic education specialist. "These really allow me to plan my fishing trip by showing the structure that is most likely to hold fish. This can really save time on a lake with which you are unfamiliar."
Users of Lake Finder can narrow their search for a lake by county, species stocked, and which lakes in a specific county have been stocked.
Whether an angler is looking for one big fish or a limit of fish, knowing the abundance and size distribution for all species present in a lake gives anglers a real edge.
"During Lake Finder's development, we started with lake surveys and added data as it became available," said Steve Lime, DNR applications development manager. "In the future we would like to develop Lake Views, which would provide information related to a particular lake basin, including adding visual elements such as aerial photography or adding topographic maps for even more lakes on the database."
One of the intriguing aspects of Lake Finder is the variety of audiences it serves. "If I'm a fisherman looking for new opportunities, then the lake survey reports are invaluable," says Lime. "However, if I'm looking for places to water ski, then the online depth maps are great. If I'm buying lakeshore property, then the whole package really helps with decision making."