minnesota dnr red lake crappie fishing

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Typical Upper Red Lake Crappie
at Hudec's Resort
Bait by Waskish Minnow Station

Upper red lake Crappie

Effect On Crappies
On the Way to Recovery

From Bob Ekstrom
DNR-Summer 2000

As most anglers in the upper Midwest know, crappie fishing on Upper Red Lake was nothing short of spectacular last winter. Although there were times when crappie were hard to come by. Most nights ice fishing they were so aggressive that anglers with flash depth finders would simply cause the blip that represented a presumed crappie fishery, and another crappie would be added to the bucket.

Without a doubt, this crappie fishery is the best we will ever see in Minnesota. And without a doubt, it is going to go away. Most of the crappies anglers caught last winter were from the 1995 year class. Crappies from this year class ranged in length from 9.5 to 11 inches, and averaged 10.2 inches.

Given that crappie can live to be teenagers in the Red Lakes, this year class will be providing anglers with quality sport fishery for at least five more years, and likely longer. The big question now is "will the 1995 year class be able to replace itself?"

At this point in time, I just don't know. Hopefully, fieldwork from this summer will help answer that question. However, in most lakes with healthy walleye populations, we think that walleye control the crappie population by eating most of the young crappie. That is what most likely used to happen to Red Lake and explains why crappie and other prey species increased in abundance dramatically after the collapse of the walleye population.

Walleye are voracious predators, and their "virtual' absence from the ecosystem in the early to mid 1990's allowed a unique population of prey fishes to develop and flourish in a virtually predator free situation. All that is changing now... the walleye of the Red Lakes are back!!

Although far from recovered, walleye are now abundant enough that most who fish the lake have probably caught one, some anglers have caught quite a few. Most walleye are from 1996 or 1997 year class. Although not particularly strong year classes, historically speaking, they have had the benefit of complete protection their entire life and virtually no competition for food or space.

That translates into a phenomenal growth rates, and very low population mortality. That's the good news. The not quite so good news is that only the males from 1996 year class are sexually mature this year, so it is not likely that we will produce a strong year class in 2000.

At this time, however, we are optimistic that the fry we stocked in 1999 (with much help from local volunteers!) grew large enough last year to survive their first winter, their last critical hoop to jump through. If that is indeed the case, we are off to a very good start on the road to recovery of the Red Lakes walleye population.

Upper Red Lake Fishing Conditions and
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