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"Fairly Predictible Pattern of Stocked Lakes"

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Quote:
all stocked lakes seem to follow a fairly predicable pattern in that regard - RK

Rob if you have a little time, could you elaborate a little more, I'm curious..

Thanks

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Pretty simple, when fish are first stocked they are stocked more heavily at first and then stocking is reduced, often to half after some years. Also as the fish mature the forage base tends to suffer a little from the heavy stocking so the lake overall supports fewer fish. I would say most MN fisheries are mature though, as in the long range plan the number of fish per acre is between 0.1 and 0.35 for all the lakes they list, which is about average for even the oldest of fisheries. Short of a boom in reproductive success of a steep decline in stocking success those numbers should remain fairly steady.

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Actually Nick the stocking numbers aren't always reduced. They're usually reduced in lakes where some amount of natural reproduction has been reported. The argument can be made if it's a net gain or loss of fish from there.

The big thing is that the first few year classes have almost zero inter species downward pressure. To put that in english, those year classes aren't competing with other muskies. The world is their oyster so to speak. The year classes that follow have to keep their eyes open for big sister and have their choice of forage and location. This gives them the best opportunity to grow the largest. Once the population matures you start to see the lake look more like a "natural" lake.

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A great pattern that has been putting quite a few fish in the boat recently has been to cast and reel. grin

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Hiya -

I think there's more to it that just stocking numbers or intra-species competition.

Based on what I've seen personally and on conversations I've had with a handful of other anglers whom I really think know what they're talking about, there seems to be a very predictable pattern to not only the angling success but the fish behavior on stocked lakes that get significant fishing pressure.

When stocked lakes first get fished the success rate is through the roof. I mean - really, really phenomenal. (This is why I say that if you're fishing Plantaganette, Big detroit, Little Wolf, or even Big V - if you only started fishing them in the last few years, you've never seen them when they're good...) The fishery is often really one-dimensional. Fish are on the most obvious spots - lots of the time on mid-depth weed flats in natural lakes - and fishing them is a no-brainer. Some of the best days I've had fishing unpressured stocked lakes have been trolling a bucktail - about as unsophisticated as it can get.

Eventually there seems to be a run of real big fish caught too - the first generation reaching the tipping point where they're near maximum size-at-age and mortality rates haven't significantly reduced the year class. Over time though, especially when word gets out and the pressure turns on, the bottom drops out. They seem to crash in some cases, and it's a lot tougher to catch fish - and you're nowhere near the quality of fishing that was available at the fishery's peak. What's interesting is I don't think it's just the case where the first generation of big fish is out of the system. You hardly seem to see any small fish at all...

What's interesting though is that when these sharp declines occur, the population is still relatively strong in terms of numbers of fish in the system judging from DNR survey data. Stocking numbers might stay exactly the same, but the number of fish caught or contacted drops off to a huge degree.

Eventually the fishery does seem to stabilize and come up somewhat from the bottom end of the decline. But it never seems to get back to the peak, or anywhere close to it. The go from being the hottest body of water around to being decent but not spectacular lakes.

This is really a view from 10,000 feet, but that's the gist of the pattern I think.

Along with the fishing success are the behavioral changes. There seem to be some pretty significant behavioral changes due, I can only surmise, to increased pressure. With unpressured fish, double follows are really common. Jack Burns and I had 6 double follows in one day on an unpressured stocked lake a number of years ago. I've had several triple follows. (One that sticks out in my mind was twin 36-inchers with a 30-pounder between them.) Those stop for the most part once fish start getting hit more. Behavior can change more dramatically too. I know of several instances that I and others have experienced where fish behaved as if they were hooked - head shaking and/or jumping - just from seeing a lure... I've only seen this behavior on stocked lakes that have recently begun to receive significant angling pressure. All the time I've spent on Lake of the Woods, Leech, Little Boy/Wabedo/Inguadona, Cass, many other lakes in Canada - I've never seen a fish react that way. But I've seen it more than once on stocked lakes, and know several others who have as well. Think about that...

I've had the good fortune - thanks in part to a good friend who's a freaking bloodhound when it comes to getting in on new fisheries - of fishing a number of now fairly well known MN lakes really before anyone else was there. In a couple cases, I'm quite certain I was one of the first half dozen people to fish muskies there. Watching those lakes change over time is really, really something. It's those observations, the observations of friends who fished the same lakes as well as other similar situations, that lead me/us to think there are a lot of common traits to how these stocked fisheries evolve.

Anyhow - probably way more than you were interested in, but...you asked wink

Cheers,

Rob Kimm

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Great info Rob, do have any general guidelines timewise on when the decline and rebound hit? I'll assume peak fishing is about 8-10 years after stocking starts, or however long it takes those Leechers to hit their max size?

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More like 20-25 years looking at Mille Lacs and Vermilion and their current status'.

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That long? I wouldn't have guessed more than 15 years to reach max size. I'm just talking for an individual fish or year class. Interesting.

You know how long it takes a fish in WI to get to 50+"? cry

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So on another note, when did they start stocking Mille Lacs and about when was it at peak?

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Mille Lacs started in 1986, so we're at 23 years right now and those big fish of the first generation are peaking. Or at least are getting huge and we'll see where the peak is in the next 5 years give or take a little.

Vermilion was started in 1985 with the same substrain, prior to that had shoepacks in it.

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I think Vermilion was 1987. Not many shoepacs were stocked prior to that. Handful of Wisc fish stocked prior to Mississippi strain also. We've seen 50 inch fish that were only 9 years old but that is the exception not the rule on V. Most of the giants being caught now are probably from the original stockings.

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Most fish only live to be 15-20, so almost all of the initial batch are dead save a freak of nature here and there. Rice Lake in Barron county is past peak and that was started in 87 with heavy stocking all the way through 93. I would wager the largest fish are from early 90's stocking and the bulk of the fish are from the late 90's to early 2000's. For us Coot that means that we have fewer fish than there should be due to the reconstruction of the Spooner hatchery during those years. Gone are the years where the DNR raises more fish than it knows what to do with though.

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Mille Lacs and Vermillion "peaked" several years ago.

By peaked I mean there was a very large population of muskies that were easily caught. With big ones too.

Peaked doesn't refer to size of fish.

There will always be monster fish in those lakes.

But the days of two guys catching fish in the double digits in a day are pretty much over.

Same can be said about Detroit, Miltona, Pelican, Bemidji, etc.

The fish are there, and there are big ones. But the fishing will never be what it was.

JS

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I think Vermilion was 1987. Not many shoepacs were stocked prior to that. Handful of Wisc fish stocked prior to Mississippi strain also. We've seen 50 inch fish that were only 9 years old but that is the exception not the rule on V. Most of the giants being caught now are probably from the original stockings.

It was 85 and shoepac prior to that for 2 years.

RE: life cycle, wasn't that o'brien fish out of georgian bay 29 years old or something? I think they can live much longer than 15-20 years. I believe casselman documented fish into the mid-30 year range with his bone study.

I believe there are two ways a lake can "peak". Catch rates/stupidity of fish and overall size/growth potential.

I thought it was this thread, but maybe another where I posted that i've heard from several sources biology based and quite credible that the first generation of an introduced species is always the largest and subsequent generations will not reach those sizes. If that's true, the next 5-10 years could be the best in terms of big fish potential for quite some time. Sure the "hay day" of muskies fishing as some know it may have subsided in terms of numbers, but the big girls are still there getting bigger, how big, well who knows.

No matter how their stocked/introduced/occurring in the lakes, they all still eat everyday. That's all I need to know.

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I have fished The V many times and I never see small fish...

Anyone else notice this. Smallest muskie I have boated was a 40.

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Has anyone ever thought the problem isn't with the fishery but with us, and how/where we fish them? I like to relate it to deer hunting. If you are sitting on a field edge that you have always hunted and know you are going to see deer you will probably see a bunch of little bucks and does. Maybe a big one will stroll by but where they are spending their time, food sources and the habitat they are using is going to be different and at different times than the other deer. When food sources, weather and conditions change so do their patterns. The big ones have been conditioned when they hear that first gunshot to go to a place they know they won't be disturbed. And how many bucks out in a huge swamp, for example, die of old age and are never seen.

Two years ago the theory was floated around that the Mille Lacs bite was bad because we were catching too many and they were going to the bottom and "tipping over." I refuse to accept this. Muskies are more hearty fish than people give them credit, and we as muskie fisherman take tremendous care for the health of the fish when they are returned to the water. I submit to you that as these fisheries mature and have more larger fish, amount of forgage base changes, water temps change, thermoclines are different, water levels are lower, the more muskie fisherman there are that throw the same lures and condition these fish that they are changing their patterns from where we traditionally have caught them and how we have caught them.

We are still seeing alot of smaller fish in the same spots and same lures we have caught fish before, and occasionally there will be a bigger fish in there. But what are we experiencing are bigger and more fish in areas that we have never fished before and don't ever see anyone fishing.

Mille Lacs 144,000 acres estimated 4000-6000 muskies. Minnetonka 14,000 acres estimated 1100 muskies. Where have we not fished that these fish may be just like heading deep into that swamp we've never hunted.

What are you doing differently as these these fisheries change?

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Go try St. Albans, Wigwam, and Garrison bays and let me know what you find? J/K. grin

I will say though, whether I want to believe it or not, a lot of those Mille Lacs muskies are gone. Yes, some are out in the deep basin, but not in the numbers 5 years ago. A lot of fish were killed by fishermen, some by netters and spearers. There are still some big fish out there, but it peaked number wise 3-5 years ago. It is what it is. Hope for a rebound, but not sure if natural reproduction will ever get us there like the DNR hoped. Talking to a guy who has guided muskies on Mille Lacs for a long time, pontoon trollers took a toll on the north end. Multiply how many they killed a year by how many years they were out there.

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What are you doing differently as these these fisheries change?

As if i'm going to spill that...lol grinwink

I agree with your post for certain, I see too many fisherman becoming complacent in their habits/patterns/spots after a few years and they quit exploring and trying new things, regardless of the species. They get expectations and mindsets of hard/fast rules and fish themselves right into a corner. That or just not as good of fisherman as they thought/hoped and stumbled in to the right conditions/patterns for a time until things changed again. That's not a knock on anyone, i could be/probably am guilty as well.

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I think everyone's guilty of it at some point in time, you see a spot and you think to yourself "ohh yeah I had that big girl come in hot on a topraider here last year/month/week, I better fish it." or something to that effect.

I don't remember who said it, I think it was a bass guy, but he said "Don't fish memories." And I can definitely agree with that statement, first few times out this year were an absolute bust for my boat until we figured out some new spots and tried some new things, all it takes is a little work every year, and I suppose some people aren't totally willing to do that.

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JRedig. Not to get picky on this but it was 1987 for Leech lakers in V.

Lake Vermilion Muskie Stocking

(source: MN DNR Fisheries)

YEAR SIZE * NUMBER STRAIN FIN-CLIP

1968 FGL 475

1969 FGL 500

1972 FRY 21,921 Shoepac L.

1984 FGL 1,536 Shoepac L.

1985 FGL 1,040 Wisconsin

1987 FGL 4,979 Leech L.

1988 FGL 4,973 Leech L.

1989 FGL 5,513 Leech L.

1990 FGL 6,648 Leech L.

1991 FGL 7,969 Leech L.

1992 FGL 4,995 Leech L.

1993 FGL 4,999 Leech L. Right Pelvic

1994 FGL 7,784 Leech L. Left Pelvic

1996 FGL 4,739 Leech L. Right Pelvic

1998 FGL 7,749 Leech L. Left Pelvic

2000 FGL 5,995 Leech L. Right Pelvic

2002 FGL 5,000 Leech L. Left Pelvic

2004 FGL 3,955 Leech L. Right Pelvic

* FLG = fingerlings

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Funny, here's what my list shows, straight from the DNR. Wonder why it's different...

1984 69037800 Vermilion St. Louis Muskellunge SHP FGL 902 NULL

1984 69037800 Vermilion St. Louis Muskellunge SHP FGL 634 NULL

1985 69037800 Vermilion St. Louis Muskellunge LCH FGL 1040 NULL

1987 69037800 Vermilion St. Louis Muskellunge LCH FGL 4979 NULL

1988 69037800 Vermilion St. Louis Muskellunge LCH FGL 4973 785

1989 69037800 Vermilion St. Louis Muskellunge LCH FGL 5513 1018.2

1990 69037800 Vermilion St. Louis Muskellunge LLB FGL 6648 1310.8

1991 69037800 Vermilion St. Louis Muskellunge LLB FGL 7969 2275.4

1992 69037800 Vermilion St. Louis Muskellunge LLB FGL 4995 964.3

1993 69037800 Vermilion St. Louis Muskellunge LLB FGL 4999 1236

1994 69037800 Vermilion St. Louis Muskellunge LLB FGL 7784 1512.6

1996 69037800 Vermilion St. Louis Muskellunge LLB FGL 4739 1113.3

1998 69037800 Vermilion St. Louis Muskellunge LLB FGL 7751 1906

2000 69037800 Vermilion St. Louis Muskellunge LL FGL 5000 1119.4

2002 69037800 Vermilion St. Louis Muskellunge LLB FGL 5000 952.5

2004 69037800 Vermilion St. Louis Muskellunge LLB FGL 3953 513.89

2006 69037800 Vermilion St. Louis Muskellunge LLB FGL 1268 362.1

2007 69037800 Vermilion St. Louis Muskellunge LLB FGL 1962 463.87

2008 69037800 Vermilion St. Louis Muskellunge LLB FGL 1292 138.05

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Yes that is odd. Numbers seem to be the same though. I'll have to check into it.

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All my DNR documents show what I listed above. I'm 100% sure of those numbers and years. I've also worked with the DNR Area Manager and Large Lake Speicialist in the past and 1987 is what they all talk about. Your source is mistaken.

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Interesting indeed, I have two different databases from two different offices/sources that show what I have. Differing quantities too. It's like a really rousing game of telephone! You'd think they'd have a uniform set of data and formatting etc, clearly not the case.

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