Aitkin Lake is just north of Big Sandy Lake, connected via the Aitkin Lake Flowage. This natural channel from Big Sandy (~2 miles long and varying in width) is navigable, but can be quite narrow at times, especially in years of high wild rice production. Water level in Aitkin Lake is controlled at the Corps of Engineers dam on the Sandy River. Open water access to Aitkin Lake is either from Big Sandy Lake or Aitkin Lake Resort, which is the only major development on the lake. In winter, some anglers also access the lake via state lands on the east side of the lake. With the exception of some parcels in the southwest end and north side of the lake, most of the shoreline is in state ownership. Most of Aitkin Lake is shallow, heavily vegetated with wild rice, and is subject to frequent partial winterkills. A 30 foot deep basin at the northeast end of the lake maintains some oxygen and prevents total winterkills. As such, the surviving fish in the population generally exhibit faster growth rates, which often create a high quality fishery. Bluegill, black crappie, and yellow perch appear to be the primary species anglers seek on Aitkin Lake.
Since the last survey, bluegill abundance has decreased to a level below the statewide median for this lake class, and back within the historical range for Aitkin Lake. Although the average size bluegill sampled in the trap nets was 5.9 inches, several quality sized individuals were observed. Anglers should be aware of the 5 fish limit for sunfish, which was implemented to protect this quality fishery.
Black crappie abundance was within the normal range for this lake class, but is often limited by poor survival during partial winterkill periods.
Walleye abundance was low with only 5 fish sampled, which is normal for Aitkin Lake. Very limited spawning habitat and frequent winterkills are restricting walleye reproduction and survival. It is likely that walleye in Aitkin are dependent upon fish emigrating from Big Sandy Lake. Similar to sunfish, there is an experimental regulation for walleye (14-18 inch harvest slot, with one allowed over 26") for the entire Big Sandy system, including Aitkin Lake.
Northern pike were common in both gill and trap nets, but were small.
Yellow perch were the most abundant species sampled in the gill nets and were within the normal range for this lake type. The average size was 7.0 inches, and the largest was 11.2 inches long.
A channel catfish was observed for the first time in survey history. This species has likely become present in Aitkin and Big Sandy lake due to the significant flooding in 2012. White sucker, yellow and brown bullhead, bowfin (dogfish), and a few largemouth bass were also caught during the survey.