Dam Lake is a moderate sized lake located about ten miles east of the City of Aitkin. There is a state owned public access with a concrete log ramp on the west side of the lake. Extreme weather conditions were experienced in 2012. Many lakes in the area were ice-free earlier than any other year since data has been collected. Above average temperatures occurred in every month from January to September. Unusually large rainfall events in late May and June resulted in approximately 22 inches of precipitation, compared to the 7.5 inches during average years. Lake water levels were still above normal at the time of this survey.
Fish habitat is diverse with a good amount of emergent vegetation (bulrush), areas with floating-leaf plants (waterlilies), a variety of submerged plant beds, as well as open water areas. In addition to providing excellent fish and wildlife habitat, emergent plants help stabilize sediments and protect shorelines from erosion by breaking wave action.
Walleye stocking began with regularity around 1950, with fingerlings having been stocked at a variety of rates and frequencies in the past. Current stocking plans, which began in 2012, call for annual fry stocking with supplemental fingerling stocking in alternate years, if needed. The 2012 walleye catch (1.5 per gill net) was below normal for similar lakes and below the average of the nine previous fisheries surveys of the lake (3.6 per gill net). Age analysis revealed all walleye were from the three most recent fingerling stocked years (2006, 2008, 2010).
Black crappie were captured within the normal range for this type of lake in gill nets (2.7 per net) and trap nets (1.5 per net). Size averaged 7.7 inches with 20% greater than 10 inches and fish up to 11.6 inches observed in the sample. Bluegill were also captured within the normal range at 12.4 per trap net. Size was poor with an average of 6.0 inches and only one individual sampled that was over 8 inches.
While traditional survey gear captured only ten largemouth bass, additional spring night electrofishing collected 122 fish in one hour of sampling. This is very high for the Aitkin area. These bass averaged 13.0 inches long, with 12% measuring greater than 15 inches and the sample included fish up to about 19 inches.
Northern pike provide additional angling opportunities for large predators. Pike catch in gill nets was within the normal range at 4.1 per net. Size and growth were good and averaged 21.1 inches and 2.2 pounds with fish reaching 23.5 inches in five growing seasons. Anglers are encouraged to release larger pike, thereby multiplying opportunities for anglers to catch big fish through recycling, as well as helping to maintain a better size distribution in this keystone predator.