Bass Lake is a small (128 acre), relatively deep (48 foot maximum depth) lake located in east-central Becker County. Its ecological lake classification is class 29. The lakeshore is not heavily developed, but Becker County Highway 39 skirts along the entire east shore. The county-owned boat access is located near the middle of the east shore in Chilton Park.
When initially surveyed in 1963, Bass Lake's fish populations were dominated by largemouth bass, black crappie, and yellow perch. More recently, however, net catches of those three species have declined while those of northern pike and bluegill have increased. Bass Lake is a prime example of how over-stocking can affect a lake's fishery. Northern pike were frequently stocked into Bass Lake between 1960 and the early 1980's. By the time the 1978 survey was conducted, northern pike net catches had increased from 1.8 pike per net to 9.8 per net. Since 1991, pike catches have remained high and the 2011 catch rate was over 15 northern pike per net. Northern pike replaced largemouth bass as the lake's primary predator and were likely responsible for the heavy decline in yellow perch catches. Yellow perch gill net catches declined from 34.8 per net in 1963 to 2.0 per net in 1978. Northern pike stocking was discontinued but the damage was already done to the perch forage base in Bass Lake. Despite low numbers of yellow perch (preferred forage), northern pike growth rates remain normal (21.3 inches in four years). Pike sampled in 2011 averaged 2.4 pounds and 21.6 inches. Sizes of pike caught in test nets ranged from 12.8 to 32.2 inches.
Although sunfish were reportedly stocked as fingerlings in 1947, none were caught in test nets until after a second stocking of bluegill fingerlings in 1981. Bluegills have continued to proliferate in Bass Lake since then, likely helped by the decline of yellow perch. Experimental trap net catches declined from the historical high in 2004 to 18.7 bluegills per net in 2011. Bluegill growth rates are slow in Bass Lake compared to other Minnesota lakes and none over eight inches were found. However, there seems to have been a slight improvement in growth rates since 2004 when abundance was very high.
Other sampled gamefish species included largemouth bass and black crappie. Largemouth bass catches seem to be holding at a lower level than what was observed during the initial survey while the once abundant crappie catches have remained quite low. It seems likely that northern pike and bluegill stocking may have been responsible for declines in crappie and perch populations. Walleye were occasionally stocked into Bass Lake in the past but failed to produce much of a fishery. Walleyes have not been stocked since 1991.
Small lakes like Bass Lake are sensitive to even minor changes in fish populations and nutrient input. Lakeshore owners are encouraged to use practices that reduce nutrient and sediment inputs into the lake. Anglers are encouraged to release northern pike larger than 24 inches and bluegills larger than seven inches in length and keep smaller ones for eating.