East LaBelle is a relatively shallow, fertile, prairie lake located in western Becker County along the northeastern outskirts of Lake Park, MN. The lake's fish community is typical of many lakes that winterkill occasionally. For the most part, fish growth rates are average or faster.
In 2015, gill net catches of Walleye were 2.5 fish per set, which is close to average for East Labelle Lake. Walleyes averaged 18.0 inches and 2.3 pounds. Size of Walleyes ranged from 12.0 to 23.4 inches. As in many winterkill lakes, the growth rates for Walleye were considered faster than normal with Walleyes reaching an average length of 17.6 inches in four growing seasons. Walleye abundance in East Labelle Lake is maintained by stocking, with fry being stocked annually since 2010.
The 2015 Northern Pike catch rate was 15.8 per gill net, which was the second highest recorded since 1964. The size range for northern Pike was 14.2 to 33.9 inches. The average Northern Pike size was 22.1 inches and 2.9 pounds. Northern Pike also exhibited fast growth rates with an average length of 23.7 inches by four years of age.
Yellow Perch were sampled near the lake's average of 42 per gill net. Average size of Yellow Perch was 6.9 inches and ranged from in length from 5.4 inches to 10.1 inches.
After 20 years of relatively low and stable trap net catches, Bluegill catches were 98.3 per set in 2015, which was well above the lake's historical average of 17.4 Bluegills per trap net. The average Bluegill length was 6.0 inches and lengths of sampled fish ranged from 3.3 to 9.4 inches. Young fish dominated the Bluegill sample with four year old or younger fish comprising over 70% of the total catch.
Moderate numbers of Largemouth Bass were also present, ranging in size from 7 inches to almost 17 inches in length. Although Black Crappie were not sampled in 2015, angler reports during the survey indicated there can be good fishing for them.
Like many lakes that occasionally winterkill, this one has an abundance of black bullheads that could be of interest to some anglers. Most black bullheads were around nine inches long, though some larger bullheads (up to 11 inches) were also found.
With continuing shoreline and watershed development, this fishery will need help on several fronts to be sustained. Anglers can help to maintain balance in fish populations by voluntarily releasing a portion of medium and large fish and keeping smaller ones for eating. This is particularly true for Northern Pike and Bluegill. Shoreline owners and other watershed dwellers can help to maintain or improve water quality and fish habitat by leaving shoreline buffer zones, by leaving stands of native aquatic vegetation intact, by taking precautions to prevent invasive species introductions, and by using wise land management practices.