Lake Darling is a 945-acre basin located on the northwest edge of the city of Alexandria and is part of the Alexandria Chain of Lakes. There is no public access on Lake Darling; however, boaters can gain access via a navigable channel from Lake Carlos. The lake is popular for both angling and other water-based recreation. The 450-acre Arrowwood Resort and Conference Center is located along the west shore. Most of the shoreline is heavily developed with residential housing. Water quality and clarity are good. Mid-summer water transparency was recorded at 14.5 feet. The lake supports an abundant and diverse aquatic plant community. Aquatic plants help maintain water quality and clarity by competing with algae for available nutrients in the lake. Aquatic plants also provide spawning habitat and cover for many fish species, especially bass and panfishes. Turtle Bay on the west end of the lake is posted as a no-wake zone to protect aquatic vegetation.
Lake Darling sustains a modest Walleye fishery. Some natural recruitment or immigration from connected basins is supplemented with combined fingerling and yearling stockings by the DNR, Lake Darling Association, and Viking Sportsmen Club, Inc. Gill net catches declined in 2016 to 3.1 Walleye/net. A majority of Walleyes caught during the survey were young, two- or three-year-old fish. Average size of Walleye measured during the survey was 14.8 inches. Few 20.0-inch and larger captures were recorded during the survey.
Lake Darling supports abundant populations of Largemouth Bass, Northern Pike, and Bluegills. Due to moderate fertility of the lake and high abundance of these fishes, growth rates are slow. Fortunately, gamefishes in Lake Darling live to be quite old, thus it does support some larger fish. An 8.0-inch Bluegill may be 10 years old. Largemouth Bass also grow slow but have been shown to live up to 19 years old in the Alexandria Chain of Lakes. Few Black Crappies are captured during summer surveys since larger fish move off-shore and are less vulnerable to capture in trap nets. Low catch rates recorded in surveys does not accurately reflect abundance and size distribution. Lake Darling does support good crappie fishing, particularly during spring months. Adult Yellow Perch numbers have consistently been low. Yellow Perch are preferred prey of Walleye, Northern Pike, and Largemouth Bass.
Quality fishing opportunities exist for many species in Lake Darling. Even modest harvest of slow-growing, older fish can degrade fishing quality. Anglers are encouraged to practice selective harvest to help maintain and improve the quality of the Lake Darling fishery. Selective harvest encourages release of larger fish while promoting harvest of more abundant smaller fish. Releasing medium to large fish will help restore and maintain fish community balance, as well as increase opportunities to catch large fish in the future.
Lake Darling was designated as an infested water after discovery of zebra mussels in 2009. Minnesota statutes require all equipment be free of invasive species prior to leaving any access. Recreational users should take necessary precautions to prevent further spread of invasive species.
- Zebra Mussel
Recreational activities such as recreational boating, angling, waterfowl hunting, and diving may spread aquatic invasive species. Some aquatic invasive species can attach to boats, while others can become tangled on propellers, anchor lines, or boat trailers. Many species can survive in bilge water, ballast tanks, and motors or may hide in dirt or sand that clings to nets, buckets, anchors, and waders. Fortunately, completing simple steps can prevent the transport of aquatic invasive species.