Antler Lake is a class 23 lake located nine miles southeast of Big Fork, MN. Antler Lake has an inlet from Little Antler Lake on the northeast shore and has a small navigable outlet to Beaver Lake on the southeast shore. There is a public access on the northwest side of the lake. The 2002 lake management plan indicates northern pike as the primary species of management with bluegill and black crappie as secondary species. The 2012 assessment also included additional sampling of near shore fish species in order to calculate an Index of Biotic Integrity (IBI) score.
Black crappie were sampled with trap nets at a rate of 5.9 fish/net, well above the 3rd quartile value of 2.2 fish/net. The trap net sampled fish ranged from 4.3 to 10.2 inches and had a mean length of 6.2 inches. Six age-classes from 2 to 7 years old were identified from scales. The 2010 year class dominated the sample and may help to improve fishing in a few years. However, growth was poor compared to other class 23 lakes with fish averaging 8.2 inches after five years of growth.
Trap-net catch rates for bluegill have been above the lake class median of 19.8 fish/net in five of seven assessments. In 2012, the trap-net catch of 25.7 fish/net was below average for this lake. Bluegill lengths ranged from 3.5 to 8.0 inches and had a mean length of 5.4 inches. Six age-classes were identified from scales ranging from age 4 to age 9. Growth rates were poor compared to other class 23 lakes; mean back-calculated length-at-age 5 was 4.0 inches compared to the lake class median of 5.1 inches.
Northern pike gill-net catch rates have ranged from 1.3 to 3.3 fish/net since 1954. In 2012, northern pike gill-net catch was 3.2 fish/net which was below the lake class median of 5.0 fish/net. The gill net sampled fish had a moderate size structure, ranging from 19.3 to 28.9 inches with a mean length of 24.4 inches. Seven year-classes were identified from cliethra and scales ranging from age 3 to 9. Northern pike averaged 20.8 inches by age 4 which was similar to the statewide average of 20.5.
Walleye did not occur naturally in Antler Lake and the stocking that occurred sporadically from 1969 to 1989 only made modest improvements in the population. Walleye numbers in Antler Lake have always been low due to the low productivity of the lake. Catch rates have ranged from 0 fish to a high of 1.6 fish/net 1987. In 2012, the catch was 0.3 fish/gill net and was below the 1st quartile value of 1.0 fish/net. The sampled fish ranged from 23.2 to 25.2 inches and had a mean length of 24.0 inches. Age and growth information was not collected from these three individuals.
Tullibee gill-net catch rates have ranged from 0.1 in 2000 to 8.5 fish/net in 1977. In 2012, the catch was 3.7 fish/net and the second highest since 1982. The sampled fish ranged from 6.9 to 12.4 inches and had a mean length of 8.7 inches. Age and growth information was not collected. Triaenophorus was observed in approximately 50% of the fish.
Other species observed during the population assessment included brown bullhead, hybrid sunfish, largemouth bass, pumpkinseed sunfish, rock bass, white sucker, yellow bullhead, and yellow perch. Additional species observed during IBI sampling included bluntnose minnow, Johnny darter, mottled sculpin, and tadpole madtom.
In order to maintain or improve fish and wildlife populations, water quality and habitat must be protected. People often associate water quality problems with large-scale agricultural, forestry, urban development or industrial practices in the watershed. In reality, the impact of land use decisions on one lake lot may be relatively small, yet the cumulative impact of those decisions on many lake lots can result in a significant decline in water quality and habitat. For example, removing shoreline and aquatic vegetation, fertilizing lawns, mowing to the water's edge, installing beach sand blankets, failing septic systems and uncontrolled run-off, all contribute excess nutrients and sediment which degrade water quality and habitat. Understanding these cumulative impacts and taking steps to avoid or minimize them will help to insure our quality fisheries can be enjoyed by future generations.