A standard survey of Big Kandiyohi Lake was conducted during mid July of 2016. Big Kandiyohi is a large (2,683 acres), shallow (18 feet maximum depth), and productive lake located in Kandiyohi County. High nutrient runoff flows into Big Kandiyohi during rain events via the shoreline areas, tiles, and several large ditches. The nutrient runoff sources are primarily from agricultural and municipal storm sewer runoff (Willmar) via Lake Wakanda in addition to normal lake residential (i.e. lawn runoff) sources. The Grass Lake Watershed Project was envisioned during the 1990's, but only recently has been funded by state grants and embraced by local governments in 2016. The project goals are to filter and store storm sewer runoff from the city of Willmar into a large wetland complex to reduce nutrients entering downstream into Lake Wakanda and Big Kandiyohi. Fluctuating water levels often occur in Big Kandiyohi due to numerous ditch and tile connections. High water level conditions resulted in significant bank erosion around the lake during the 2011 spring. Water clarity varies seasonally with generally good clarity during mid-May through June (secchi=3-10 feet), poor by late July through mid-August (< 3 feet) and improved clarity in the fall (> 3 feet). Water clarity was fair (5.5 feet) during the 2016 survey, but calm conditions and an intense blue-green algae bloom was present on the water surface. Intense blue-green algae blooms are common occurrences in Big Kandiyohi. Submergent vegetation densities are relatively low consisting mostly of sago pondweed, curly-leaf pondweed and water moss. Shoalwater substrates are varied, but consist mostly of sand, silt, and rubble. There are two popular county parks located along the lake (northeast and southwest sides) with 175 available recreational vehicle campsites. There were approximately 259 homes/cabins and 15 recreational vehicles counted excluding the two parks in 2011.
Yellow Perch numbers were abundant in 2016 (21.25 fish/gillnet) compared to normal range and historical average (12.13 fish/gillnet). The Yellow Perch average size (0.50 pounds, 10.1 inches) was large from gillnets and these fish exhibited excellent growth rates. There were also abundant Yellow Perch numbers (14.00 fish/gillnet) greater than 10.0 inches in 2016. The 2013 yellow perch year class comprised 86% of the 2016 yellow perch survey catch. Yellow Perch adults were recently stocked in 2015 (1,048 fish, 262 pounds) and 2016 (9,840 fish, 820 pounds). There were excellent local reports of winter angling success for Yellow Perch during 2017.
Northern Pike numbers were low in 2016 (1.25 fish/gillnet) compared to the normal range and historical average (2.70 fish/gillnet). The Northern Pike average size (3.26 pounds and 24.1 inches) was above the historical gillnet average (2.34 pounds). Northern Pike fingerlings (300-3,000 fish/year) were stocked recently from 2012 thru 2016. Northern Pike adults were last stocked in 2014 (882 fish, 490 pounds).
Bluegill numbers were low in 2016 (0.20 fish/trapnet) compared to the normal range and historical average (1.02 fish/trapnet). The Bluegill average size was small (0.06 pounds and 4.5 inches) from the 2016 trapnets. Bluegill growth potential can be over 10.0 inches as documented in the 2011 survey for Big Kandiyohi. Pre-spawn Bluegill adults were stocked into Big Kandiyohi from 1999-2001, 2003-2004 and 2007 to boost brood stock numbers.
Black Crappie numbers were moderately abundant in 2016 (5.33 fish/trapnet) compared to the normal range. The 2016 Black Crappie average size (0.44 pounds and 9.2 inches) was moderate and similar to the historical average (0.51 pounds) from trapnets. The 2014 and 2013 year classes comprised 71% and 26% respectively of the 2016 Black Crappie survey catch. Black Crappie pre-spawn adults were stocked into Big Kandiyohi during 2011, 2010, 2002, 2001 and 1999. Local anglers recently reported good winter angling success for Black Crappie.
Channel Catfish numbers were abundant in the 2016 gillnets (7.00 fish/gillnet) compared to the historical average (3.38 fish/gillnet). The 2016 Channel Catfish average size (5.05 pounds and 22.3 inches) was large from gillnets. Channel Catfish were stocked into Big Kandiyohi during 1987 (21,417 yearlings, 1,521 pounds), 2005 (13,523 fingerlings, 165 pounds) and 2008 (13,541 fingerlings, 113 pounds).
Walleye numbers were moderately abundant in 2016 (11.25 fish/gillnet) compared to the normal range and similar to the historical average (12.12 fish/gillnet). The 2016 Walleye average size (0.89 pounds and 13.5 inches) was small from gillnets. Walleye growth rates are within the Spicer Area normal range for Big Kandiyohi. The Walleye catch rate of fish 15.0 inches and larger was low (2.09 fish/gillnet) in 2016. The 2013 (fry stocked year) and 2014 (natural) Walleye year classes comprised 53% and 24% respectively of the 2016 gillnet and trapnet catch in Big Kandiyohi.
Walleye natural reproduction in Big Kandiyohi is frequent, but generally insignificant based on previous fall and summer surveys. Big Kandiyohi was stocked recently with 2-3 million Walleye fry per year in the springs of 2009, 2011, 2013 and 2015. A fall night electrofishing survey for young of year "YOY" (fingerling sized) Walleye on Big Kandiyohi was last conducted during 2015. Moderate YOY Walleye numbers were captured in 2015 (46.0 YOY/hour, 4.8 inches). Yearling walleye numbers were also moderately abundant (16.0 fish/hour, 9.4 inches) in 2015. Fall electrofishing surveys indicated abundant YOY Walleye numbers in 2006 (177.0 YOY/hour, 5.5 inches), 2008 (135.6 YOY/hour, 4.8 inches), 2009 (60.0 YOY/hour, 5.1 inches), 2011 (272.0 YOY/hour, 5.8 inches) and 2013 (134.0 YOY/hour, 5.8 inches).
Smallmouth Bass numbers were abundant in 2016 (3.25 fish/gillnet) compared to the normal range and historical average (0.26 fish/gillnet) for Big Kandiyohi. The Smallmouth Bass average weight was large (1.94 pounds) from gillnets. The largest Smallmouth Bass captured was 17.1 inches. Smallmouth Bass growth rates were excellent. The 2012 and 2014 year classes comprised 41% and 35% of the 2016 Smallmouth Bass survey catch. Smallmouth Bass were first captured in a Big Kandiyohi survey during 1996.
Common Carp numbers were abundant in 2016 (7.60 fish/trapnet) compared to the normal range and historical average (5.96 fish/trapnet) and normal range of similar lakes. The 2016 Common Carp average size (7.36 pounds and 24.5 inches) was large from trapnets. Commercial netters harvested Common Carp (147,500 pounds) and Bigmouth Buffalo (49,400 pounds) from Big Kandiyohi in 2016. In the past, commercial Common Carp removal has been unsuccessful at significantly reducing abundance over time on large bodies of water. Presently, the cumulative removal effect on Big Kandiyohi Common Carp long term population numbers is unknown but likely negligible due to Common Carp's amazing ability (1.0 million eggs per 10-15 lb. female) to produce large year classes by relatively few numbers of adults in connected wetland and shallow lake areas.
Other fish species captured included moderate numbers of White Sucker (2.75 fish/gillnet), Bigmouth Buffalo (2.47 fish/trapnet) and Black Bullhead (23.52 fish/gillnet, 0.68 pounds average weight). The White Sucker and Bigmouth Buffalo average weights were 2.11 pounds and 2.84 pounds respectively.
Current fish management activities on Big Kandiyohi include protecting aquatic vegetation through the permit process, assisting aquatic plant management and enforcement personnel in educating boaters and monitoring access sites for potential invasive species introductions, encouraging land owners to implement best management practices in the watershed, allowing commercial harvest of Common Carp, improving yellow perch spawning habitat, stocking various species as needed, and stocking Walleye fry every other year. The Big Kandiyohi Lake fishery will be surveyed in the 2021 summer for all fish species. Fall electrofishing surveys will be conducted during Walleye fry stocked years to assess the success or failure of the stockings.