Located in Le Sueur County, Gorman Lake is a 499 acre lake southeast of the town of Le Center. A DNR owned public access is located on the south end of the lake off Dodd Road. A county owned public access is located on the west side of the lake within the town of Cordova. Gorman Lake is a relatively shallow lake with a maximum depth of 14 feet. The lake is aerated each winter, so caution should be used when traveling on ice. Based on limnological variables, Gorman Lake is classified in Lake Class 43. Other area lakes within this classification include Scotch Lake (Le Sueur County), Rice Lake (Faribault County), and Loon Lake (Waseca County). Gorman Lake is managed primarily for walleye and secondarily for northern pike. A base walleye stocking plan of 748,500 fry (1,500 fry/littoral acre) stocked three out of every four years is in place. Northern pike fry (N = 90,000) are stocked annually to sustain the population. Gorman Lake was surveyed the week of July 7, 2014 as part of a regular monitoring program conducted by Minnesota DNR. This survey was intended to assess the fish community by deploying gill nets and trap nets, as well as recording water quality parameters.
Throughout the survey history, walleye abundance in Gorman Lake has varied from 1.1 fish/gill net in 1983 to 8.1 fish/gill net in 1994. The walleye catch rate from the 2014 survey was 3.7 fish/gill net, which is slightly above the long-term lake average of 3.3 fish/gill net. Walleye lengths ranged from 7.9 to 24.7 inches and averaged 15.9 inches, indicating a relatively good size structure. Growth rates appear to be moderately fast compared to other lakes in southern Minnesota, with three year old walleye averaging 15.5 inches. Walleye fry were recently stocked in Gorman Lake in 2012, 2013, and 2014 at a target rate of 1,500 fry per littoral acre. Since walleye fry are stocked three out of every four years, walleye will not be stocked again until 2016.
The northern pike catch rate in the 2014 survey was the highest rate in survey history at 3.6 fish/gill net, which is above the long-term average for Gorman Lake (2.0 fish/gill net). The catch rate of northern pike has steadily increased since its historic low of 0.9 fish/gill net in 1994. Northern pike lengths ranged from 14.4 to 29.3 inches and averaged 21.7 inches, indicating a relatively small size structure. Northern pike in southern Minnesota grow relatively fast. The average length of northern pike from Gorman Lake was 18.0 inches at age-2, 22.9 inches at age-3, and 24.7 inches at age-4. Northern pike fry are stocked annually in Gorman Lake at a target rate of 90,000 fry per year.
With the exception of two surveys with relatively high catch rates (1983, 13.7 fish/net; 1999, 6.1 fish/net), bluegill abundance in Gorman Lake has remained moderately low. The 2014 bluegill catch rate was 2.9 fish/net, which is about average for lakes similar to Gorman Lake. The lengths of bluegill ranged from 7.3 to 8.5 inches and averaged 7.9 inches, indicating a good size structure. Although bluegill were not aged, a length frequency histogram suggests that all bluegill collected from trap nets in 2014 were from the same single year class. The absence of young bluegill from the survey may indicate lack of recent year classes and sporadic spawning success in Gorman Lake.
Black crappie catch rates bounced back from the record low rate of 2009 (0.2 fish/gill net) to a more moderate level in 2014 of 5.3 fish/gill net, which ranks above the long-term average for Gorman Lake (4.4 fish/gill net). Black crappie abundance in Gorman has been variable throughout the survey history and is likely dependent on a strong year class at least every three to five years to carry the population. The lengths of black crappie from 2014 gill nets ranged from 3.9 to 10.8 inches and averaged 7.4 inches, indicating a moderate size structure.
Throughout the survey history in Gorman Lake, yellow perch catch rates have varied from 0.3 fish/gill net in 1994 to 36.3 fish/gill net in 2004, averaging 9.2 fish/gill net from 1970 to 2014. The 2014 catch rate was 7.7 fish/gill net. Yellow perch collected in 2014 ranged in length from 4.8 to 10.7 inches and averaged 8.4 inches, indicating a relatively small size structure. Yellow perch are an important prey source for predators in Gorman Lake, such as walleye. No stocking plan exists for yellow perch, so the population is sustained through natural recruitment.
Historically, black bullhead abundance in Gorman Lake has been high, averaging 151.7 fish/gill net from 1970 to 1994. Since 1999, however, black bullhead numbers have been below 6.0 fish/gill net, except during a 2004 survey when the catch rate was 85.9 fish/gill net. The 2014 survey yielded only 2.7 fish/gill net, which is very low black bullhead abundance compared to lakes similar to Gorman Lake. Black bullhead from gill and trap nets ranged in length from 8.9 to 13.5 inches and averaged 11.4 inches. Younger, smaller individuals that are often preyed upon by walleye and northern pike were completely lacking from the survey.
Other fish species that were collected in the 2014 survey included white bass (N = 6), common carp (N = 60), bowfin (N = 39), freshwater drum (N = 36), white sucker (N = 5), and bigmouth buffalo (N = 4).
Anglers can play an important role in maintaining or improving a fish population by practicing selective harvest. Selective harvest allows for the harvest of smaller fish for consumption, while encouraging the release of medium to large fish that may contribute to natural recruitment. This practice helps maintain balance in the fish community and provides anglers the opportunity to catch more and larger fish in the future. Additionally, smaller fish often taste better and have fewer contaminants than larger, older fish from the same water body.
Shoreline property owners also play an important role in the overall health of an aquatic ecosystem, including the fish population. Natural shorelines, including vegetation, woody debris, and bottom substrates, provide valuable habitat for fish and wildlife, help maintain water quality, and reduce bank erosion. By leaving natural shorelines unaltered or restoring them to natural conditions, shoreline property owners are doing their part to maintain or improve a healthy ecosystem in the lake and protect the resource for future generations.