Clitherall Lake is a 2,493-acre mesotrophic (moderately fertile) lake located in south-central Otter Tail County approximately one mile south of Clitherall, MN. Clitherall Lake is connected to Crane Lake via a non-navigable inlet along the south shoreline. The immediate watershed is composed primarily of agricultural land interspersed with hardwood woodlots. The maximum depth is 69 feet; however, 32% of the lake is 15 feet or less in depth. The secchi disk reading was 15.2 feet. Previous secchi disk readings have ranged from 9.3 to 16.0 feet.
The majority of the shoreline of Clitherall Lake has been extensively developed. The development consists primarily of homes, cabins and resorts. A DNR owned public water access is located along the south shoreline and a township owned access is located along the north shoreline. Shoal water substrates consist primarily of sand and gravel. Stands of hardstem bulrush are scattered along the north and west shorelines. Emergent aquatic plants such as bulrush provide valuable fish and wildlife habitat, and are critical for maintaining good water quality. They protect shorelines and lake bottoms, and can actually absorb and break down polluting chemicals. Emergent plants provide spawning areas for fish such as Northern Pike, Largemouth Bass, and panfish. They also serve as important nursery areas for all species of fish. Because of their ecological value, emergent plants may not be removed without a DNR permit. To maintain the excellent water quality and angling that this lake has to offer, it is imperative to preserve the quality of the aquatic habitat.
Clitherall Lake can be ecologically classified as a Bass-Panfish-Walleye type of lake and this is reflected in the assemblage of the fish community. Northern Pike, Largemouth and Smallmouth Bass, Walleye, Black Crappie, and Bluegill are the dominant gamefish species.
The long term trend has been a decline in Walleye abundance. Walleyes ranged in length from 10.0 to 21.7 inches with an average length and weight of 15.9 inches and 1.5 pounds. Walleyes attain an average length of 15.2 inches at four years of age.
Northern Pike abundance is at a moderate level. Age data indicate that the 2013 year class is strong. Pike ranged in length from 18.4 to 31.4 inches with an average length and weight of 23.0 inches and 2.8 pounds. Pike attain an average length of 23.7 inches at four years of age.
An abundant Black Crappie population exists. Age data indicate that the 2011 year class is strong and should provide good angling for several years. Size structure is also good with 71% of the sample measuring 10.0 inches or greater in length. Crappies attain an average length of 10.0 inches at five years of age.
Bluegills are also very abundant. Twenty-two percent of the Bluegills were 7.0 inches or greater in length. Bluegills attain an average length of 7.2 inches at seven years of age.
A high density Largemouth Bass population exists. Age and length data indicate that Largemouth Bass reproduction is consistently good. Bass ranged in length from 6.7 to 15.4 inches with an average length and weight of 11.0 inches and 0.8 pounds. Bass attain an average length of 12.4 inches at five years of age.
A Smallmouth Bass re-introduction plan was initiated in 1998. In 1998 and 1999, a total of 433 Smallmouth Bass were stocked into Clitherall Lake. In 1998, a no harvest regulation for Smallmouth Bass was implemented in order to protect Smallmouth Bass while a self-sustaining population was established. One hundred Smallmouth Bass half-log nesting structures were also placed into Clitherall Lake in 1998 and ten more were added in 1999. These structures increased the available spawning habitat and increased spawning success. Six off shore rock reefs were constructed in 1999 to provide juvenile Smallmouth Bass feeding and escape cover. SCUBA assessments in 1999 indicated use of the half logs by spawning Smallmouth Bass; active nests and fry were also observed. Juvenile and young of the year Smallmouth Bass were observed utilizing the off shore reef habitat. In 2015, the no harvest regulation was amended to a 14.0 to 20.0 inch protected slot length limit with one over 20.0 inches allowed in possession.
In 2014, a spring electrofishing assessment was conducted to analyze the Smallmouth Bass population. Data indicated that a moderate density population with a good size structure exists. Smallmouth Bass ranged in length from 7.4 to 19.9 inches with an average length and weight of 14.4 inches and 1.8 pounds. Smallmouth Bass attain an average length of 14.0 inches at four years of age.
Anglers can maintain the quality of fishing by practicing selective harvest. Selective harvest encourages the release of medium to large size fish while allowing the harvest of more abundant smaller fish for table fare. Releasing the medium to large fish will ensure that the lake will have enough spawning age fish on an annual basis and will provide anglers with more opportunities to catch large fish in the future.