Crystal Lake is a 1,317-acre mesotrophic (moderately fertile) lake located in northwestern Otter Tail County approximately six miles northeast of Pelican Rapids, MN. Crystal Lake is part of the Otter Tail River Watershed. The immediate watershed is composed primarily of agricultural land interspersed with hardwood woodlots. Crystal Lake is connected to Lizzie Lake by a navigable culvert under County Road 31. Both Crystal and Lizzie Lakes are listed as designated infested waters. The aquatic invasive specie present is zebra mussels. The maximum depth is 55 feet; however, 51% of the lake is 15 feet or less in depth. The secchi disk reading during the 2014 lake survey was 8.5 feet. Previous secchi disk readings ranged from 5.3 to 10.0 feet.
The northwest, south, and east shorelines of Crystal Lake have been extensively developed with homes and cabins. A DNR owned public water access is located along the west shoreline. Shoal water substrates consist primarily of sand and gravel with muck being the dominant substrate in the bays. Large stands of hardstem bulrush are scattered throughout the lake. 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.
Crystal Lake can be ecologically classified as a Walleye-Centrachid type of lake and this is reflected in the assemblage of the fish community. Walleye, Northern Pike, and Bluegill are the dominant gamefish species.
Walleye is primary management specie in this lake. Walleye catch rates have consistently been within the normal range. Walleyes ranged in length from 6.8 to 26.0 inches with an average length and weight of 15.1 inches and 1.3 pounds. Age data indicate that the 2011 and 2012 year classes are strong. Walleyes attain an average length of 14.7 inches at four years of age.
A high-density Northern Pike population exists. Age data indicate that Northern Pike reproduction is consistently good. Northern Pike size structure has historically been poor. Only eight percent of the Northern Pike were 24.0 inches or greater in length. Northern Pike attain an average length of 22.7 inches at five years of age.
Bluegill abundance has remained stable over the recent series of surveys. Age data indicate that Bluegill reproduction is consistently good. Size structure has also remained consistently good. Forty percent of the Bluegills were 7.0 inches or greater in length. Bluegills attain an average length of 7.5 inches at six years of age.
To maintain the excellent angling and water quality this lake has to offer, it is imperative to preserve the quality of the aquatic habitat. In 1998, the DNR constructed and placed forty Smallmouth Bass half-log nesting structures in Crystal Lake. These structures increased the availability of suitable nesting habitat for Smallmouth Bass.
Anglers can also maintain the quality of fishing in Crystal Lake 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 more large fish in the future.
- 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.