West McDonald Lake is located in north-central Otter Tail County approximately four miles south of Vergas, MN. West McDonald Lake is a 573-acre mesotrophic (moderately fertile) lake that is located within the Otter Tail River Watershed. There are no inlets or outlets connected to West McDonald Lake. The immediate watershed is composed of agricultural land interspersed with hardwood woodlots. The maximum depth of West McDonald Lake is 75 feet; however, 32% of the lake is less than 15 feet in depth. The secchi disk reading during the 2015 lake survey was 13.2 feet. Previous secchi disk readings have ranged from 13.6 to 17.1 feet.
The majority of the shoreline of West McDonald Lake has been extensively developed. The development is primarily composed of homes and cabins. A DNR owned concrete public water access is located off of County Road 85 along the southwest shoreline of the lake. The shoal water substrates consist of sand and gravel. Small stands of hardstem bulrush and common cattail are scattered along the south and east shorelines of the lake. Emergent aquatic plants such as bulrush and cattail 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.
West McDonald Lake can be ecologically classified as a bass-panfish type of lake and this is reflected in the assemblage of the fish community. Largemouth bass, Walleye, and Bluegill are the dominant gamefish species in the fish community.
Catch data from recent test-netting and electrofishing assessments indicate that a high-density Largemouth Bass population exists in West McDonald Lake. Length data from these assessments indicate that the bass population is dominated by small fish. Age data from recent assessments also indicate that bass reproduction levels are consistently high. Growth rate estimates indicate that bass growth is slow, most likely due to the high-density population which increases competition for the available forage. Bass ranged in length from 4.5 to 14.0 inches with an average length and weight of 10.4 inches and 0.6 pounds. Bass attain an average length of 11.1 inches at four years of age.
The long-term trend has been a decline in Bluegil abundance. The decline in abundance corresponds with a long-term increase in the average size of Bluegill. Thirty-nine percent of the Bluegills were at least 7.0 inches in length. Bluegills attain an average length of 7.0 inches at five years of age.
Walleye abundance has consistently exceeded management goals. Walleyes ranged in length from 10.4 to 24.1 inches with an average length and weight of 15.8 inches and 1.4 pounds. Multiple year classes appear to be strong and should provide consistently good Walleye angling for several years. Walleyes attain an average length of 15.1 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 the 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.