Cannon Lake is a 1,591 acre lake located in Rice County west of the city of Faribault. A DNR-owned public access is located on the southeast side of the lake adjacent to Shager Park (Rice County) off MN-60. Cannon Lake is a large, windswept, relatively shallow lake with a maximum depth of 15 feet. Based on limnological variables and lake characteristics, Cannon Lake is placed in Lake Class 41. Other area lakes with this classification include Elysian Lake (Waseca County), Lura Lake (Blue Earth County), and Albert Lea Lake (Freeborn County). Cannon Lake is managed primarily for walleye, which are stocked three of every four years as fry (N = 2,386,500; 1,500 fry/littoral acre). Cannon Lake was surveyed the week of August 10, 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.
The walleye population in Cannon Lake continues to exhibit strong numbers of quality fish. The 2014 catch rate is the highest on record at 11.8 fish/gill net and is well above the long-term Cannon Lake average of 6.3 fish/gill net. Walleye lengths ranged from 7.5 to 26.4 inches and averaged 14.2 inches, indicating relatively good size structure. The shallow, productive water of Cannon Lake allows for fast growth of walleye, with the average length of two year old fish measuring 15.5 inches. Young yellow perch and white suckers are abundant in Cannon Lake and provide a main forage base for walleye in this system, allowing for the relatively fast growth. Walleye fry stocking will continue in Cannon Lake (three out of every four years) to sustain this quality fishery.
Yellow perch were the most abundant fish in the 2014 survey, with a total of 173 fish collected in the gill nets (14.4 fish/net). With the exception of a 1981 survey when the catch rate was 114.5 fish/gill net, yellow perch catch rates have remained relatively stable throughout the years. The yellow perch collected in 2014 ranged in length from 5.4 to 10.2 inches and averaged 7.3 inches, indicating a relatively small size structure of yellow perch. Younger, smaller yellow perch (1.0 - 3.0 inches) that provide a vital prey source in Cannon Lake do not recruit to the sampling gear used in this survey, thus are not represented.
Cannon Lake does not support the aquatic vegetation required to sustain a large bluegill population. As a result, bluegill catch rates have been low throughout the survey history. Trap nets in the 2014 survey collected a total of only 18 bluegill (1.5 fish/net), which is below the long-term average catch rate for Cannon Lake (2.2 fish/net). The length of bluegill collected in trap nets ranged from 3.2 to 9.0 inches and averaged 6.7 inches. Although a small handful of large bluegill were sampled in 2014, other area lakes may be a better option for bluegill fishing.
Black crappie abundance in Cannon Lake has been variable and overall population levels appear to be highly dependent on successful year classes every 3-5 years. In 2009, the black crappie catch rate was 0.3 fish/gill net, which was well below the long-term Cannon Lake average of 3.6 fish/net. However, the following survey in 2014 yielded a gill net catch rate of 8.8 fish/net. Black crappie collected in gill nets ranged in length from 5.0 to 11.5 inches, with 32% of the catch measuring 9.0 inches or longer. Black crappie were also collected in trap nets during this survey at a rate of 2.3 fish/net, which ranged in length from 5.3 to 11.0 inches.
The northern pike population in Cannon Lake has remained low throughout the survey history, ranging from 0.5 fish/gill net in 1972 to 1.5 fish/gill net in 2014 and averaging just 1.0 fish/gill net. Northern pike lengths in 2014 ranged from 16.5 to 33.6 inches and averaged 24.5 inches. Northern pike in most southern Minnesota lakes grow very fast. The average length of Cannon Lake pike was 22.7 inches at age-2, 26.7 inches at age-3, and 31.7 inches at age-4. No management or stocking plans exist for northern pike in Cannon Lake.
Channel catfish are present throughout the Cannon River chain of lakes and provide a valuable angling opportunity. Channel catfish catch rates in Cannon Lake have averaged 0.8 fish/gill net in surveys conducted since 1972. However, catch rates have increased in recent years. The 2009 survey yielded 1.4 fish/gill net and the 2014 survey yielded a catch rate of 2.3 fish/gill net, which is the highest ever recorded in Cannon Lake. Lengths of channel catfish ranged from 8.7 to 29.9 inches. Forty-eight percent of channel catfish from gill nets measured 20.0 inches or longer, indicating a good size structure in Cannon Lake.
White bass in Cannon Lake also provide a valuable angling opportunity. White bass catch rates peaked in 1999 (103.4 fish/gill net), which was likely the result of a single large year class. The following two surveys (2004, 16.6 fish/net; 2009, 15.4 fish/net) yielded lower catch rates, but still above average compared to similar lakes. The 2014 survey collected a more moderate catch rate of white bass at 6.0 fish/net. However, the size structure was good, ranging from 5.0 to 16.7 inches and averaging 13.4 inches. White bass can be caught throughout the year and are considered great table fare.
Largemouth bass are not effectively sampled in the gears used in this survey, so the population was not accurately represented. Three largemouth bass were collected in trap nets, which measured 4.0, 16.1, and 18.5 inches. Anecdotal reports indicate quality largemouth bass fishing opportunities in Cannon Lake. Other fish species collected during the 2014 survey included white sucker, common carp, freshwater drum, bowfin, black bullhead, and yellow bullhead. White sucker, which is an important prey fish for predators such as walleye, was one of the most abundant fish species collected in gill nets (N = 132).
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.
- Flowering Rush
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.