East and West Hunter Lakes are small, shallow, connected lakes located four miles west of Zimmerman in eastern Sherburne County. In 1986 Livonia Township secured title to a parcel on the northwest shore of West Hunter Lake and made arrangements with DNR for a cooperative access. The Hunter Lakes have a history of oxygen depletion and winterkill of fish has been observed every 5-6 years. Management has been limited to oxygen testing and re-stocking of bluegill and black crappie after winterkill. The most recent stocking was in 2001. This is the first survey since the initial survey in 1987.
Water quality has been an ongoing problem in the lakes with algal blooms common. Curled pondweed was found to grow at or near the surface on 2.8% of the surface area on West Hunter Lake and 92% of the surface area on East Hunter Lake. Twenty-seven species of aquatic plants were noted with coontail and northern water milfoil the most abundant.
Two notable changes from the 1987 survey were catches of northern pike and black bullhead. Northern pike were not taken in the 1987 survey although no gill nets were used. Catch rates are at or above the normal range when compared to similar lakes. Anglers have a good opportunity to catch a three pound northern pike. The golden shiner population appears high and provides forage for northern pike. Black bullheads were still abundant but at much lower levels than in 1987.
A primary management species for the Hunter Lakes is largemouth bass. The Hunter Lakes have an excellent bass population with a wide range of sizes available to anglers including fish up to 18 inches. Little is known about the former condition of the largemouth population as 2007 was the first opportunity to sample with day-time electrofishing.
The Hunter Lakes have abundant populations of bluegills but not black crappies. Few quality size bluegills can be found in the Hunter Lakes and only one black crappie larger than seven inches was captured in the trap nets. The average size of the bluegills was about five inches and the average size of black crappie was six inches. Bluegills in the Hunter Lakes grow slowly. A seven inch bluegill is seven years old.
Other species in the fish community include: hybrid and pumpkinseed sunfish, white sucker.
Improving the water quality in the Hunter Lakes should be a high priority of the county and landowners around the lake. Some effort may be needed to identify any sources of excess phosphorus and plans developed to reduce these sources. Buffer strips along inlets and lakeshore property are encouraged to reduce nutrients entering the lake. Maintaining adequate septic systems and keeping grass clippings and raked leaves out the lake will help reduce the amount of nutrients entering the lake, thus slowing algal and vegetation growth.