Cokato is a 545 acre lake located three miles north of the City of Cokato. The water clarity of Cokato Lake ranges from 3.5 to 8 feet. The immediate watershed is 29,281 acres with land use consisting of 72% agriculture, 11% hay/pasture, 7% marsh/open water, 7% residential, and 4% forest. The lake is primarily managed for Walleye and Smallmouth Bass with Walleye fry being stocked every other year since 2006. There is one public access located on the east side of the lake on Nevens Avenue. At the time of the survey oxygen was available for fish down to 22 feet.
With its shallow shoals, lack of aquatic vegetation and the influence of Sucker Creek, Cokato Lake is unique from many other Lakes in the Montrose Management Area. Overall, the abundance of Walleye and Northern Pike increased since the last survey in 2007, whereas Black Crappie decreased and Bluegill remained low. Smallmouth Bass and Channel Catfish are present due to the outlet connection to the North Fork of the Crow River.
The catch rate of Northern Pike increased significantly from the 2007 survey when pike numbers were low and have increased to a level considered high when compared to lakes with similar characteristics. Anglers have a good opportunity to catch a nice size Northern Pike; the average size in the survey was just under three pounds and 42 percent of sampled Northern Pike were greater than 24 inches long.
The Walleye catch doubled from 2007 and increased above the average expected value for similar lakes. Walleye up to 26 inches in length were sampled, with an average length and weight of 15 inches and 1.7 pounds. Five year classes were present in the age sample with the 2010 and 2013 year classes making up 82% of the catch. Walleye growth was above average, growing to 20.6 inches in four years.
As Northern Pike and Walleye catches have increased, Yellow Perch catches have declined significantly. This is a departure from the long term trend from Cokato Lake where perch numbers have typically been above the expected range.
Smallmouth Bass are a primary management species for Cokato Lake. The population is excellent with a wide range of sizes available to anglers including fish over 19 inches. Cokato Lake is well known for its Smallmouth Bass fishing, one of the few lakes in the area where Smallmouth Bass are present.
Channel Catfish catches declined from 2007; however, average size increased. Anglers have an excellent opportunity to catch fish that average 4.7 pounds in size and include fish over 14 pounds and 33 inches.
Historically, Bluegill have been sampled in low numbers and the population in Cokato Lake has been below the expected range of values since the mid 1980's. The catch rate decreased from 2007, despite the private stocking of adult Bluegill in 2011. Recruitment of Bluegill is likely limited by the lack of submerged vegetation.
Black Crappie catches have also decreased since the last survey and fell to the low end of expected values for similar lakes. Black Crappie ranged in length from 4.6 to 11.0 inches with an average length of 7.8 inches. Black Crappies are known to have highly variable recruitment and crappie populations tend to go through "boom and bust" cycles dependent largely on environmental conditions at the time of spawning. Once a large year class is produced, they may dominate the fishery for several years.
Other species captured were: Bigmouth Buffalo, Bowfin (dogfish), Common Carp, Fathead Minnow, Hybrid Sunfish, Johnny Darter, Common Carp, Greater, Shorthead, and Silver Redhorse, Spotfin and Spottail Shiner, White Sucker, and Yellow Bullhead.
Water quality of lakes in Wright County is a major concern. Surrounding land use practices in the large Cokato Lake watershed can have a detrimental effect on the water and recreational value of the lake. Improving water quality should be a high priority for all citizens. 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 of the lake will also help reduce the amount of nutrients entering the lake, the reducing nuisance algal blooms.