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Tony Standera (left) and Bruce Little of the Bemidji Area DNR Fisheries office place fish from the trap net into the boat Tuesday morning on Midge Lake. The fish were later weighed, measured, counted and released and the data will be used to compile a population assessment of the fish species in Midge. Pioneer Photo/Monte Draper
Tony Standera (left) and Bruce Little of the Bemidji Area DNR Fisheries office place fish from the trap net into the boat Tuesday morning on Midge Lake. The fish were later weighed, measured, counted and released and the data will be used to compile a population assessment of the fish species in Midge. Pioneer Photo/Monte Draper
DNR officials asssess fish populations in Midge Lake
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outdoors Bemidji, 56619
Bemidji Minnesota P.O. Box 455 56619

The lakes in the Bemidji area are on a rotating basis in terms of population assessment studies by DNR officials.

The more popular fishing lakes are monitored about every five years while other lakes are checked on 10-year cycles.

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Among the latter is Midge Lake and this week Bemidji Area DNR Fisheries officials working gill nets and trap nets spent three days on the lake located just east of Bemidji along Highway 2.

The gill nets are set in deeper water and are designed to monitor the larger predator species such as walleyes and northern pike.

The trap nets are placed in shallow water, usually near shore, and are targeting smaller perch and panfish.

"The trap nets and gill nets give us a snapshot of the fish populations," said DNR Lake Survey Project Coordinator Tony Standera who was conducting the Midge Lake assessment along with Fisheries Technician Bruce Little.

"We also can monitor the fish populations in terms of size, age and growth rates."

DNR officials began this summer's Midge Lake study on Monday by placing two gill nets and five trap nets. Those nets were checked Tuesday and one of the gill nets and four of the trap nets were returned to the water. Today they will be checked.

Data is collected by recording the number of fish per species, their size and their weight. Scale samples from a representative sample of each species are also collected and will be used to assess growth rates.

The overall health of the fish, including body proportions and evidence of disease, is also noted.

In order to accumulate comparable data, the locations of the nets in the 2000 survey were duplicated this week. DNR officials also want to match the calendar date. In the case of Midge Lake, the 2000 survey was completed on June 26. This year the completion date is June 30.

"We're looking for trends such as changes in the condition of the fish, their size and age structure," Standera said. "We also try to replicate the surveys as much as possible to limit the variability of the data."

Midge Lake is not known for its quality walleye fishing although fishermen who know where to go and what to use do catch nice walleyes. Most anglers who spend time on Midge, however, are pursuing northern pike, panfish or bass.

Walleye stocking has not been done in many years. Walleye fry were stocked in 1993, 1994, 1996 and 1999 following winter kill conditions but, at least partially because of the abundant perch and panfish populations, the fry survival was not thought to be high.

"Walleye fry are the perfect snack for the panfish and perch," Standera said.

During Tuesday's survey one walleye was sampled in the gill net. About 25 northern pike were found in the two gill nets and a few more worked their way into the trap nets, including one pike that was 34 inches long. That fish weighed about eight pounds.

The first trap net pulled Tuesday was filled with small perch. The second trap net was dominated by sunfish, including some that were large enough for an angler to clean for the frying pan.

"We could see beds around this location when we set the net on Monday so we knew we would have some nice sunfish in it today," Little said.

"Many of the perch in the first trap net appeared to be thin," Standera said. "That could indicate that the predator species have not been able to adequately control the perch population."

The fact that sunfish were active in their beds at the second trap net area and the perch were abundant at the first set did not influence the placement of the nets.

"The nets are not set to catch any particular species," Little said. "They are placed just to give us a representative sample."

The data collected this week has been programmed into the computer and will be analyzed during the winter.

This year's numbers will be compared to previous survey results to give an accurate assessment of the status of the Midge Lake fishery and, more importantly, any trends that may have surfaced during the past decade.

Midge was the fourth area lake to be assessed by the Bemidji area DNR Fisheries officials this summer. Next on the list is Sandy near Debs.

By the end of the summer Gilstad, Little Gilstad, Itasca, Long Lost, Grace and Pike Bay will also be studied.

Y pmiller@bemidjipioneer.com

The lakes in the Bemidji area are on a rotating basis in terms of population assessment studies by DNR officials.

The more popular fishing lakes are monitored about every five years while other lakes are checked on 10-year cycles.

Among the latter is Midge Lake and this week Bemidji Area DNR Fisheries officials working gill nets and trap nets spent three days on the lake located just east of Bemidji along Highway 2.

The gill nets are set in deeper water and are designed to monitor the larger predator species such as walleyes and northern pike.

The trap nets are placed in shallow water, usually near shore, and are targeting smaller perch and panfish.

"The trap nets and gill nets give us a snapshot of the fish populations," said DNR Lake Survey Project Coordinator Tony Standera who was conducting the Midge Lake assessment along with Fisheries Technician Bruce Little.

"We also can monitor the fish populations in terms of size, age and growth rates."

DNR officials began this summer's Midge Lake study on Monday by placing two gill nets and five trap nets. Those nets were checked Tuesday and one of the gill nets and four of the trap nets were returned to the water. Today they will be checked.

Data is collected by recording the number of fish per species, their size and their weight. Scale samples from a representative sample of each species are also collected and will be used to assess growth rates.

The overall health of the fish, including body proportions and evidence of disease, is also noted.

In order to accumulate comparable data, the locations of the nets in the 2000 survey were duplicated this week. DNR officials also want to match the calendar date. In the case of Midge Lake, the 2000 survey was completed on June 26. This year the completion date is June 30.

"We're looking for trends such as changes in the condition of the fish, their size and age structure," Standera said. "We also try to replicate the surveys as much as possible to limit the variability of the data."

Midge Lake is not known for its quality walleye fishing although fishermen who know where to go and what to use do catch nice walleyes. Most anglers who spend time on Midge, however, are pursuing northern pike, panfish or bass.

Walleye stocking has not been done in many years. Walleye fry were stocked in 1993, 1994, 1996 and 1999 following winter kill conditions but, at least partially because of the abundant perch and panfish populations, the fry survival was not thought to be high.

"Walleye fry are the perfect snack for the panfish and perch," Standera said.

During Tuesday's survey one walleye was sampled in the gill net. About 25 northern pike were found in the two gill nets and a few more worked their way into the trap nets, including one pike that was 34 inches long. That fish weighed about eight pounds.

The first trap net pulled Tuesday was filled with small perch. The second trap net was dominated by sunfish, including some that were large enough for an angler to clean for the frying pan.

"We could see beds around this location when we set the net on Monday so we knew we would have some nice sunfish in it today," Little said.

"Many of the perch in the first trap net appeared to be thin," Standera said. "That could indicate that the predator species have not been able to adequately control the perch population."

The fact that sunfish were active in their beds at the second trap net area and the perch were abundant at the first set did not influence the placement of the nets.

"The nets are not set to catch any particular species," Little said. "They are placed just to give us a representative sample."

The data collected this week has been programmed into the computer and will be analyzed during the winter.

This year's numbers will be compared to previous survey results to give an accurate assessment of the status of the Midge Lake fishery and, more importantly, any trends that may have surfaced during the past decade.

Midge was the fourth area lake to be assessed by the Bemidji area DNR Fisheries officials this summer. Next on the list is Sandy near Debs.

By the end of the summer Gilstad, Little Gilstad, Itasca, Long Lost, Grace and Pike Bay will also be studied.

pmiller@bemidjipioneer.com

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