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Big Spirit Lake

General Information

County: Dickinson
Location: 1m N Spirit Lake
Acres: 5684.00
Maximum Depth: 24 ft. (1989)
Motoring Restrictions: none

Amenities

Amenities at Big Spirit Lake include:
  • Boat Access
  • Accessible Pier
  • Boat Rental
  • Picnic Area
  • Beach
  • Trails
  • Accessible Facilities
  • Restrooms
  • Camping
  • Good/Excellent Shorefishing
  • Hard Surface Boat Ramp

Fishing Report

No fishing activity reported in the Spirit Lake District. Most lakes are ice covered;however, ice conditions are poor with 4 inches or less measured on area lakes.
Poor ice conditions. Open areas reported last week are expanding in size on the main basin due to to the mild weekend weather and high winds experenced this week.
Crappie - No Report:

Fishing Forecast

Spring 2012 Gillnetting Season – Gillnets are set each spring to collect broodstock walleye, muskie and northern pike for the Spirit Lake hatchery operation. During the netting operation, all fish are counted to assess the overall fish populations of Spirit Lake. The lack of winter weather and record high temperatures helped make March 2012 the warmest on record in Iowa. This unseasonable weather pattern resulted in early ice out and higher than normal water temperatures, which may have contributed to the untypical 2012 gill net season, therefore comparing this season’s catch to historical gill net values may be problematic. Walleye catch rates declined during the 2012 gill net season A walleye catch rate of 31fish per crew night was approximately 4 times lower than the 2011 gill net catch rate of 123 fish per crew night; and the lowest catch recorded since 2007 (17 fish per crew night). This dramatic shift in the catch can no doubt be attributed to the unseasonal 2012 weather pattern. Walleye catch rates during the 2012 gill net season remained significantly greater than the lakes median value of 19 fish per crew night (14 – 29 fish per crew night, lower and upper percentiles) indicating good numbers of walleyes in the gill net catch. Muskie catch rates remained relatively unchanged during the 2012 gill net season. A muskie catch rate of 7 fish per crew night was significantly greater than the lakes median value of 2 fish per crew night (1 – 3; lower and upper percentiles) which suggests satisfactory numbers of the Spirit Lake muskie population. Northern pike catch rates also remained relatively steady during the 2012 gillnet season, and for the fifth consecutive year catch rates remained significantly higher than the lakes median value. A northern pike catch rate of 8 fish per crew night (9 fish per crew night; 2011 gill net season) was approximately 4 times higher than the lakes median catch rate of 2 fish per crew night, suggesting a continued superior northern pike population in Spirit Lake. Largemouth and smallmouth bass continue to be detected in good numbers in Spirit Lake. A largemouth bass catch rate of 4 fish per night during the 2012 gill net season declined (6 fish per night, 2011 gillnet season) however for the fifth consecutive year catch rates have remained high, indicating good numbers of this species in Spirit Lake. Smallmouth bass catch rates remained relatively unchanged during the 2012 gill net season. A catch rate of 2 fish per night was somewhat comparable to the 2011 gillnet catch, with catch rates, for the fourth consecutive year, significantly greater than the lakes median value of 1 fish per crew night, indicating excellent numbers of this species in Spirit Lake. White bass were detected during the 2012 gillnet season for the sixth out of the past 8 years in high numbers. A white bass catch rate of 34 fish per night once again increased significantly (26 fish per night; 2011 gillnet assessment) and for the second consecutive year is the highest catch rate recorded since 1947 (34 fish per crew night). White bass catch rates during the 2012 gillnet season is 34 times higher than the lakes median value of 1 fish per crew night (0 - 6 fish per crew night, lower and upper percentiles) suggesting the presence of a higher than typical population of this species in Spirit Lake. Bullhead catch rates declined during the 2012 gillnet season. A bullhead catch rate of 10 fish per crew night (16 fish per gill net; 2011 gill net season) was comparable to the lakes median value (3 – 21 fish per crew night) indicating a more typical bullhead population in Spirit Lake. Rough fish comprised of carp, buffalo, freshwater drum and suckers were detected in varying densities during the 2012 gill net season, indicating the continued presence of these species in Spirit Lake. Spring 2012 Northern Pike Assessment - A management investigation was initiated in 2010 to examine and monitor the broodstock northern pike population in Spirit Lake. The northern pike population of Spirit Lake is now the source for broodstock fish for fry and fingerling production in Iowa. Since 2010, 740 northern pike have been tagged with passive integrated transponder (PIT) tags in attempt to measure key population metrics. In 2012, 311 broodstock northern pike were measured and only 2 of the fish captured had been tagged in previous years. YOUNG OF THE YEAR ASSESSMENT: Walleye catch rates declined for the first time since 2009; however catch rates continue to be detected in good numbers. A walleye catch rate of 7 fish per haul declined from the high 2011 catch rate of 23 fish per haul; however, catch rates were comparable to the lakes median value of 4 fish per haul, suggesting numbers adequate for year class formation. For seven years (500-drag seine, 1995, 1996, 1997, 2001, 2007, 2010 and 2011) YOY walleyes were sampled in significantly higher numbers than the lakes median value which suggests formation of strong year classes. High numbers of subadult fish were also sampled during the fall AC electrofishing assessment in 1996 and 1997 suggesting the presence of two consecutive strong year classes. High numbers of subadult fish (2001, 2007 and 2009 year classes) were also sampled during the 2002, 2008 and 2010 500-drag seine assessment, indicating the presence of strong year classes. Seine assessments appear to predict strong year classes from young of the year and subadult catches and continue to be evaluated. A walleye sub adult catch of 1 fish per haul during the 2012 500” drag seine assessment was comparable to the lakes median value of 1 fish per haul; suggesting, a more typical year class formation. YOY walleye were detected in high numbers during the 2010 and 2011 bag seine assessment (24 and 23 fish per haul respectively); however, the lower than expected numbers of subadult fish documented during the 2011 and 2012 bag seine assessments may be attributed to predation or poor overwinter survival of the 2010 and 2011 walleye year classes. Since 1989, largemouth and/or smallmouth bass have maintained relatively high catch rates. Smallmouth bass have been detected in good to high numbers 17 out of the last 23 years and the 2012 bag seine catch was no exception. Smallmouth bass were sampled in comparable numbers during the 2012 500 drag seine assessment, suggesting good reproductive success. Largemouth bass were once again detected in good numbers during the 2012 assessment. A catch rate of 25 fish per haul declined slightly (30 fish per haul, 2011 bag seine assessment); with catch rates significantly greater than the lakes median value of 7 fish per haul (1 – 23 fish per haul, lower and upper percentiles) suggesting excellent reproductive success. Panfish populations, comprised of bluegill, yellow perch and black crappie were sampled in excellent numbers during the 2012, 500-foot drag seine assessment. A crappie catch rate of 257 fish per haul increased for the second consecutive year during the 2012 500-drag seine assessment (157 fish per haul, 2011 assessment) with catch rates significantly higher, then the lakes median value of 38 fish per haul, (5 – 202 lower and upper percentiles) suggesting good reproductive success. Subadult crappie catch rates from the 500 foot drag seine assessments appear to be a possible indicator of potentially strong year classes and will further be evaluated. An all time high catch of 46 subadult crappie per haul was documented during the 2002, 500 foot drag seine assessment. This catch rate was reflected in the 2004 creel with an all time high crappie estimated harvest of 27,612 fish which was mainly influenced by the 2001-year class. A catch of 27 sub adult crappie was also documented during the 2006 500” drag seine assessment. This catch rate no doubt resulted in the upswing of the black crappie harvest documented during the in 2009 – 2010 creel season. During the 2012 drag seine assessment catch rates of subadult crappie was apparent in the catch (23 fish per haul, 1 – 10 lower and upper percentiles) suggesting good year class formation with numbers adequate which should provide an upswing to the fishery in the next few years. Bluegill catch rates increased during the 2012 500’ drag seine assessment for a third consecutive year. A bluegill catch rate of 972 fish per haul was approximately 2 times higher (507 fish per haul; 2011 drag seine assessment) with catch rates significantly higher than the lakes median value of 121 fish per haul (33 – 521, lower and upper percentiles) suggesting excellent spawning success of this species. The catch of subadult bluegill was also at an all time high during the 2005, 2006 and 2012 500’ foot drag seine assessments suggesting year class formation; however caution is in order because evaluation of the subadult bluegill catch during the 500 foot assessment has yet to provide a real reliable indicator of future recruitment to the fishery of Spirit Lake. Yellow perch were detected in high numbers for the fourth out of the past five years. A catch rate of 1,905 fish per haul (6,226 fish per haul 2011, 500 foot drag seine assessment) declined; however, catch rates for the third consecutive year remained significantly higher than the lakes median value of 519 fish per haul, suggesting excellent reproductive success. The 500’ drag seine assessment has been an adequate indicator of successful perch reproduction and an indicator of future recruitment; however, predictions of year class strengths especially moderate ranges remains difficult. Subadult yellow perch catch rates declined during the 2012 drag seine assessment. A catch rate of 3 subadult perch per haul was comparable to the lakes median value of 4 fish per haul (1 – 10 lower and upper percentiles) suggesting year class formation. YOY yellow perch were detected in high numbers during the 2011 bag seine assessment (6,226 fish per haul); however, the lower than expected numbers of sub adult fish documented during the 2012 bag seine assessments may be attributed to possible predation of this yellow perch year class. Seine assessments appear to predict strong year classes from subadult catches and are currently being evaluated. Young of the year white bass were detected in the 500-foot drag seine in high numbers. A catch rate of 14 fish per haul declined (75 fish per haul; 2011 bag seine assessment) but for the second consecutive year was significantly greater than the typical YOY white bass catch of Spirit Lake. White bass were detected in significantly greater numbers only five out of the past 21 years. Young of the year yellow bass was detected for the first time since the 500-foot drag seine assessment began on Spirit Lake. A total of 13 YOY yellow bass were captured during the 2012 500’ drag seine assessment suggesting the presence of a parent stock and first time documentation of this species in Spirit Lake. Spottail shiners, for the ninth consecutive year, were again sampled in good numbers during the 2012, 500 foot drag seine assessment. A catch rate of 1,262 fish per haul increased for the second consecutive year and is the highest catch recorded since 2008 (2,075 fish per haul) with catch rates significantly greater to the lakes median value of 89 fish per haul reflecting, excellent spottail shiner numbers in Spirit Lake. 2012 CREEL SURVEY A recreational creel survey is conducted yearly on Spirit Lake to estimate fishing pressure and harvest. The survey includes open water (boat and shore) and ice anglers and was conducted from the first Saturday in May, 2012 to February 14th, 2013. Fishing pressure, as defined by the number of anglers (36,202) and hours (116,484) was significantly less than the Spirit Lake median value of 44,424 anglers and 142,419 hours indicating a decline in fishing pressure during the 2012/2013 creel season. Total harvest of 28,891 fish dropped for the second consecutive year and was significantly less than the lakes median value of 102,123 fish (65,472 – 190,249 lower and upper percentiles) and is the lowest number of fish harvested on record. For the second consecutive year black crappie harvest declined. A black crappie harvest of 1,243 fish declined from the 2011/2012 creel season (4,368 black crappie harvested) with harvest significantly less than the lakes median value (3,952 fish harvested; 1,983 – 5,957 fish; lower and upper percentiles) and is the lowest recorded harvest since 1996 (1,132 black crappie harvested). Smallmouth and largemouth bass harvest changed to some extent, with numbers during the 2012/2013 creel reflecting low harvest rates for the eight consecutive year, which is more typical for these species. Largemouth and smallmouth bass typically are a very minor harvest species in the Spirit Lake creel, contributing less than 1 percent of the total harvest. A smallmouth bass harvest of 161 fish decreased (213 fish harvested; 2011/2012 creel estimate) however, the 2012 smallmouth bass harvest was lower but comparable to the lakes typical harvest of 274 fish (118 – 387; lower and upper percentiles). A largemouth bass harvest of 186 fish declined (341 fish; 2011/2012 creel estimates) and was also comparable to the lakes median value of 212 fish (80 – 393; lower and upper percentiles) indicating a typical largemouth and smallmouth bass harvest from Spirit Lake during the 2012/2013 creel season. For the 11th consecutive year, white bass were harvested from Spirit Lake. This species has contributed very low harvest numbers nine out of the past eleven years contributing 1 percent or less to the total creel harvest. During the 2012/2013 creel season, 845 white bass were harvested which was approximately double the 2011/2012 creel season of 424 fish. Northern pike harvest increased for the second consecutive year during the 2012/2013 creel season. A total of 1,001 northern pike were harvested during the 2012/2013 creel which is higher, but comparable to the lakes median value of 676 fish (448 – 1,230 fish; lower and upper percentiles) indicating a continued typical harvest of this species. A yellow perch harvest of 5,361 fish declined significantly for the second consecutive year (15,593 fish, 2010/2011 creel season); and is the lowest harvest ever recorded. Yellow perch harvest rates for 2012/2013 creel season was eleven times lower than the median value of 47,400 fish (19,094 – 106,224 fish; lower and upper percentiles). This low harvest rates no doubt contributed to the lower numbers of fish harvested during the 2012/2113 creel season. For the twelfth consecutive year, bullhead harvest was low. A bullhead harvest of 4,606 fish remained fairly steady (4,212 fish; 2011/2012 creel survey); with harvest remaining nearly 5 times lower than the lakes median harvest of 20,572 fish. Walleye harvest was again above the lakes median value for the seventh consecutive year. A walleye harvest of 11,726 fish was approximately two times greater than the lakes median value of 6,274 fish (4,187 – 7,441 fish; lower and upper percentiles) and is the fourth highest harvest recorded for this species since 1984. Bluegill harvest returned to normalcy during the 2012/2013 creel season. A total harvest of 2,563 bluegill declined for the second consecutive year (9,576 2010/2011 creel season); with harvest lower but comparable to the lakes median value of 4,676 fish (1,892 – 9,700 fish; lower and upper percentiles). (2012)


Lake Maps

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Popular Fish Species at this Lake

Fish Stocking

  • 05/16/2013 - 850 Muskellunge (12.5")
  • 05/13/2013 - 21,150,000 Walleye (Fry)
  • 04/16/2013 - 128,812 Walleye (Fry)
  • 05/07/2012 - 400 Muskellunge (12.6")
  • 04/17/2012 - 14,489,339 Walleye (Fry)
  • 05/12/2011 - 831 Muskellunge (12.4")
  • 05/11/2011 - 21,419,028 Walleye (Fry)
  • 04/25/2010 - 24,858,046 Walleye (Fry)
  • 04/06/2010 - 414,906 Northern Pike (Fry)
  • 09/28/2009 - 12,331 Walleye (6.7")
  • 05/06/2009 - 850 Muskellunge (14.0")
  • 05/02/2009 - 20,980,000 Walleye (Fry)
  • 04/04/2009 - 590,940 Northern Pike (Fry)
  • 05/19/2008 - 850 Muskellunge (13.5")
  • 05/09/2008 - 25,250,000 Walleye (Fry)
  • 05/15/2007 - 852 Muskellunge (13.2")
  • 04/30/2007 - 20,815,000 Walleye (Fry)
  • 05/08/2006 - 270 Muskellunge (14.0")
  • 04/25/2006 - 25,000,000 Walleye (Fry)
  • 05/12/2005 - 578 Muskellunge (13.0")
  • 04/19/2005 - 21,134,827 Walleye (Fry)
  • 10/12/2004 - 10,000 Walleye (8")
  • 09/21/2004 - 51,466 Walleye (5.5")
  • 04/22/2004 - 25,698,549 Walleye (Fry)

Regulations

The Fishing Regulations brochure is available for download. The summaries listed below are a partial listing provided for your benefit.

  • Black Bullhead
    • Season: Continuous
    • Daily Bag Limit: unlimited
    • Possession Limit: unlimited
    • Length Limit: none
    • Other:
  • Black Crappie
    • Season: Continuous
    • Daily Bag Limit: combined black and white crappie, 25 fish
    • Possession Limit: unlimited
    • Length Limit: none
    • Other: No daily limit on private waters
  • Bluegill
    • Season: Continuous
    • Daily Bag Limit: 25 fish
    • Possession Limit: unlimited
    • Length Limit: none
    • Other: No daily limit on private waters
  • Freshwater Drum
    • Season: Continuous
    • Daily Bag Limit: none
    • Possession Limit: unlimited
    • Length Limit: none
    • Other: May be taken by hand fishing, by snagging, by spear or by bow and arrow, day or night.
  • Largemouth Bass
    • Season: Continuous
    • Daily Bag Limit: combined black bass, 3 fish
    • Possession Limit: combined black bass, 6 fish
    • Length Limit: 15-inch minimum
    • Other:
  • Muskellunge
    • Season: Open from May 21 - November 30
    • Daily Bag Limit: combined: muskellunge and tiger muskellunge, 1 fish
    • Possession Limit: combined: muskellunge and tiger muskellunge, 1 fish
    • Length Limit: 40-inch minimum
    • Other:
  • Northern Pike
    • Season: Continuous, except for boundary lakes
    • Daily Bag Limit: 3 fish
    • Possession Limit: 6 fish
    • Length Limit: none
    • Other: Except for border lakes
  • Smallmouth Bass
    • Season: Continuous
    • Daily Bag Limit: combined black bass, 3 fish
    • Possession Limit: combined black bass, 6 fish
    • Length Limit: 15-inch minimum
    • Other:
  • Walleye
    • Season: Open from May 3, 2014 through February 15, 2015.
    • Daily Bag Limit: 3 fish
    • Possession Limit: 6 fish
    • Length Limit: all 17 to 22-inch walleyes must be immediately released alive
    • Other: No more than one walleye longer than 22 inches may be taken per day
  • White Bass
    • Season: Continuous
    • Daily Bag Limit: none
    • Possession Limit: unlimited
    • Length Limit: none
    • Other:
  • Yellow Perch
    • Season: Continuous
    • Daily Bag Limit: 25 fish
    • Possession Limit: 50 fish
    • Length Limit: none
    • Other:

Fish Surveys

Lake Fish Survey Data Data from the most recent fisheries survey of this lake is provided on this external web site. This data may include information from various netting surveys and/or electroshocking surveys. Data includes numbers of fish sampled, and fish size ranges. Not all lakes are sampled every year.

Lake Mini-report

Lake Reports Summary report information about selected (~130) lakes regarding water quality, upstream land use, usage, economic value and more. Reports are customizable by the user to include only that information which the user desires to include.

Water Quality

Iowa-Caught Fish Are Safe to Eat, In Almost All Cases

The vast majority of Iowa’s streams, rivers and lakes offer safe and high-quality fish that pose little or no threat to human health if consumed. Some limitations may apply for young children and pregnant women. Here’s a Fish Consumption Fact Sheet from the Iowa DNR and the Iowa Dept. of Public Health for more information. Here is a list of current fish consumption advisories for Iowa lakes and rivers.

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