Last year's survey of Lake Margrethe shows plenty of angling opportunity

DNR employee holding two smallmouth bass caught during Lake Margrethe surveyAt 1,922 acres, Lake Margrethe is the largest lake in Crawford County in Michigan's northern Lower Peninsula. Located just a couple of miles west of Grayling, it is easy to get to, making it one of the most popular fishing lakes in this part of the state.

It has long been stocked by the Michigan Department of Natural Resources with walleye and Great Lakes-strain muskellunge, but had not been surveyed since 2007 (general netting survey) and 2009 (fall electrofishing survey targeting walleye). Walleye had recently been stocked in 2011, 2013 and 2015, and muskellunge were stocked in 2012 and 2014 (plus Northern-strain muskellunge a number of years prior). So it was time for the DNR to go see how the fish populations of Lake Margrethe were doing.

DNR, Fisheries Division staff decided to get an early start on it, knowing an early effort could allow them a successful catch, particularly of muskellunge. The crew set nets on April 25, 2016. However, Mother Nature did not cooperate, and no muskies were captured.

It was very cold, with water temps in the 40's. The fish just weren't moving, and the nets did not catch many fish of any species. Realizing this was not an accurate representation of what was in the lake; the crew decided to go back in once it warmed up.

In late May 2016 conditions improved so they headed back. This time was much different, and they caught fish. The Fisheries Division crew used trapnets, fyke nets and inland gill nets to conduct the survey.

All in all, the netting surveys showed healthy fish populations of various species in Lake Margrethe. The walleye population looks great with plenty of fish in the 18-23 inch range. Clearly that program is working well, and anglers are taking advantage of it.

According to Mark Tonello, the local fisheries biologist, those looking to target walleye should use body baits when the season opens.

"Dusk and after dark are the best times," he explained. "In the summer, drifting or trolling with crawler harnesses is a good technique, in water from 15 to 25 feet deep."

Both the largemouth and smallmouth bass populations looked great with many fish ranging from 14-20 inches. The crew also caught some nice northern pike measuring up to 32 inches.

The panfish populations were outstanding with many seven to 10 inch bluegills and pumpkinseed sunfish. Also, countless seven to 10 inch rock bass.

"The western part of Lake Margrethe near the outlet is the best area for largemouth bass and bluegill, while smallmouth bass are found just about anywhere," Tonello shared. "Another good bluegill area is near M-72."

Another bright spot of the survey was the brown and brook trout. While not plentiful, the fish that were caught during the survey were very nice. The Fisheries Division crew caught five brown trout up to 23 inches, and 14 brook trout up to 13 inches. Since these species aren't stocked, the DNR believes they are migrants from Portage Creek, which is known to be a good trout stream.

The only fish not well represented in the 2016 survey were yellow perch and muskellunge. The crew caught a few yellow perch up to 11 inches, but they did not catch a large quantity of them. The effort also never produced any muskellunge. Local fisheries managers know there have been some impressive Northern-strain muskies caught in Lake Margrethe in the past, so they're hoping to hear from anglers if they see or catch any - although now they are Great Lakes-strain muskellunge.

As a result of this survey, the DNR plans to continue with the walleye stocking program here and scrutinize the muskellunge stocking efforts. So if you're in the Grayling area, give Lake Margrethe a try.

For those who want even more information on Lake Margrethe, stay tuned to Michigan.gov/fishing for a Status of the Fishery Resource Report to be posted later this spring.