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Lake Nelson - Fishing Opportunities

Lake Nelson was partially drained during the spring and summer of 2011 for the construction of a new emergency spillway on the dam. The partial lake draining has impacted the fish populations, primarily by reducing the number of adult bass. It will take a couple of years before the bass population is more balanced and there are noticeable improvements in the number of bass over 12 inches.

Largemouth bass

Largemouth bass are abundant but most of these fish are less than 14 inches. Largemouth bass were regulated with a 14-20 inch protected slot limit but this regulation was changed to a 15 inch minimum size limit in the spring of 2009. All bass caught less than 15 inches should be immediately released unharmed. The new size limit was initiated to expand the number of bass in the lake since most bass were harvested prior to reaching 14 inches.

Largemouth bass collected during Lake Nelson electrofishing surveys. The top row is the inch group and the additional rows are the number of fish collected per hour of sampling for each size group.
Size (Inches)10111213141516171819202122
2012542781010001003
2010323322201022221011
200937223213721101000
20082334209131111000
2006191517191362000100
200511101019732002020

Crappie

The crappie population continues to fluctuate due to cyclic reproduction. Crappie routinely have good and bad years when it comes to spawning success especially in small lakes and Lake Nelson is not an exception. With this in mind, anglers may not know what to expect from year to year until they try their favorite crappie holes each spring. Current crappie numbers are fair but this population has experienced high harvest rates and many crappie were removed when they reached 8-inches in length. To improve the size structure and reduce the impacts of variable reproduction, a 9-inch minimum size limit was initiated in 2009. Anglers looking for crappie should check beaver lodges or shoreline structure such as fallen trees and brush piles in the spring and deeper water during other months.


Crappie collected during Lake Nelson electrofishing surveys. The top row is the inch group and the additional rows are the number of fish collected per hour of sampling for each size group.
Size (Inches)6789101112
201200152080
20093231910200
20081216414910
200511051511

Sunfish

Bluegill and redear sunfish in Lake Nelson are similar to other lakes in the district. While bluegill are abundant and the dominant sunfish species, redear are also present in good numbers and tend to be slightly larger. Anglers can expect to catch good numbers of sunfish up to 8 inches. Beginning in late April and early May, sunfish begin to move shallow for spawning. Live bait such as crickets and worms work great on panfish but fly rod anglers can also be successful throwing popping bugs.

Sunfish collected during Lake Nelson electrofishing surveys. The top row is the inch group and the additional rows are the number of fish collected per hour of sampling for each size group.
Size (Inches)456789
20129466338134
20099248331340
20085152583090
2005766025920


Catfish

There is a limited catfish fishery at Lake Nelson since there is no natural reproduction and the population is dependent on the stocking program. Approximately 600 channel catfish are currently stocked every year to sustain the catfish fishery.