Fisheries Lake Survey

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Name: Poplar

Nearest Town: Grand Marais
Primary County: Cook
Survey Date: 07/09/2012
Inventory Number: 16023900
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Public Access Information

Ownership Type Description
Private Property Earthen Accesses at various resorts.
US Forest Service Concrete New concrete access at the west end of the lake is reached from a road the Gunflint Trail (Co. Rd. 12). Parking for many vehicles.

Lake Characteristics

Lake Area (acres): 764
Littoral Area (acres): 290
Maximum Depth (ft): 73
Water Clarity (ft): 10.4 (9-13)

Dominant Bottom Substrate: N/A
Abundance of Aquatic Plants: N/A
Maximum Depth of Plant Growth (ft): 3.2 (1-9)

Did you know? Much of Minnesota's fisheries program is reimbursed by the Federal Aid in Sport Fish Restoration Program (federal excise tax), administered by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

Fish Sampled for the 2012 Survey Year


Gear Used

Number of fish per net

Average Fish Weight (lbs)

Normal Range (lbs)


Normal Range

Black Crappie Trap net 0.75 0.1 - 0.4 0.14 0.4 - 1.1
Gill net 0.12 0.1 - 1.1 0.68 0.1 - 0.6
Burbot Gill net 0.69 0.2 - 1.0 1.23 0.6 - 1.5
Lake Whitefish Gill net 2.06 1.6 - 15.5 0.84 1.0 - 2.1
Northern Pike Trap net 0.33 N/A 1.79 N/A
Gill net 1.00 0.6 - 2.4 1.23 2.1 - 4.9
Pumpkinseed Trap net 0.17 N/A 0.11 N/A
Gill net 0.06 N/A 0.02 N/A
Smallmouth Bass Trap net 0.17 0.1 - 1.3 1.74 0.2 - 0.4
Walleye Trap net 0.50 0.2 - 0.8 0.67 0.5 - 1.5
Gill net 0.31 1.2 - 5.2 1.00 1.0 - 2.0
White Sucker Trap net 0.33 0.1 - 1.0 1.78 1.1 - 3.6
Gill net 2.06 0.8 - 5.3 2.00 1.1 - 2.5
Yellow Perch Trap net 0.08 0.4 - 1.2 0.08 0.1 - 0.4
Gill net 0.12 0.4 - 3.7 0.09 0.1 - 0.2
Normal Ranges represent typical catches for lakes with similar physical and chemical characteristics.

Length of Selected Species (Trapnet, Gillnet) Sampled for the 2012 Survey Year

Species Number of fish caught in each category (inches)
0-5 6-8 9-11 12-14 15-19 20-24 25-29 30+ Total
black crappie 6 2 3 0 0 0 0 0 11
burbot 0 0 0 3 6 2 0 0 11
lake whitefish 0 2 11 9 11 0 0 0 33
northern pike 0 0 0 9 5 5 1 0 20
pumpkinseed 2 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 3
smallmouth bass 0 0 0 1 1 0 0 0 2
walleye 0 1 1 7 2 0 0 0 11
white sucker 0 4 7 5 17 4 0 0 37
yellow perch 1 2 0 0 0 0 0 0 3

For the record, the largest White Sucker taken in Minnesota weighed 9 lbs., 1 oz. and was caught:

    Where: Big Fish Lake, Stearns County
    When: 5/1/83
    Statistics: 24.25" length, 16.25" girth

Fish Stocking Activity

Fish Stocked by Species for the Last Ten Years

Year Species Size Number Pounds
2015 Walleye2 fingerlings 10,428 579.3
2013 Walleye2 fingerlings 16,351 578.0
2011 Walleye2 fingerlings 10,138 580.0
2008 Walleye adults 15 6.0
  Walleye fingerlings 14,404 232.5
2007 Walleye fry 300,000 3.0
2006 Walleye fry 300,000 3.0

Stocking Notes
1 - indicates fish purchased and stocked by private citizens and sporting groups.
2 - indicates fish purchased by the DNR for stocking.

Stocking Fish Sizes
Fry - Newly hatched fish that are ready to be stocked usually called "swim-ups". Walleye fry are 1/3 of an inch or around 8 mm.
Fingerling - Fingerlings are one to six months old and can range from a size of one to twelve inches depending on the species. Walleye fingerlings range from three to eight inches each fall.
Yearling - Yearling fish are at least one year old. A one-year-old fish can range from three to twenty inches depending on the species. Walleye yearlings average from six to twelve inches.
Adult - Adult fish are fish that have reached maturity. Depending on the species, maturity can be reached at two years of age. Walleye reach maturity between the ages of four and six years.

Fish Consumption Guidelines

No fish consumption guidelines are available for this lake. For more information, see the "Fish Consumption Advice" pages at the Minnesota Department of Health.

Status of the Fishery (as of 07/09/2012)

Poplar Lake is managed primarily for walleye and northern pike. The long range goal for walleye is to improve their abundance to achieve a minimum gill net catch of 3.0 fish/set, with some fish over 20 inches present. The goal for the northern pike population is to maintain a minimum gill net catch of 0.6 fish/set. This was the first of three assessments scheduled in the 2011 lake management plan to monitor the fish community and determine whether a new walleye stocking program, started in 2011, would be effective. All previous attempts to increase walleye abundance by stocking have failed in this lake.

In 2012, Clean Water Legacy funding allowed areas across the state to do some nearshore fish community sampling to improve our ability to use a fish-based Index of Biotic Integrity (IBI) to identify disturbed aquatic ecosystems. Poplar Lake was selected for nearshore sampling because its accessibility allowed for use of the sampling gears required, and it was one of the more heavily developed lakes in Cook County.

Assessments of Poplar Lake have used a combination of deep and shallow gill net sets since 1993. Deep sets target coldwater species, while shallow sets target warm and cool-water species. In this discussion, all references to gill net catches will be to the combined catch in deep and shallow sets. In DNR Lakefinder reports, catches in those nets have been combined. In addition, 0.25-in-mesh trap nets, backpack electrofishing gear, and a 15-ft beach seine were used to sample the nearshore fish community in 2012. Catches for those nets are not included in Lakefinder reports.

Walleye gill net catches in this lake have not exceeded 3.0 fish/set since 1982, despite periods of heavy stocking. The 2012 gill net catch was one of the lowest ever seen in this lake; it fell far short of the long range goal for the species, and was well below the normal range for a lake of this type. No walleye 20 inches or larger were taken in 2012. Of the 11 walleye taken in gill nets and 0.75-in-mesh trap nets, eight were from year classes supplemented by fingerling or fry stocking (2008 fingerlings and 2007 fry). Weak natural year classes were apparently produced in 2009 and 2010. No fish from the 2011 fingerling stocking were taken; however, they would probably not have been large enough to have been captured in 0.75-in-mesh sampling gear in early July 2012. Walleye growth had been slower than average; four-year-old fish reached an average length of 13.0 inches by the end of their fourth year, compared to an area mean of 14.2 inches. Slow walleye growth was probably due to limited forage (low yellow perch abundance) and competition for forage from smallmouth bass, northern pike, lake whitefish, and black crappie.

The 2012 northern pike gill net catch met the long range goal for the species, and was similar to past catches seen in this lake. Most of the northern pike collected were small (under 20 inches), but that was also typical for this lake. The population consisted mostly of young fish; none older than four years were collected. Growth rates had been about average; three-year-old fish reached an average length of 19.1 inches at the end of their third year.

Smallmouth bass abundance appeared to have been low in 2012. None were taken in gill nets, and the catch in 0.75-in-mesh trap nets barely reached the low end of the normal range for the lake class. Low catches in both gears have not been unusual in this lake, and anglers have reported catching more bass than those low catches would indicate. Too few fish were taken in 2012 to allow age distribution or growth rates to be described.

Poplar Lake has supported a modest black crappie population for many years. Although the 2012 catch in 0.75-in-mesh trap nets exceeded the normal range the lake class, this class is not known for supporting good black crappie populations. Black crappie were not abundant enough, or large enough, to provide a very satisfactory fishery in 2012. Most of the black crappie taken in trap nets were under six inches in length. Larger fish have been taken in the past in Poplar Lake, but the 2012 catch was dominated by small, two-year-old fish. Growth of those fish had been slow; they reached an average length of just 3.4 inches by the end of their second year.

Poplar Lake has been open for fall netting of lake whitefish for many years, and netters have reported good success. Although the netting harvest is unknown, it appears to have been sustainable. The 2012 lake whitefish gill net catch was the highest seen to date in this lake. Although the mean weight for lake whitefish taken in gill net sets fell below the normal range for the lake class, it was similar to values seen in some past assessments of this lake. Lake whitefish collected in 2012 ranged in length from 8.3 to 19.1 in. From the length frequency distribution it appeared that at least four year classes were represented in the catch, including a relatively large number of young fish that contributed to the lower mean weight seen in 2012.

Forage for walleye and northern pike appeared to have been limited. The yellow perch gill net catch was relatively low, both for Poplar Lake historically, and for a lake of this class. Few minnows were taken during nearshore fish sampling. Some of the lake whitefish and white sucker collected would have been small enough to have provided forage for larger northern pike, but would have been too large for any but the largest walleye.

Sampling of the nearshore fish community was done using quarter-in-mesh trap nets, a 15-ft beach seine, and backpack electrofishing gear. Prior to sampling done in 2012, Poplar Lake was known to have supported, at various times, yellow perch, white sucker, walleye, smallmouth bass, northern pike, lake whitefish, black crappie, burbot, pumpkinseed sunfish, central mudminnow, blacknose shiner, bluegill, hybrid sunfish, lake trout, largemouth bass, Iowa darter, brook stickleback, spottail shiner, black bullhead, green sunfish, and cisco. No cisco have been sampled since 1955, and black bullhead were reported just once, in 1983. Nearshore sampling in 2012 added common shiner (a single specimen collected) to the list of species known to be present in this lake.

For more information on this lake, contact:

Area Fisheries Supervisor
1356 Hwy 61 E
Grand Marais, MN 55604
Phone: (218) 387-3056
Internet: Grand Marais Fisheries

Lake maps can be obtained from:

Minnesota Bookstore
660 Olive Street
St. Paul, MN 55155
(651) 297-3000 or (800) 657-3757
To order, use B0092 for the map-id.

For general DNR Information, contact:

DNR Information Center
500 Lafayette Road
St. Paul, MN 55155-4040
TDD: (651) 296-6157 or (888) MINNDNR

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