Fisheries Lake Survey

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Name: Lower Balsam

Nearest Town: Taconite
Primary County: Itasca
Survey Date: 08/08/2011
Inventory Number: 31024700

Public Access Information

Ownership Type Description


Lake Characteristics

Lake Area (acres): 258.52
Littoral Area (acres): 99
Maximum Depth (ft): 29
Water Clarity (ft): 6

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


Did you know? Each year, DNR fisheries personnel stock game fish fry and fingerlings in lakes lacking habitat for natural reproduction.

Fish Sampled for the 2011 Survey Year

Species

Gear Used

Number of fish per net

Average Fish Weight (lbs)

Normal Range (lbs)

Caught

Normal Range

Black Crappie Trap net 1.25 0.7 - 3.4 0.12 0.2 - 0.6
Gill net 12.50 0.6 - 3.5 0.33 0.2 - 0.5
Bluegill Trap net 7.00 6.1 - 46.6 0.19 0.1 - 0.3
Gill net 3.33 N/A 0.26 N/A
Bowfin (dogfish) Trap net 0.38 0.4 - 1.3 6.78 2.9 - 4.9
Gill net 0.50 0.3 - 0.6 5.26 3.1 - 4.8
Largemouth Bass Gill net 1.83 0.3 - 1.7 1.36 0.6 - 1.2
Northern Pike Trap net 0.25 N/A 4.59 N/A
Gill net 6.17 3.5 - 10.5 2.03 1.6 - 2.9
Pumpkinseed Trap net 0.38 2.0 - 8.5 0.11 0.1 - 0.2
Rock Bass Trap net 0.25 0.5 - 1.8 0.15 0.2 - 0.5
Gill net 0.67 0.3 - 1.9 0.60 0.2 - 0.5
Shorthead Redhorse Gill net 0.67 0.2 - 0.8 2.97 1.7 - 2.6
Tullibee (cisco) Gill net 2.83 0.5 - 4.8 1.94 0.7 - 1.9
Walleye Gill net 1.33 1.3 - 5.0 1.81 1.3 - 2.5
White Sucker Trap net 0.12 0.3 - 1.4 4.74 1.6 - 2.9
Gill net 2.67 0.5 - 2.7 2.10 1.8 - 2.5
Yellow Bullhead Trap net 1.00 1.3 - 9.8 0.81 0.5 - 0.8
Gill net 1.50 1.0 - 10.5 1.15 0.4 - 0.8
Yellow Perch Trap net 0.12 0.5 - 3.3 0.07 0.1 - 0.2
Gill net 0.50 3.4 - 43.6 0.11 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 2011 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 12 47 26 0 0 0 0 0 85
bluegill 22 54 0 0 0 0 0 0 76
bowfin (dogfish) 0 0 0 0 0 5 0 0 6
largemouth bass 0 1 1 8 1 0 0 0 11
northern pike 0 0 0 2 18 12 4 3 39
pumpkinseed 3 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 3
rock bass 2 3 1 0 0 0 0 0 6
shorthead redhorse 0 0 0 0 3 1 0 0 4
tullibee (cisco) 0 1 1 3 12 0 0 0 17
walleye 0 0 1 2 3 2 0 0 8
white sucker 0 0 2 4 9 2 0 0 17
yellow bullhead 0 0 11 6 0 0 0 0 17
yellow perch 2 2 0 0 0 0 0 0 4


For the record, the largest Chinook Salmon (King) taken in Minnesota weighed 33 lbs., 4 oz. and was caught:

    Where: Poplar River, Cook County
    When: 9/23/89
    Statistics: 44.75" length, 25.75" girth

    and by

    Where: 10/12/89
    When:
    Statistics: Lake Superior, St. Louis County

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 08/08/2011)

Lower Balsam Lake is located in Itasca County about 15 miles north of Taconite, MN and is within the Mississippi River watershed (#15). The lake covers 283 acres, of which 99 are littoral (35%), and has a maximum depth of 29 feet. There is one inlet and one outlet. Water quality measurements in 1985 showed a total alkalinity of 81 ppm and total phosphorous of 0.024 ppm, and water clarity has been moderate with Secchi depths of 6 ft in 2011. Lower Balsam Lake is in ecological lake class #31; lakes in this class have average area of 256 acres (42% littoral), maximum depth of 37 ft, Secchi depth of 9 ft, and total alkalinity of 148 ppm. Other area lakes in this class include Little Ball Club, Gunn, and Rush Island Lakes. The lake has no designated public access.

The Fisheries Lake Management Plan (LMP) was last revised in 2001. Bluegill and black crappie were the primary management species. The goals of the plan were maintain a bluegill population with a catch rate at 10.0 per trap net and a PSD at 80 and maintain a black crappie population with a catch rate at 2.0 per trap net. No special or experimental regulations exist for Lower Balsam but Statewide seasons and limits apply.

A population assessment was conducted in August of 2011 to evaluate the status of the fish community. The assessment consisted of 6 gill net and 8 trap net sets. The lake was also included in the Statewide near shore IBI sampling program.

Black crappie were the most common fish in the gill net and the catch of 12.5/net was high compared to lakes with similar habitats and was the second highest catch recorded for Lower Balsam Lake. Lower Balsam has occasionally produced high gill net catches of crappie, as the catch exceeded 24/net in 1985. Gill net caught crappie ranged from 4.4 to 11.8 inches with an average of 8.2 inches.

The trap net catch was moderate, as the catch of 1.3/net was average compared to similar lakes but below the LMP goal of 2.0/trap net. It appears trap nets are a poor indicator of crappie abundance in lower Balsam Lake. Eight year classes were present and recruitment appeared fairly consistent. Sampled crappie averaged 4.2 years of age and 41% were age 5 or older. Growth was relatively slow, as crappie averaged 8.3 inches at age 5 and did not exceed 10 inches until age 7.

Northern pike were the second most common fish in the gill net and the catch of 6.2/net was average compared to similar lakes and to past assessment of Lower Balsam Lake. Pike ranged from 14.4 to 35.2 inches with an average length of 20.6 inches. Age analysis identified 6 year classes (ages 1-5 and 7) and recruitment appeared generally consistent. Most northern pike were relatively young, averaging age 3, and only 8% of the sampled pike were age 5 or older. The lack of older pike may indicate high mortality of older individuals or poor recruitment in the recent past. Angler harvest may influence the age distribution. Growth was relatively fast as individuals typically exceeded 24 inches by age 4 and 31 inches by age 6.

Walleye are only occasionally sampled in Lower Balsam Lake and lakes with similar habitats rarely produce large walleye catches. The catch of 1.3/gill net was typical for Lower Balsam Lake. Walleye ranged from 11.4 to 21.9 inches with a mean of 16.8 inches. Growth was average with individuals typically exceeding 14 inches by age 4. Walleye reproduction is probably limited in Lower Balsam Lake but immigration from connected waters appears to maintain a small population, providing bonus angling opportunities.

Yellow Perch were captured at a rate of 0.5/gill net, low compared to similar lakes, and below average for Lower Balsam. Lower Balsam Lake has a history of poor perch catches. Yellow perch in Lower Balsam have typically been too small to interest anglers but provide important prey for predator species. Low yellow perch abundance likely contributes to the low walleye catches.

Tullibee (cisco) were captured at a rate of 2.8/gill net, within the expected range for similar lakes. Tullibee were relatively large, averaging 15.6 inches. Tullibee sport netting is not allowed on Lower Balsam. The tullibee is an important prey item and is especially valuable in maintaining growth rates required to produce quality sized northern pike.

Largemouth bass were captured at a rate of 1.8/gill net, a high rate compared to similar lakes. Test nets typically produce inadequate evaluations of bass abundance, but the high catch in Lower Balsam suggests that bass are an important component of the fish community. Bass ranged from 6.6 to 15.2 inches and averaged 13.1 inches. Four year classes were present and recruitment appeared inconsistent as the 2005 year class made up 55% of the sample. Growth was relatively slow with individuals achieving 12 inches in 5 years.

Bluegills were captured at a rate of 7.0/ trap net, an average catch for Lower Balsam but somewhat low compared to similar lakes. Size structure was moderate, as bluegill ranged from 5.6 to 8.2 inches with a 7.0 inch average. Sampled bluegills were relatively old, with an average age of 5.4 years. Eighty percent of the sampled bluegills were age 5 or older, suggesting limited harvest mortality. Growth was near the lake class average, as bluegill exceeded 6 inches by age 6. It should be noted the growth rates are relatively slow in ecological lake class 31. Slow growth and poor size structure may limit the popularity of the bluegill fishery.

Test netting also caught bowfin, pumpkinseed sunfish, rock bass, shorthead redhorse, white sucker, and yellow bullhead. Near shore IBI sampling captured blackchin shiner, bluegill, bluntnose minnow, brook stickleback, burbot, golden shiner, Johnny darter, largemouth bass, logperch, longear sunfish, pumpkinseed sunfish, rock bass, spottail shiner, white sucker, and yellow perch. The presence of longear sunfish is of interest as this species is relatively rare in Minnesota.

Anglers and boaters are reminded to help stop the spread of invasive species by removing all aquatic plants from boats, trailers, and equipment. All drain plugs must be removed and live and bait wells must be drained before leaving the access. Anglers and boater are encouraged to power wash and thoroughly dry all equipment prior to use in another water body.


For more information on this lake, contact:

Area Fisheries Supervisor
1201 East Hwy 2
Grand Rapids, MN 55744
Phone: (218) 327-4430
Internet: Grand Rapids Fisheries
E-Mail: GrandRapids.Fisheries@state.mn.us

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 C0720 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
Internet: www.dnr.state.mn.us
E-Mail: info.dnr@state.mn.us

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