Lake information report

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Name: Lake of the Woods

Nearest Town: Long Point
Primary County: Lake of the Woods
Survey Date: 04/01/2012
Inventory Number: 39000200

Public Access Information

Ownership Type Description
Private Property Asphalt Two good ramps. Launch fee, parking fee.
City Concrete In City of Warroad, at the end of Lake Street
DNR Concrete North of Swift. Off of St Hwy 11, turn north onto Cty Rd 2 (in Swift), then right onto Cty Rd 12, take the first left. Ramp is at the end of a ditch grade.
DNR Concrete Zippel Bay State Park
DNR Concrete Wheeler's Point End of State Hwy 172, at the mouth of the Rainy River

Fishing Regulations:

Special and/or Experimental Fishing Regulations exist on this lake. Please refer to our online Minnesota Fishing Regulations.

Lake Characteristics

Lake Area (acres): 1074558
Littoral Area (acres): 79253
Maximum Depth (ft): 210
Water Clarity (ft): 4.6 (4-4.9)

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

Did you know? Habitat acquisition of lands next to lakes and streams protects spawning areas and shoreline vegetation, and it increases access to fishing waters.

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 Gill net 0.28 0.1 - 0.7 0.23 0.2 - 0.5
Burbot Gill net 0.06 0.0 - 0.2 1.88 1.1 - 2.1
Lake Sturgeon Gill net 0.12 N/A 3.26 N/A
Lake Whitefish Gill net 0.19 0.0 - 0.2 1.52 0.3 - 4.4
Mooneye Gill net 0.03 N/A 0.34 N/A
Muskellunge Gill net 0.03 0.0 - 0.1 4.02 3.3 - 8.0
Northern Pike Gill net 1.47 0.9 - 4.3 4.08 2.4 - 4.3
Quillback Gill net 0.06 N/A 4.66 N/A
Rock Bass Gill net 0.02 0.1 - 1.1 0.93 0.3 - 0.6
Sauger Gill net 17.52 10.2 - 18.6 0.52 0.5 - 0.6
Shorthead Redhorse Gill net 0.12 0.1 - 0.9 2.24 0.9 - 2.5
Silver Lamprey Gill net 0.03 N/A 0.02 N/A
Silver Redhorse Gill net 0.05 N/A 4.84 N/A
Smallmouth Bass Gill net 0.11 0.0 - 0.2 2.45 0.8 - 1.5
Tullibee (cisco) Gill net 18.19 4.9 - 17.6 0.94 0.4 - 0.5
Walleye Gill net 18.31 3.3 - 14.8 0.94 0.9 - 1.5
White Sucker Gill net 3.70 0.8 - 2.4 2.15 1.6 - 2.1
Yellow Perch Gill net 11.22 9.9 - 57.1 0.33 0.2 - 0.3
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 4 14 0 0 0 0 0 0 18
burbot 0 0 1 0 1 2 0 0 4
lake sturgeon 0 0 0 0 5 1 0 2 8
lake whitefish 0 0 3 2 6 1 0 0 12
mooneye 0 1 1 0 0 0 0 0 2
muskellunge 0 0 0 0 0 0 2 0 2
northern pike 0 0 0 1 18 41 18 16 94
quillback 0 0 0 0 2 2 0 0 4
rock bass 0 0 1 0 0 0 0 0 1
sauger 0 228 312 534 47 0 0 0 1121
shorthead redhorse 0 0 1 1 5 1 0 0 8
silver lamprey 0 2 0 0 0 0 0 0 2
silver redhorse 0 0 0 0 0 3 0 0 3
smallmouth bass 0 0 1 1 5 0 0 0 7
tullibee (cisco) 0 32 396 664 72 0 0 0 1164
walleye 4 449 196 166 256 83 18 0 1172
white sucker 0 21 21 28 161 6 0 0 237
yellow perch 159 375 155 28 0 0 0 0 718

For the record, the largest Green Sunfish taken in Minnesota weighed 1 lb., 4.8 oz. and was caught:

    Where: North Arbor Lake, Hennepin County
    When: 6/14/05.
    Statistics: 10.25" length, 110.625" girth

Fish Consumption Guidelines

These fish consumption guidelines help people make choices about which fish to eat and how often. Following the guidelin es enables people to reduce their exposure to contaminants while still enjoying the many benefits from fish.

Pregnant Women, Women who may become pregnant and Children under age 15

County, DOWID
Species Meal Advice Contaminants
Unrestricted 1 meal/week 1 meal/month Do not eat
Lake of the Woods Co., 39000200
Cisco   All sizes     Mercury
Northern Pike   shorter than 24" 24" or longer   Mercury
Sauger   All sizes     Mercury
Smallmouth Bass     All sizes   Mercury
Walleye   All sizes     Mercury
White Sucker   All sizes     Mercury
Yellow Perch   All sizes     Mercury

General Population

County, DOWID
Species Meal Advice Contaminants
Unrestricted 1 meal/week 1 meal/month Do not eat
Lake of the Woods Co., 39000200
Cisco All sizes        
Northern Pike   All sizes     Mercury
Sauger   All sizes     Mercury
Smallmouth Bass   All sizes     Mercury
Walleye   All sizes     Mercury
White Sucker All sizes        
Yellow Perch All sizes        

DOWID - MN DNR, Division of Waters' lake ID number.

Contaminants listed were measured at levels that trigger advice to limit consumption.

Listing of consumption guidelines do not imply the fish are legal to keep, MN DNR fishing regulations should be consulted.

PCBS - Polychlorinated biphenyls
PFOS - Perfluorooctane sulfanate

Status of the Fishery (as of 04/01/2012)


The early spring in 2012 resulted in a walleye spawning run on the Rainy River which was 10 to 14 days earlier than normal. Spring electrofishing was conducted from April 12 through 14. Overall walleye catch rates were 159 walleye per hour. Female walleye comprised 37% of the sample. This is the smallest percentage of female walleye in the sample since annual electrofishing began in 1991. The mean length of female walleye has been stable for the past several years, with a mean of 25.5 inches. Fifty-one percent of females ranged in length from 25.6 to 31.5 inches.

The walleye population is in good shape, with at least 15 age classes represented annually. A fish population, such as Lake of the Woods walleye, with a variety of age classes present is a healthy fish population. Walleye from age-0 through age-18 were sampled in 2012. Of the six age-18 walleye sampled, two were males, with an average length of 23 inches, and four were female, with an average length of 28.4 inches. The largest walleye sampled was 30.0 inches long, and a relatively young 16 years old. A high proportion of the walleye sample (47%) was of age-1 individuals. Past experience suggests that a catch rate of age-1 individuals in this range predicts a strong year class.

Long-term mean abundance (1968-2012) is 14.8 walleye per gill net lift. The 2012 abundance was 18.9 per lift, above the long-term mean, but within the range of normal abundances.

Year class strength is indexed on the catch rates of a year class from age-2 through age-5, from fall gill net assessment. Year class strength is correlated to the abundance of age-0 walleye, as measured in Young-of-Year assessment trawling, and the length that age-0 walleye achieve by August 15 of the hatch year, so the strength of year classes can be predicted. Based on data collected during the summers of 2011 and 2012, the 2011 and 2012 walleye year classes are both expected to be strong, and of moderate strength, respectively.


Sauger abundance is currently high, but is coming down from the very high abundance measured in 2009. Abundance has declined due to the passing through of the very strong series of year classes produced from 2005 through 2007. Of particular note is the 2006 year class. The 2006 year class is the strongest sauger year class measured since fall gill net assessment became an annual survey in 1981. Sauger from the 2006 year class comprised about 31% of the entire sauger sample, and had an average length of 14.5 inches.

Sauger year class strength can also be predicted from data collected during YOY percid assessment. In the case of sauger, year class strength is related to the abundance of age-0 sauger, as measured through August trawling. Based on data collected during the summers of 2011 and 2012, the 2011 and 2012 sauger year classes are predicted to be of moderate and weak strength, respectively.

Northern Pike

Northern pike are not sampled very effectively with standard lake assessment gill nets. From the 1968 to 2009 fall gill net assessments, northern pike CPUE ranged from 0.8 to 2.7 with a 10-year mean of 1.6. The problem of small sample size has been addressed with a spring survey, using trap nets. Spring spawning run trap net assessment depicts a very high quality northern pike population.

In 1995 the spawning run assessment was expanded to a tagging study, and 1,500 northern pike were to be tagged. The primary purpose of this study was to determine whether northern pike using streams in Minnesota as spawning sites were exclusively Minnesota stocks, or if the stocks were shared with the provinces of Manitoba and/or Ontario. In 1995, 15% of 1,432 tagged pike exceeded 30 inches. Approximately 2% of tagged northern pike exceeded 40 inches. Tag return data suggest that the northern pike that spawn in Rainy River tributary streams spend their time in the Rainy River and are a distinct stock from the pike that spawn in Lake of the Woods tributaries. Rainy River tributary streams, as a group, have significantly smaller mean lengths than any of the other sites at which northern pike were tagged. Zippel Bay and the Warroad River stood out as sites from which a high proportion of tags were returned. These are areas that have relatively high targeted northern pike angling effort. Based on tag returns, northern pike exploitation estimates range from 5.3-7% (depending on whether 30% or 40% of tags are reported) and survival is estimated at 66%.

Overall, 19% of the 716 northern pike sampled in 2011 exceeded 35 inches, and 5% exceeded 40 inches. Spring northern pike assessment is currently scheduled to take place on a five-year rotation. It was anticipated that all sites would be sampled in a single year, but this was not possible in 2011. The sites which could not be sampled were scheduled to be sampled in 2012. Unfortunately, with the lack of runoff, and the unusually early spring, it was decided to forego sampling northern pike in 2012 because it was likely that the data collected would not be comparable to other years.

Infested Waters Designation

Lake of the Woods and the Rainy River have received an infested waters designation due to the presence of spiny water flea (Bythotrephes longimanus). Spiny water flea has been documented in Lake of the Woods, Rainy River and Rainy Lake. The impact of spiny water flea on the food chain and fish populations of Lake of the Woods is still open to speculation. Zooplankton sampling has been initiated to document changes in the zooplankton community of Lake of the Woods. Two sites are sampled every other week from mid-June through August. Nine meter vertical tows are made with a 150 micron, 30 cm diameter plankton net.

At this point, the most immediate impact of spiny water flea has been to human users of the lake and river. Emerald shiner is a popular bait fish on Lake of the Woods. Local bait shops and resorts have had significant businesses harvesting bait within the system. There is concern that spiny water flea eggs may be ingested by small fish, and that spiny water flea may then be spread through the bait fish distribution. To deal with this potential issue, a prohibition against bait collection, by non-licensed individuals, has been enacted. Trained and licensed bait dealers may still collect bait fish from infested waters, but the collected bait must be handled to allow the fish to purge any eggs they may have ingested.

Rusty crayfish (Orconectes rusticus), a crayfish native to the Ohio River system, were documented in the Minnesota portion of Lake of the Woods in September 2006. At this point rusty crayfish appear to be present in fairly low densities, and only as far south as Driftwood Point, just south-west of Garden Island. Rusty crayfish have been established in parts of the Ontario portion of Lake of the Woods since the late 1960s.


Current walleye and sauger harvest regulations were enacted on December 1, 2004. The regulations were enacted to reduce the five-year average walleye and sauger harvest to the target harvest of 450,000 pounds for walleye and 250,000 pounds for sauger. The regulations vary by time of year, location on the lake, and between Lake of the Woods and the Rainy River.

Lake of the Woods, from December 1 through April 14, the walleye/sauger aggregate limit is eight (not more than four can be walleye). Walleye from 19.5 to 28 inches must be immediately released. Only one walleye over 28 inches total length can be possessed.

Lake of the Woods, from walleye opener through November 30, the walleye/sauger aggregate limit is six (not more than four can be walleye). Walleye from 19.5 to 28 inches must be immediately released. Only one walleye over 28 inches total length can be possessed.

Four Mile Bay of Lake of the Woods, from March 1 through April 14, the walleye/sauger aggregate limit is two (no walleye over 19.5 inches).

Rainy River from walleye opener through February, the walleye/sauger aggregate limit is six (not more than four can be walleye). Walleye from 19.5 to 28 inches must be immediately released. Only one walleye over 28 inches total length can be possessed.

Rainy River from March 1 through April 14, the walleye/sauger aggregate limit is two (no walleye over 19.5 inches).

To protect the high quality size structure of the northern pike population, a special northern pike regulation package was adopted with the opening of the fishing season in 2006. The regulation protects northern pike from 30 through 40 inches. Possession is 3 northern pike, of which only one can exceed 40 inches. The open season is continuous. This regulation went through a 10-year (1996 through 2005) experimental evaluation period prior to being adopted as a special regulation.

Fishing for lake sturgeon is a unique opportunity in the Lake of the Woods-Rainy River system. The lake sturgeon population is still recovering from a period of low abundance caused by over harvest and pollution. During the recovery phase we have to be conservative with the number and pounds of sturgeon harvested to ensure that the population fully recovers to a healthy size structure and level of abundance. Anglers may harvest one lake sturgeon per year. A sturgeon must be between 45 and 50 inches (inclusive) or longer than 75 inches to be legal to harvest. All other sturgeon must be immediately released. The lake sturgeon harvest season is from April 24 to May 7, and from July 1 to September 30. The catch and release only season is from May 8 to May 15, and from October 1 through April 23. You may not fish for lake sturgeon during the closed season (May 16 to June 30).

Starting in 2006, anglers wishing to harvest a lake sturgeon have had to purchase a lake sturgeon harvest tag. The tag is available through the electronic licensing system (any license issuing agent) and costs $5.00. Upon harvesting a sturgeon, the harvesting angler must notch the appropriate areas of the tag indicating the date and time of harvest, then the tag must be attached to the sturgeon. Within 48 hours a registration card must be completed by the harvesting angler and mailed in. Anglers do not need a harvest tag to catch and release lake sturgeon, a harvest tag is needed only if they intend to harvest one.

For more information on this lake, contact:

Area Fisheries Supervisor
204 Main St E
Baudette, MN 56623
Phone: (218) 634-2522
Internet: Baudette Fisheries

Lake maps can be obtained from:

Minnesota Bookstore
660 Olive Street
St. Paul, MN 55155
(651) 297-3000 or (800) 657-3757
No depth map available.

For general DNR Information, contact:

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

Tip Logo    Turn in Poachers (TIP):

    Toll-free: (800) 652-9093