Fisheries Lake Survey

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Name: Lake of the Woods

Nearest Town: Long Point
Primary County: Lake of the Woods
Survey Date: 04/01/2014
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): 305579.2
Littoral Area (acres): 79253
Maximum Depth (ft): 210
Water Clarity (ft): 3.9 (2.5-4.9)

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

Did you know? Lake rehabilitation projects reclaim waters suffering from habitat degradation and overpopulation of some fish species.

Fish Sampled for the 2014 Survey Year


Gear Used

Number of fish per net

Average Fish Weight (lbs)

Normal Range (lbs)


Normal Range

Black Crappie Gill net 0.27 0.1 - 0.7 0.70 0.2 - 0.5
Burbot Gill net 0.03 0.0 - 0.2 0.65 1.1 - 2.1
Lake Sturgeon Gill net 0.22 N/A 3.14 N/A
Lake Whitefish Gill net 0.34 0.0 - 0.2 0.81 0.3 - 4.4
Northern Pike Gill net 1.61 0.9 - 4.3 3.53 2.4 - 4.3
Quillback Gill net 0.06 N/A 4.92 N/A
Rock Bass Gill net 0.08 0.1 - 1.1 0.46 0.3 - 0.6
Sauger Gill net 19.59 10.2 - 18.6 0.49 0.5 - 0.6
Shorthead Redhorse Gill net 0.14 0.1 - 0.9 2.31 0.9 - 2.5
Silver Lamprey Gill net 0.02 N/A 0.02 N/A
Silver Redhorse Gill net 0.05 N/A 4.42 N/A
Smallmouth Bass Gill net 0.12 0.0 - 0.2 1.42 0.8 - 1.5
Tullibee (cisco) Gill net 8.12 4.9 - 17.6 1.25 0.4 - 0.5
Walleye Gill net 24.02 3.3 - 14.8 0.81 0.9 - 1.5
White Sucker Gill net 3.78 0.8 - 2.4 2.23 1.6 - 2.1
Yellow Perch Gill net 8.53 9.9 - 57.1 0.43 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 2014 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 1 2 13 1 0 0 0 0 17
burbot 0 0 1 0 1 0 0 0 2
lake sturgeon 0 0 0 0 5 4 3 2 14
lake whitefish 0 0 17 1 3 1 0 0 22
northern pike 0 0 3 1 16 46 25 12 103
quillback 0 0 0 0 1 3 0 0 4
rock bass 0 3 2 0 0 0 0 0 5
sauger 0 91 684 441 38 0 0 0 1254
shorthead redhorse 0 0 0 3 5 1 0 0 9
silver lamprey 0 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 1
silver redhorse 0 0 0 0 1 2 0 0 3
smallmouth bass 0 0 3 4 1 0 0 0 8
tullibee (cisco) 0 16 36 372 96 0 0 0 520
walleye 3 394 418 446 195 70 10 1 1537
white sucker 0 18 7 17 193 7 0 0 242
yellow perch 50 194 284 18 0 0 0 0 546

For the record, the largest Brown Trout taken in Minnesota weighed 16 lbs., 12 oz. and was caught:

    Where: Lake Superior, St. Louis County
    When: 6/23/89
    Statistics: 31.4" length, 20.6" 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 04/01/2014)

Anglers fish the Minnesota portion of Lake of the Woods for a variety of species, including walleye, sauger, yellow perch, northern pike and lake sturgeon. Due to the importance of walleye and sauger, a great deal of population monitoring effort is focused on them. Overviews of the sampling programs conducted on Lake of the Woods are located on the Baudette Area Fisheries web page, on the MN-DNR web site, at

Walleye and Sauger

The primary assessment used to monitor walleye and sauger populations is fall gill net assessment. This assessment has been annual since 1981, but a comparable assessment was conducted from 1968 through 1970. From 1968 through 2001, the fall gill net assessment sampled the near-shore waters of Lake of the Woods, from 6 to 25 feet in depth. In 2002 off-shore nets were added to the assessment. The off-shore nets sample water from 32 to 35 feet deep. The off-shore nets are analyzed separately from the standard nets due to differences in catch rate and size distribution.

Walleye. Walleye catches in the 2014 near-shore gill net sampling averaged about 23 walleye per gill net, which is well above the long-term average of 14.7. The number of walleye sampled annually can be quite variable due to the presence or absence of strong year classes in the population. Walleye abundance declined steadily from 2001 through 2009, from 22.3 to 9.1 walleye per gill net. This decline in abundance was attributable to the unusually abundant walleye population in 2001, due to the production of a series of strong year classes in the late 1990s and in 2001, which pushed overall abundance well above the long-term average of 14.7 walleye per gill net. After 2001 moderate year classes alternated with weak year classes, causing an overall decline in abundance. More recently, the 2011 year class is strong, and early indications are that the 2013 year class will be strong. As these year classes continue to recruit to the walleye sample overall abundance will remain high, or increase.

The most abundant size groups of walleye are from 8 to 10 inches long (2013 year class), and from 12 to 14 inches long (2011 year class).

Sauger. The highest sauger abundance measured in the fall gill net assessment was in 2009, when we found 30.8 sauger per lift. This high abundance was driven by young sauger from the strong year classes produced from 2005 through 2007, and there were relatively few keepers available. As these sauger have grown older, overall abundance has declined, but a high quality size structure has developed. Overall sauger abundance declined from 2009 through 2013, because only the 2011 year class was strong through this period. Sauger from the 2011 year class were too small to be effectively captured in the gill nets, until 2014. Sauger abundance jumped up in 2014 due to the recruitment of the 2011 year class to the sample.

Sauger from 9 to 13 inches long are all more abundant than the long-term average.

Northern Pike

Lake of the Woods is managed for a high-quality northern pike population, with a significant component of "trophy" northern pike over 40 inches long. To monitor the size structure of the northern pike population, it is sampled every 5 years using trap nets at known spawning sites. The northern pike population continues to be one of high quality, with 19% of the adult population at least 35 inches long, and 5% of the adults 40 inches long, or longer. The next northern pike sample is scheduled to be collected in the spring of 2015, though the low runoff we are experiencing may prevent that sampling program from being completed.

Lake Sturgeon

The third population estimate for lake sturgeon since 1990 was completed in 2014. Previous estimates for lake sturgeon (40-inches and longer) were 16,000 (1990) and 59,000 (2004). In 2014 we estimate that there were 92,000 lake sturgeon of 40-inches and longer in the Lake of the Woods-Rainy River system. Along with the increase in abundance, we also found that the number of "large" sturgeon increased. The largest sturgeon we sampled was 72-inches long, and had an estimated weight of 104 pounds.

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. In order to harvest a lake sturgeon, anglers must purchase a harvest tag. However no tag is required to fish catch-and-release for lake sturgeon. 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).

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 continued to document changes in the zooplankton community of Lake of the Woods. Two sites are sampled every other week from mid-June through August. Thirty-foot vertical tows are made with an 80 micron, 30 cm diameter plankton net.

At this date, 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) 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, but are continuing to expand south. Last fall they were found from Stoney Point (south-eastern portion of the Northwest Angle) across to Knight Island. Rusty crayfish, a native of the Ohio River system, have been established in parts of the Ontario portion of Lake of the Woods since the late 1960s.

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

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