Fisheries Lake Survey

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Name: Birch

Nearest Town: Babbitt
Primary County: St. Louis
Survey Date: 08/27/2012
Inventory Number: 69000300

Public Access Information

Ownership Type Description
US Forest Service Concrete Birch Lake Campground Access off USFS Road # 429 off State Hwy. # 1, 8 miles south of Ely MN.
MnDOT Carry-In MNDOT right-of-way access at State Hwy. # 1 bridge 10.6 miles south of Ely MN.
US Forest Service Gravel Kawishiwi River Campground Access 10.8 miles south of Ely MN off State Hwy. # 1
County Gravel 2 miles NW of Babbitt MN off CSAH # 21 and CO. Rd. # 407.
City Asphalt 4 miles NE of Babbitt on Co. Rd. # 623.

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): 7073.85
Littoral Area (acres): 1060
Maximum Depth (ft): 25
Water Clarity (ft): 4.8 (4.5-5)

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 2012 Survey Year


Gear Used

Number of fish per net

Average Fish Weight (lbs)

Normal Range (lbs)


Normal Range

Black Crappie Gill net 1.00 0.2 - 1.4 0.37 0.2 - 0.5
Bluegill Gill net 0.08 N/A 0.75 N/A
Northern Pike Gill net 1.67 1.2 - 3.6 4.07 1.9 - 3.6
Rock Bass Gill net 0.25 0.5 - 2.2 0.39 0.2 - 0.4
Tullibee (cisco) Gill net 8.75 1.8 - 12.4 0.63 0.2 - 0.5
Walleye Gill net 8.92 3.1 - 9.8 0.88 0.7 - 1.3
White Sucker Gill net 4.50 2.8 - 6.7 1.34 1.3 - 2.0
Yellow Perch Gill net 3.00 1.9 - 7.1 0.19 0.1 - 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 0 9 3 0 0 0 0 0 12
bluegill 0 0 1 0 0 0 0 0 1
northern pike 0 0 0 1 4 6 5 4 20
rock bass 0 2 1 0 0 0 0 0 3
tullibee (cisco) 0 19 37 46 3 0 0 0 105
walleye 2 15 41 31 13 1 4 0 107
white sucker 1 5 10 12 26 0 0 0 54
yellow perch 8 25 2 0 0 0 0 0 36

For the record, the largest Walleye-Sauger Hybrid taken in Minnesota weighed 9 lbs., 13.4 oz. and was caught:

    Where: Mississippi River near Red Wing, Goodhue County
    When: 3/20/99
    Statistics: 27" length, 17.75" girth

Fish Consumption Guidelines

These fish consumption guidelines help people make choices about which fish to eat and how often. Following the guidelines 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
St. Louis Co., 69000300
Bluegill Sunfish   All sizes     Mercury
Crappie   All sizes     Mercury
Northern Pike     All sizes   Mercury
Walleye     All sizes   Mercury
White Sucker   All sizes     Mercury

General Population

County, DOWID
Species Meal Advice Contaminants
Unrestricted 1 meal/week 1 meal/month Do not eat
St. Louis Co., 69000300
Bluegill Sunfish All sizes        
Crappie   All sizes     Mercury
Northern Pike   All sizes     Mercury
Walleye   All sizes     Mercury
White Sucker 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 08/27/2012)

Birch Lake is a 7,074-acre lake located between Ely and Babbit in northeast Minnesota. The lake is one of the more heavily fished lakes of the Tower Fisheries Management Area. It is convenient to both Ely and Babbitt and has several good public accesses with concrete plank boat ramps around the lake. Shoreline development on the lake has increased considerably in recent years, however 75% of the shoreline is undeveloped and under public ownership. On Birch Lake, anglers have had success catching walleye, northern pike, black crappie, and bluegill.

The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources has classified Minnesota lakes into 43 different types based on physical and chemical characteristics. Birch Lake is in lake class 7. Other area lakes in the same lake class include Agnes, Bear Island, Bearhead, Fall, and Shagawa. The lake is an impoundment of old river beds so it larger, shallower, has steeper shoreline drop-offs, and has an extremely irregular shoreline shape compared to most other class 7 lakes. The major inlet (South Kawishiwi River) and the outlet (Birch River, also known as South Kawishiwi River) are both in the northeast corner of the lake. Dam operation results in a winter drawdown of about 4 ft.

Currently, the Birch Lake walleye fishery is sustained from natural reproduction. Birch Lake was stocked with walleye fry every second or third year from 1982 through 2002. Stocking was discontinued after 2002 because evaluations showed that stocked year classes were no stronger than non-stocked year classes. Walleye captured in the 2012 investigation ranged in length from 7.8 inches to 30.0 inches with a mean length of 12.5 inches. Walleye were caught in the nets throughout the lake indicating the population is evenly distributed.

On Birch Lake, a special regulation for northern pike began with the fishing opener in 2003. It is a 24-36 inch protected slot limit with one pike over 36 inches allowed in possession. The special regulation is improving opportunities to catch large pike. In investigations conducted on Birch Lake from 1981 to 2003, only 29% of the pike were 24 inches or longer. Since the implementation of the regulation, that portion of larger pike has shifted to 56% of the population. Pike growth was above average. After three years of growth, Birch Lake pike were typically 23 inches long and almost into the protected slot limit. On average, pike of this age from other area class 7 lakes are 19 inches.

The May trapnetting effectively sampled black crappie and bluegill. A total of 196 crappie were captured and ranged from 4 to 13 inches in length. The 2006 year class (age 6) was the strongest year class identified and made up 77% of the sample. At capture, an age-6 crappie averaged 10.3 inches long. The 147 bluegill sampled ranged from 3 to 10 inches with a mean length of nearly 7 inches. Anglers need to show some constraint when these bigger mature bluegill are biting. By keeping a few of the smaller bluegill for eating, you can help maintain the quality size structure.

Tullibee (cisco) and white sucker are two species that are excellent forage food for northern pike and walleye. Historically, both species have been captured on Birch Lake at abundances that are typical of other class 7 lakes.

The aquatic invasive species rusty crayfish first appeared in Birch Lake in the 2003 assessment. They were found off of a small island just south of the Highway 1 bridge. In 2012, four rusty crayfish and 51 native crayfish were captured in the nets. So far rusty crayfish appear to be limited to the north end of the lake.

Aquatic invasive species are threatening Minnesota waters. These nonnative species harm fish populations, water quality, and water recreation especially fishing. You can help prevent the introduction and spread of invasive species by following both the required and recommended actions listed in the Minnesota Fishing Regulations synopsis and on the Minnesota DNR website (

For more information on this lake, contact:

Area Fisheries Supervisor
650 Hwy 169
Tower, MN 55790
Phone: (218) 753-2580
Internet: Tower 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 B0243 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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