Fisheries Lake Survey

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Name: White Iron

Nearest Town: Ely
Primary County: St. Louis
Survey Date: 06/23/2010
Inventory Number: 69000400

Public Access Information

Ownership Type Description
DNR Channel North end of lake. Navigable channel from Farm Lk.
County Concrete West side of south basin, on St Louis Co. Rd. 655
DNR Concrete West side of north basin, on Lake Co. Rd. 447

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): 3238.41
Littoral Area (acres): 1603
Maximum Depth (ft): 47
Water Clarity (ft): 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 2010 Survey Year


Gear Used

Number of fish per net

Average Fish Weight (lbs)

Normal Range (lbs)


Normal Range

Black Crappie Trap net 2.67 1.6 - 3.3 0.48 0.2 - 0.7
Bluegill Trap net 1.40 0.8 - 8.7 0.44 0.1 - 0.3
Northern Pike Trap net 0.93 N/A 2.09 N/A
Gill net 2.67 1.2 - 3.6 3.41 1.9 - 3.6
Rock Bass Trap net 2.13 0.3 - 1.0 0.41 0.2 - 0.3
Tullibee (cisco) Gill net 5.78 1.8 - 12.4 0.44 0.2 - 0.5
Walleye Trap net 0.80 0.3 - 1.3 1.37 0.5 - 1.4
Gill net 13.22 3.1 - 9.8 1.29 0.7 - 1.3
White Sucker Trap net 0.60 0.3 - 3.0 2.62 1.8 - 2.8
Gill net 2.78 2.8 - 6.7 1.86 1.3 - 2.0
Yellow Perch Trap net 2.93 0.4 - 1.9 0.16 0.1 - 0.3
Gill net 7.89 1.9 - 7.1 0.18 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 2010 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 17 22 1 0 0 0 0 40
bluegill 2 16 3 0 0 0 0 0 21
northern pike 0 0 1 2 15 10 9 1 38
rock bass 3 25 4 0 0 0 0 0 32
tullibee (cisco) 0 20 25 6 1 0 0 0 52
walleye 0 8 26 61 18 16 2 0 131
white sucker 0 1 4 2 24 3 0 0 34
yellow perch 39 64 12 0 0 0 0 0 115

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
St. Louis Co., 69000400
Cisco   All sizes     Mercury
Crappie     All sizes   Mercury
Northern Pike     shorter than 33" 33" or longer Mercury
Rock Bass     All sizes   Mercury
Smallmouth Bass     All sizes   Mercury
Walleye     shorter than 23" 23" or longer 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
St. Louis Co., 69000400
Cisco All sizes        
Crappie   All sizes     Mercury
Northern Pike   shorter than 26" 26" or longer   Mercury
Rock Bass   All sizes     Mercury
Smallmouth Bass   All sizes     Mercury
Walleye   shorter than 17" 17" or longer   Mercury
White Sucker   All sizes     Mercury
Yellow Perch   All sizes     Mercury

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 06/23/2010)

White Iron Lake is one of 24 "sentinel lakes" located around the state for the Sustaining Lakes in a Changing Environment (SLICE) project. SLICE is a cooperative lake monitoring program between DNR Fisheries and the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency. The project is designed to help scientists understand, predict, and respond to outcomes of major drivers of change (e.g. development, agriculture, invasive species, climate) on lake habitats and fish populations. Data collected in 2010 for this project include: northern pike ice-out trap netting, largemouth bass and smallmouth bass fall night electrofishing, summer gill netting and trap netting for all species, and an aquatic vegetation survey.

White Iron Lake is a 3,429-acre lake with a maximum depth of 47 feet located five miles east of Ely in northeastern St. Louis and western Lake counties. It has a very large watershed (592,626 acres) draining the majority of the Kawishiwi River watershed (173:1 watershed area to lake area ratio). Eighty-three percent of the watershed is forested. The Kawishiwi and Bear Island Rivers flow into the lake with the Kawishiwi River flowing out on the north end. Average flow of several hundred cubic feet per second gives lake water a short residence time of only 45 days. The many wetlands in the watershed give the lake a bog stained color and a lower water clarity.

Based on chemical and physical characteristics Minnesotas lakes have been categorized into 43 different classes. White Iron, is in lake class 7. Lakes in this class typically are moderate in size (average = 1807 acres), moderately deep (average = 49 feet), and have close to 50% of the lake less than 15 feet deep. Typical fish communities include walleye, northern, cisco, white sucker, rock bass, black crappie, and yellow perch. White Iron had all of these species in addition to bluegill in 2010.

White Iron Lake maintains a high quality, naturally reproducing walleye and northern pike populations. No stocking of any species is currently done in White Iron Lake, hower, the reservoir that contains White Iron Lake does get stocked in other lakes. Recently implemented special size and harvest regulations for walleye and northern pike are designed to maintain high numbers and quality size structure. Similar to other lakes in the border ecoregion, warm-water centrarchids such as bluegill are becoming increasingly abundant. The game fish community of White Iron is diverse with substantial populations of cold, cool, and warm water species. The non-native rusty crayfish was first discovered in White Iron chain in 2003 and confirmed in 2007. Rusty crayfish can destroy large beds of aquatic plants. (Minnesota Pollution Control Agency's summary report on White Iron Lake, February 2009).

Anglers can expect to catch walleye in a wide range of lengths up to 30 inches with good numbers of fish in the 13-15 inch range. White Iron Lake has an excellent natural reproducing population that was composed of 14 different year classes in 2010. Growth is slow. It takes six years for a walleye to attain 17 inches in length and enter into the protected slot of 17-26 inches.

There is a low density population of quality-sized northern pike that anglers will enjoy catching. In 2010, DNR personnel sampled pike up to 38 inches. These large trophy pike take many years to attain this size. Anglers should consider practicing selective harvest and release these bigger pike and target pike below the protected slot (24"-36" with one over 36") for harvest.

Both largemouth and smallmouth were also sampled. Smallmouth bass up to 18 inches were captured. There were also high numbers of young-of-the-year smallmouth bass sample indicating successful natural reproduction in 2010.

In 2010, panfish sampled included yellow perch, black crappie and bluegill. Yellow perch are valuable both as a forage fish for northern pike and walleye as well as recreationally for angling. Perch up to 10.7 inches were sampled. Black crappie abundance was typical for lake class 7. Crappie sampled ranged in length from 8.3 to 12.0 inches with an average length of 9.4 inches. Few bluegill were sampled, however, fish up to 10 inches were captured.

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 B0198 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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    Toll-free: (800) 652-9093