Fisheries Lake Survey

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Name: White Iron

Nearest Town: Ely
Primary County: St. Louis
Survey Date: 08/11/2014
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): 3246.1
Littoral Area (acres): 1603
Maximum Depth (ft): 47
Water Clarity (ft): 5.5 (4.6-6.9)

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

Did you know? MinnAqua Fishing: Get in the Habitat! has a Minnesota-base activity guide for teachers, scout and 4-H leaders, youth leaders, outdoor sports groups, or anyone interested in teaching others about habitat, stewardship and fishing.

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 Trap net 1.80 1.6 - 3.3 0.39 0.2 - 0.7
Gill net 0.17 0.2 - 1.4 0.12 0.2 - 0.5
Bluegill Trap net 1.13 0.8 - 8.7 0.33 0.1 - 0.3
Northern Pike Trap net 1.87 N/A 2.66 N/A
Gill net 1.00 1.2 - 3.6 3.34 1.9 - 3.6
Rock Bass Trap net 1.13 0.3 - 1.0 0.23 0.2 - 0.3
Gill net 1.75 0.5 - 2.2 0.57 0.2 - 0.4
Smallmouth Bass Gill net 0.08 0.3 - 0.7 2.15 0.5 - 1.3
Tiger Muskellunge Gill net 0.08 N/A 5.26 N/A
Tullibee (cisco) Gill net 4.58 1.8 - 12.4 0.42 0.2 - 0.5
Walleye Trap net 0.47 0.3 - 1.3 0.87 0.5 - 1.4
Gill net 4.67 3.1 - 9.8 0.69 0.7 - 1.3
White Sucker Trap net 0.33 0.3 - 3.0 2.38 1.8 - 2.8
Gill net 2.17 2.8 - 6.7 1.70 1.3 - 2.0
Yellow Perch Trap net 1.13 0.4 - 1.9 0.12 0.1 - 0.3
Gill net 6.75 1.9 - 7.1 0.17 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 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 5 13 10 1 0 0 0 0 29
bluegill 2 15 0 0 0 0 0 0 17
northern pike 0 0 6 6 8 8 7 5 40
rock bass 9 17 12 0 0 0 0 0 38
smallmouth bass 0 0 0 1 0 0 0 0 1
tiger muskellunge 0 0 0 0 0 0 1 0 1
tullibee (cisco) 0 29 16 9 1 0 0 0 55
walleye 1 15 31 4 7 5 0 0 63
white sucker 0 1 3 8 19 0 0 0 31
yellow perch 38 55 5 0 0 0 0 0 98

For the record, the largest Rainbow Trout taken in Minnesota weighed 17 lbs., 6 oz. and was caught:

    Where: Knife River, Lake County
    When: 1/19/74
    Statistics: 36.9" length

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 08/11/2014)

White Iron Lake, located 5 miles east of Ely in northeastern St. Louis and western Lake Counties, is in a group of several lakes in the Kawishiwi River system often referred to as the White Iron Chain of Lakes (WICOL). The WICOL system includes Farm, South Farm, and Garden lakes. Hydroelectric dams between Garden Lake and Fall Lake and between Birch Lake and White Iron Lake control flow and water levels in the WICOL reservoir system. White Iron has a large (592,626 acres) heavily forested watershed that drains the majority of the South Kawishiwi River watershed. Numerous wetlands in the watershed are responsible for the stained color and limited water clarity compared to other lakes in the region. The water column tends to be well mixed and dissolved oxygen levels have remained above 2 ppm in depths to 30 feet. The lake is accessed via two separate public concrete ramps on the west side of the lake and navigable channel connecting the north end of the lake to Farm Lake. Rocky substrates and low water clarity limit aquatic plant growth in the lake, however plants can be found in high density in some of the shallow bays.

White Iron Lake was selected as one of 25 Sentinel Lakes in Minnesota's Long-term Monitoring Program (i.e., Sustaining Lakes in a Changing Environment [SLICE]). It represents lakes of the Canadian Shield ecoregion in northeastern Minnesota. As a tier 2 Sentinel Lake, data is being collected on water characteristics, aquatic plants, fish populations, and other potential biological indicators to identify and understand changing lake conditions. In addition to standard fish population assessments, sampling includes spring electrofishing targeting bass, index of biotic integrity (IBI) surveys assessing the nearshore fish community, and aquatic vegetation surveys. Additional surveys will increase knowledge of fish species that are not effectively sampled using the standard gear and to assess habitat. Furthermore, supplemental age and growth information will be collected for specific indicator species like Yellow Perch. Largemouth Bass and Smallmouth Bass hatch dates and first year growth rates are also being examined as part of a larger study in Sentinel Lakes.

White Iron Lake maintains naturally reproducing populations of several important game fish species including Walleye, Northern Pike, Black Crappie, and Smallmouth Bass. Special regulations for Walleye and Northern Pike are in effect for the WICOL system. Since 2003, a protected slot limit for northern pike requires releasing all fish between 24 and 36 inches, with only one fish over 36 inches allowed in possession in the 3 fish bag limit. The regulation is designed to increase the proportion of Northern Pike greater than 24 inches. Since 2006, a regulation has required the release of all Walleye from 17 to 26 inches, with only one fish over 26 inches allowed in the 6 fish possession limit. The goal is to maintain walleye numbers while increasing the proportion over 17 inches. The fish community of White Iron is diverse with substantial populations of cold, cool, and warm water species. No stocking of any species is currently done in White Iron Lake; however, the adjacent Garden Lake Reservoir has been stocked with Walleye fingerlings in odd years since 1991. A total of 10 different fish species were sampled using gill nets and trap nets in 2014: Black Crappie, Bluegill, Cisco (Tullibee), Northern Pike, Rock Bass, Smallmouth Bass, Tiger Muskellunge, Walleye, White Sucker, and Yellow Perch. Also, non-native rusty crayfish were captured in 2014 after being first discovered in WICOL in 2003 and confirmed in White Iron Lake in 2007.

The catch rate of 4.7 Walleye/gill net was about average for Tower Area lakes, but slightly lower than recent surveys on White Iron Lake. Most Walleye in the recent sample were less than 13 inches and age-3 or less indicating consistent natural reproduction and angling opportunities for fish under the protected slot in the near future. Walleye on White Iron Lake grow very slowly compared other lakes in the Tower Area. On average, it takes about six years for a Walleye to reach 17 inches and enter into the protected slot.

There is a low density population of quality-sized Northern Pike that anglers will enjoy catching. In 2014, DNR personnel sampled pike up to 43 inches. The larger Northern Pike take many years to attain this size and anglers should consider practicing selective harvest by releasing them and targeting fish below the protected 24 to 36 inches slot limit for harvest. The average length of Northern Pike sampled in gill nets in 2014 was less than 24 inches.

Angling opportunities for Smallmouth Bass, Black Crappie, and Yellow Perch are also present. Quality to trophy sized Smallmouth Bass are present with fish between 17 and 21 inches sampled. Black Crappie up to 12.6 inches were also present. Plus, several Yellow Perch from 8 to 10 inches were caught. Additionally, 1 tiger muskellunge was captured in 2014 indicating an extremely low population persists in WICOL despite not being stocked in over 30 years.

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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