Fisheries Lake Survey

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Name: Burntside

Nearest Town: Ely
Primary County: St. Louis
Survey Date: 07/25/2011
Inventory Number: 69011800
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Public Access Information

Ownership Type Description
DNR Portage 3/8 mile portage from Hanson Lake.
US Forest Service Portage 3/4 mile portage from Twin Lakes to the North Arm of Burntside.
US Forest Service Portage 1 miles portage from Crab Lake.
US Forest Service Portage 1/8 mile portage from Little Long Lake.
DNR Channel Motorable route, 1.4 miles from Twin Lakes.
County Gravel Limited parking, tight turn-around.
County Concrete Access is right at Burntside Lodge Resort. Limited parking.
US Forest Service Concrete Also Burntside end of Slim Lake Portage. Limited parking.
DNR Concrete Good access with parking.
DNR Concrete Off the Van Vac Rd. Parking for approx. 20 vehicles.

Lake Characteristics

Lake Area (acres): 7313.87
Littoral Area (acres): 1478
Maximum Depth (ft): 126
Water Clarity (ft): 21.0 (16-25)

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

Did you know? Each year, DNR fisheries personnel stock game fish fry and fingerlings in lakes lacking habitat for natural reproduction.

Fish Sampled for the 2011 Survey Year


Gear Used

Number of fish per net

Average Fish Weight (lbs)

Normal Range (lbs)


Normal Range

Black Crappie Gill net 0.04 0.2 - 0.8 0.26 0.2 - 0.6
Bluegill Gill net 0.09 N/A 0.17 N/A
Burbot Gill net 0.22 0.1 - 0.3 2.72 0.7 - 2.1
Green Sunfish Gill net 0.26 0.1 - 0.4 0.06 N/A
Lake Trout Gill net 0.70 0.1 - 1.8 1.66 1.0 - 4.2
Lake Whitefish Gill net 0.43 0.1 - 3.0 5.07 0.9 - 2.8
Northern Pike Gill net 0.83 1.1 - 2.4 3.54 2.8 - 4.3
Pumpkinseed Gill net 0.04 N/A 0.15 N/A
Rock Bass Gill net 4.17 0.6 - 1.6 0.19 0.2 - 0.3
Shorthead Redhorse Gill net 0.61 0.1 - 1.0 3.45 1.6 - 2.9
Smallmouth Bass Gill net 1.43 0.2 - 0.6 1.52 0.7 - 1.2
Walleye Gill net 3.00 3.6 - 10.8 2.07 0.8 - 1.3
White Sucker Gill net 0.61 1.4 - 3.0 2.55 1.7 - 2.2
Yellow Perch Gill net 0.52 1.4 - 6.8 0.30 0.1 - 0.2
Normal Ranges represent typical catches for lakes with similar physical and chemical characteristics.

Length of Selected Species (Trapnet, Gillnet) Sampled for the 2011 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 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 1
bluegill 0 2 0 0 0 0 0 0 2
burbot 0 0 0 0 0 5 0 0 5
green sunfish 6 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 6
lake trout 0 2 6 4 2 0 1 1 16
lake whitefish 0 0 0 0 0 7 3 0 10
northern pike 0 0 0 0 4 8 4 3 19
pumpkinseed 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 1
rock bass 42 54 0 0 0 0 0 0 96
shorthead redhorse 0 0 0 0 5 9 0 0 14
smallmouth bass 1 4 7 4 16 1 0 0 33
walleye 0 4 9 14 28 10 4 0 69
white sucker 0 0 0 1 13 0 0 0 14
yellow perch 0 7 5 0 0 0 0 0 12

For the record, the largest Smallmouth Bass taken in Minnesota weighed 8 lbs. and was caught:

    Where: W. Battle Lake, Otter Tail County
    When: 1948

Fish Stocking Activity

Fish Stocked by Species for the Last Ten Years

Year Species Size Number Pounds
2012 Walleye2 fingerlings 31,175 1,480.0
2010 Lake Trout yearlings 71,153 6,090.5
  Walleye1 fingerlings 22,200 1,480.0
2009 Lake Trout adults 956 2,302.5
  Lake Trout fingerlings 1,098 49.8
2008 Lake Trout yearlings 61,407 6,114.1
  Walleye1 fingerlings 55,941 1,479.9
2006 Lake Trout yearlings 70,626 6,872.5
  Walleye1 fingerlings 28,947 1,476.8

Stocking Notes
1 - indicates fish purchased and stocked by private citizens and sporting groups.
2 - indicates fish purchased by the DNR for stocking.

Stocking Fish Sizes
Fry - Newly hatched fish that are ready to be stocked usually called "swim-ups". Walleye fry are 1/3 of an inch or around 8 mm.
Fingerling - Fingerlings are one to six months old and can range from a size of one to twelve inches depending on the species. Walleye fingerlings range from three to eight inches each fall.
Yearling - Yearling fish are at least one year old. A one-year-old fish can range from three to twenty inches depending on the species. Walleye yearlings average from six to twelve inches.
Adult - Adult fish are fish that have reached maturity. Depending on the species, maturity can be reached at two years of age. Walleye reach maturity between the ages of four and six years.

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., 69011800
Lake Trout     All sizes   Mercury
Lake Whitefish   All sizes     Mercury
Northern Pike     shorter than 30" 30" or longer Mercury
Walleye   shorter than 10" 10" - 23" 23" or longer 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., 69011800
Lake Trout   All sizes     Mercury
Lake Whitefish All sizes        
Northern Pike   shorter than 25" 25" or longer   Mercury
Walleye   shorter than 18" 18" or longer   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 07/25/2011)

Burntside Lake is a 7313-acre lake with a maximum depth of 126 feet located four miles northeast of Ely in northeastern St. Louis County. Based on physical and chemical characteristics, Minnesota's lakes are categorized into 43 lake classes. Burntside Lake is in lake class 2, which consists of 15 lakes in northeast Minnesota that are very large and deep, have irregular shoreline shapes, and have clear and soft (low mineral content) water. Burntside Lake is smaller and has clearer water than most of the lakes in this lake class. Several lakes in this lake class, including Knife, Basswood, and Trout have lake trout as a member of the fish community.

Fish populations in 2011 were investigated using a combination of 12 standard deep gill net sets, 11 shallow gill nets, and 11 standard small mesh gill net sets. The purpose of the investigation was to sample all species in Burntside Lake.

Cold Water Fish Populations

Lake trout have been stocked in Burntside Lake since 1916. Since 1988, about 70,000 Gillis Lake strain lake trout yearlings have been stocked in Burntside Lake every other year. Since 1984, all stocked lake trout have been fin-clipped for later identification, to determine their survival and growth, and to distinguish them from trout that were produced by natural reproduction.

In 2011, lake trout abundance based on deep gill nets was below the historic average. Twenty-five percent of the 16 lake trout sampled were not clipped. The proportion of naturally produced trout had increased from 11% (3 of 27) in 2001, to 23% (6 of 26) in 2003, 33% (9 of 27) in 2005, and 54% (14 of 26) in 2007 and then decreased in 2009 to 14% (3 of 21) In 2010, lake trout stocking was discontinued. Currently, Burntside Lake is on a frequent assessment schedule so changes to the fishery can be monitored.

In 2011 captured lake trout varied in length from 8.7 to 32.6 inches with a mean length and weight of 13.8 inches and 1.7 pounds. The 32.6-inch lake trout was the largest captured of any assessment. The mean length was slightly below the 2009 findings (15.0 inches) and the historic average (14.5 inches). Besides the 2007 and 2009 stocking year classes, other year classes identified were 2007 (age seven) and 2005 (age six) year classes. Most lake trout sampled were stocked clipped fish with 50% from the 2009 stocking. Overall, when lake trout became older and bigger, they started to target smelt as forage and subsequently grew at a faster rate.

A special assessment targeting spawning lake trout was conducted in October 2011. Lake trout sampled in this assessment were used in a genetic study to help better understand which strain of lake trout is successfully spawning. Of the 57 mature lake trout captured, eight were fin-clipped.

Lake whitefish abundance has been decreasing since the earliest assessments and was at its lowest abundance in 2011. Along with this decrease in abundance, there has been an increase in size. The average mean length of the first two investigations was 14.1 inches and increased to an average of 24.4 inches in 2011. The smaller average lengths in earlier investigations reflect a younger population. Ages of whitefish in 2011 ranged from 31 to 45 years confirming an older population with no young fish entering the population. It is suspected that smelt are preying on young whitefish.

Cisco (tullibee) apparently has become extinct in Burntside Lake. In earlier assessments, cisco were quite common in the nets, however since 1997, no cisco has been captured. It is felt that the unintentional introduction of smelt has resulted in the nearly total failure of natural reproduction of walleye, whitefish, and cisco in Burntside Lake. Lake trout natural reproduction was also poor and has only recently showed signs of rebounding. All of these species do not nest or otherwise protect their eggs or young following spawning. Studies showed that smelt may directly affect natural reproduction of other species by preying on eggs or young fish or indirectly by competing with these fish for forage food.

Rainbow smelt were first observed in Burntside Lake in 1970, and a variety of nets were employed to catch smelt through the mid 1980's. Regular standard small mesh smelt assessment gillnetting began in 1987 at standard locations in all three arms of the lake. Smelt catches averaged 130/net from 1987 through 1995. Smelt numbers declined from 1996 through 2005, averaging 35/net, but then rebounded to 128 in 2006 and 140 in 2007. Smelt numbers were lower in 2008 and 2009 at 63.3 and 78.4 /smelt net. In 2011, smelt abundance of 7.0/net was the lowest since 1998 at 5.7/ net.

In most investigations on Burntside Lake, smelt numbers were highest in the East Arm and lowest in the North Arm. However, in 2006, 2007, and 2008, smelt numbers were evenly distributed in each of the three basins of Burntside Lake. Smelt numbers in both 2009 and 2011 were highest in the East Arm and lowest in the North Arm.

Cool water Fish Populations

In 2011, walleye abundance was above the 2007 findings. Abundance was also above the historic average. Since walleye stocking was initiated in 1979, abundance has improved. Walleye mean length of 16.4 inches was comparable to the historic average of 15.8 inches. Burntside walleye were growing well. At age three, Burntside walleye were 13.5 inches long compared to the Tower area lake class 2 mean of 11.3 inches. In 2011, only four of the 69 walleye sampled were from non-stocked years. The strongest year class was from 2008, a stocked year, composing 45% of the catch.

Northern pike abundance was comparable to the historic average but down from 2007 findings. In 2011, northern pike length and weight was 24.0 inches and 3.5 pounds. Pike over 40 inches were captured in past assessments.

Smallmouth bass abundance was the highest of any assessment. In 2011, smallmouth bass mean length was 13.7 inches. The largest smallmouth bass captured was 20.0 inches and was only topped by one captured in 1999 of 20.3 inches.

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 B0245 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