Fisheries Lake Survey

printer friendly version

Name: Rainy

Nearest Town: International Falls
Primary County: St. Louis
Survey Date: 05/27/2014
Inventory Number: 69069400

Public Access Information

Ownership Type Description
DNR Concrete
Private Property Concrete Sportsmans Dock
Private Property Concrete Spring Lodge
DNR Concrete
National Park Service Earthen portage around Kettle Falls
National Park Service Concrete Voyageurs National Park
DNR Concrete
DNR Concrete Tilson Bay
DNR Concrete Frank Bohman ~Crystal Beach~ ON SAND BAY

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): 44591.37
Littoral Area (acres): 18949
Maximum Depth (ft): 161
Water Clarity (ft): 9.2

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

Did you know? The state operates 17 hatcheries: 5 for trout and salmon and 12 for coolwater 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 Bullhead Trap net 0.15 N/A ND N/A
Gill net 0.04 0.1 - 4.7 0.22 0.1 - 0.2
Black Crappie Trap net 3.45 1.3 - 2.6 0.79 0.3 - 0.6
Gill net 0.42 0.2 - 0.8 0.61 0.2 - 0.6
Burbot Trap net 0.05 N/A ND N/A
Gill net 0.08 0.1 - 0.3 1.95 0.7 - 2.1
Cisco Species Gill net 5.96 N/A 0.94 N/A
Golden Shiner Trap net 0.10 N/A ND N/A
Lake Whitefish Gill net 0.08 0.1 - 3.0 0.25 0.9 - 2.8
Longnose Sucker Gill net 0.04 N/A 4.41 N/A
Northern Pike Trap net 1.95 N/A 1.68 N/A
Gill net 2.21 1.1 - 2.4 2.99 2.8 - 4.3
Pumpkinseed Gill net 0.08 N/A 0.07 N/A
Rock Bass Trap net 0.35 1.2 - 4.0 ND 0.2 - 0.4
Gill net 2.33 0.6 - 1.6 0.25 0.2 - 0.3
Sauger Trap net 0.10 N/A 0.78 N/A
Gill net 2.54 2.1 - 4.3 0.26 0.3 - 0.5
Shorthead Redhorse Trap net 0.05 N/A ND N/A
Gill net 0.04 0.1 - 1.0 4.40 1.6 - 2.9
Smallmouth Bass Gill net 0.12 0.2 - 0.6 2.07 0.7 - 1.2
Walleye Trap net 2.10 0.9 - 1.9 3.02 0.9 - 1.3
Gill net 6.79 3.6 - 10.8 1.05 0.8 - 1.3
White Sucker Trap net 0.55 0.1 - 0.7 0.86 1.4 - 3.8
Gill net 1.46 1.4 - 3.0 2.32 1.7 - 2.2
Yellow Perch Trap net 1.55 2.2 - 8.5 0.30 0.2 - 0.2
Gill net 6.33 1.4 - 6.8 0.35 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 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 bullhead 0 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 1
black crappie 3 16 37 23 0 0 0 0 79
burbot 0 0 0 1 0 1 0 0 2
cisco species 1 20 15 77 30 0 0 0 143
golden shiner 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0
lake whitefish 0 1 1 0 0 0 0 0 2
longnose sucker 0 0 0 0 0 1 0 0 1
northern pike 0 0 8 7 25 27 19 6 92
pumpkinseed 2 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 2
rock bass 15 41 0 0 0 0 0 0 56
sauger 1 22 32 8 0 0 0 0 63
shorthead redhorse 0 0 0 0 0 1 0 0 1
smallmouth bass 0 0 0 2 1 0 0 0 3
walleye 1 30 41 41 51 39 1 1 205
white sucker 0 2 4 12 23 5 0 0 46
yellow perch 27 79 68 5 0 0 0 0 179

For the record, the largest Mooneye taken in Minnesota weighed 1 lb., 15 oz. and was caught:

    Where: Minnesota River, Redwood County
    When: 6/18/80
    Statistics: 16.5" length, 9.75" 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., 69069400
Burbot     All sizes   Mercury
Crappie   All sizes     Mercury
Lake Whitefish   All sizes     Mercury
Northern Pike     All sizes   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
St. Louis Co., 69069400
Burbot   All sizes     Mercury
Crappie   All sizes     Mercury
Lake Whitefish All sizes        
Northern Pike   shorter than 28" 28" or longer   Mercury
Sauger     All sizes   Mercury
Smallmouth Bass   All sizes     Mercury
Walleye   All sizes     Mercury
White Sucker All sizes        
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 05/27/2014)


Fifteen fish species were captured during the annual fall gill netting on Rainy Lake in 2014. Walleye made up 23.8% of the catch by number. Walleye and Northern Pike represented 51.2% of the catch by total weight.

The 2014 Walleye gill net catch rate was 6.79 fish per net which is near the top of the average range for Rainy Lake. The 1998 to 2013 mean catch rate (historical mean) was 7.59 walleye per net. For the past 18 years the Walleye gill net catch rate has been at historically high levels. The Walleye catch rate from 1983 to 1994 averaged 3.98 per net; since 1995 the average is 7.57 per net. The 2014 catch rate was down slightly from the 7.96 per gill net captured in 2013 but similar to catch rates in recent years.

Walleye lengths in gill nets ranged from 3.6 to 24.6 inches. The mean Walleye length was 13.5 inches and the mean weight was 1.05 pounds.

Catch rates of larger Walleye (over 17") have increased in the past 30 years. The catch rate of Walleye over 17 inches peaked in 2005 at 3.0 Walleye per net before beginning a declining trend. After the catch rate of Walleye over 17 inches dipped below one per net in 2008 for the first time since the protected slot was put in place it rebounded strongly to 1.88 per net in 2010. The catch rate of Walleye over 17 inches in length was 1.75 in 2013 which is higher than the average range for Rainy Lake. Currently, Walleye greater than 17 inches (and less than 28 inches) are protected by length regulations. The most recent creel survey conducted in 2011 showed that Walleye 17 inches or greater in length made up 29% of the total catch for 2011.

The 2014 Walleye catch consisted of 17 age groups. Ages ranged from age-0 to age-20 with a mean of 5 years. Age-3 Walleyes made up 30.1 percent of the gill-net catch and age-2 an additional 16.0 percent. Age-4 Walleyes composed 12.9 percent of the 2014 catch. Of the cohorts represented in the gill net catch since 2000, the 2001, 2003, 2006, 2007, 2010, and 2011 year-classes are considered strong.

Recruitment, expressed as year-class strength, is more consistent and higher than it was 15 years ago. Prior to the 1990s, Rainy Lake produced a strong Walleye year-class once every four years. Throughout the 1990s, six of the ten year-classes were rated as strong. During the 2000s six of the 12 year-classes recruited to date are strong including the record breaking 2001 year class, and the 2006 year-class which recruited to the gear in 2009. The 2007 year class was also strong marking the first time since 1997-98 that Rainy Lake had produced consecutive strong year-classes. Following consecutive weak year-classes in 2008-09, Rainy Lake again produced back to back strong year-classes in 2010 and 2011. In fact, the 2011 cohort now appears tied as the second strongest year-class on record.

Since 1996 Walleye growth rates on Rainy Lake have decreased. Length at capture for Walleye in 2014 was less than the historical mean for all age classes from age-0 to age-9. This decrease in growth coincided with an increase in Walleye abundance. These observations indicate potential density-dependent growth. Hartman and Margraf (1992) found that high densities of Walleye (strong year-classes) suppressed the forage base and consequently reduced Walleye growth in Lake Erie. On Rainy Lake this relation has not been demonstrated: specifically, there has been no discernable decreasing trend in the forage (Yellow Perch) abundance but rather an increase in Yellow Perch gill net catch rates beginning in 2003. The observed growth pattern may be the fisheries return to pre-overexploited growth rates.

Seining and electrofishing data have been used to predict future Walleye year-class strength on Rainy Lake. Prior to 1995, length data from summer seining provided the most reliable predictor. Since 1995 electrofishing indices have been more significant. This change may have arrived from changes in growth observed during the past 16 years. Fifty seine hauls in 2014 resulted in 15 different species of fish caught totaling 7,525 individual fish. Sixty-three percent were age-0 Yellow Perch and an additional 13 percent were Walleyes. The catch rate of age-0 Yellow Perch was 94 per haul, lower than the long-term mean of 238 per haul. Nine hundred ninety-eight age-0 Walleyes were caught; the highest catch total since 2009 (1,947 age-0 Walleyes). The 2014 age-0 Walleye catch rate was 20 per seine haul which is higher than the historical mean of 5.1 per haul.

Walleye fishing should remain exceptional on Rainy Lake. There are several strong year-classes within the protected slot that should provide good catch rates of large Walleye and uphold reproduction. As the 2006 and 2007 year classes have now largely grown into the protected slot, most of the harvest over the next few years will come from the strong 2010 and 2011 cohorts that averaged 13.7 and 11.1 inches long, respectively, in 2014 gill netting.

Northern Pike

The 2014 Northern Pike gill net catch rate was 2.21 per net, which is near the median for Rainy Lake and just below the top end of the normal range for similar lakes. The Northern Pike gill net catch rate decreased below the normal range for Rainy Lake in 2009 after a sharp increase in 2007 and equally sharp decline in 2008. The catch rate has been relatively stable in recent assessments fluctuating between 1.5 and 2.2 per gill net. Northern Pike lengths ranged from 13.7 to 34.5 inches. The mean length was 23.7 inches and the mean weight was 2.99 pounds.

Age-4 Northern Pike made up 34.0 percent of the Northern Pike catch while age-2 and age-3 each contributed 18.9 percent of the Northern Pike gill net catch. Northern Pike ages ranged from age-0 to age-7. The mean Northern Pike age was 3.5 years. The calculation of a year-class strength index indicated there has not been a strong year-class of Northern Pike since 2005. The 2010 year-class appears to be average and preliminary numbers suggest the 2012 year-class will be strong.

Rainy Lake has a low density population of Northern Pike that grow relatively fast. As a result there are good opportunities to catch large and trophy-sized fish. Four fish over 36 inches long were caught in 2013 gill nets including one that was 39.5 inches long and weighed 17.5 pounds.


The 2014 Sauger gill net catch rate of 2.54 per net was similar to recent years and slightly lower than the median for Rainy Lake. Sauger lengths ranged from 5.9 to 14.7 inches. The mean length was 9.7 inches with a mean weight of 0.26 pounds.

Age-4 Sauger represented 36.7 percent of the Sauger catch in the 2014 gill net catch while age-3 Sauger made up an additional 13.3 percent of the catch. The mean Sauger age was 4.6 years. The year-class strength index indicates that 2010 was the most recent strong year-class of Sauger produced in Rainy Lake and early data suggests the 2012 and 2013 year-classes will be strong. The 2010 year-class is the strongest produced since 1990.

Sauger abundance has steadily declined from the catch rates observed in the mid-1990s and has been relatively stable near the first quartile for Rainy Lake. This decrease coincides with a large increase in the catch rate of Walleyes and may demonstrate density dependent and interspecies competition that influences the abundance and growth of Walleye and Sauger. Staggs and Ottis (1996) found that competition did exist between Walleye and Sauger and that regardless both species grew better in years with high forage abundance. Sauger fishing on Rainy Lake is a result of indirect catch; no angling parties contacted during the most recent creel survey were targeting Sauger. Low Sauger abundance, small average size, and a healthy Walleye fishery are likely the cause for effort being directed towards Walleye.

Yellow Perch

The 2014 Yellow Perch catch rate of 6.3 per net is near the median for Rainy Lake and just below the top of the normal range for similar lakes. Yellow Perch ranged in length from 5.4 to 13.4 inches, with a mean of 8.6 inches and a mean weight of 0.35 pounds.

Age-2 Yellow Perch made up 29.4 percent of the perch catch and age-3 and age-4 made up an additional 27.5 and 21.9 percent of the catch, respectively. Yellow Perch from nine year-classes up to age-9 were represented in the 2014 gill-net catch. Since 2000, there have been eight strong year-classes of Yellow Perch produced on Rainy Lake including the third strongest year-class ever in 2010. This level of Yellow Perch production is unprecedented in the history of Rainy Lake sampling.

Yellow Perch gill net numbers appear to have increased in Rainy Lake since the consecutive low catch years of 2001 and 2002. Strong, consistent recruitment of Yellow Perch is driving the recent increase in the Yellow Perch gill net catch rate. The 2012 yellow perch catch rate was the highest ever recorded on Rainy Lake, but catch rates were lower in 2013 and 2014. The decline in 2013 appears to be the result of the first two average or weak year-classes (2008 and 2009) since 2004. Low catches of age-1 Yellow Perch in 2014 resulted in a slightly lower overall gill net catch rate. However, the strong 2010 year-class is now averaging just less than 10 inches long with individuals as long as 12 inches caught in 2014 gill netting. Due in large part to this year-class, the length distribution of Yellow Perch captured in the gill nets suggest larger fish are more common in Rainy Lake than in the past. This increase in larger fish will provide good harvest opportunities for the next few years.

Smallmouth Bass

Spring electrofishing targeting Smallmouth Bass took place during the nights of June 24th and June 25th with six stations sampled. A total of 7,462 seconds of "on-time" were recorded. The total Smallmouth Bass catch was 56 fish for a catch rate of 27.0 per hour. This catch rate is similar to recent years but the highest since 2003 (58.6 bass per hour). Smallmouth Bass ranged in length from 3.7 to 19.3 inches in length with a mean of 12.5 inches. Ten age classes were represented in the catch.

Smallmouth Bass growth on Rainy Lake is slow compared to area and state averages. However, there are memorable and trophy sized Smallmouth Bass present. Smallmouth bass over 19 inches are often caught in our sampling gear each year including a 19.3 inch bass caught during electrofishing in 2014. A Smallmouth Bass measuring 19.2 inches long and weighing 4.4 pounds was caught in a 2013 gill net on Rainy Lake. Smallmouth Bass harvest numbers are very low on Rainy Lake, and angler opportunities in 2015 should remain good.

Black Crappie

Annual trap netting targeting Black Crappie was carried out in Black Bay since 1992 using standard lake survey trap nets. Trap netting consists of 20 set locations throughout Black Bay and the lower Rat Root River and was conducted from May 27 through May 29 in 2014. Length, sex, maturity, and a scale sample for aging were collected from captured Black Crappie.

A total of 69 Black Crappies were caught for a catch rate of 3.45 fish per net. This catch rate is higher than the median of all past assessments on Rainy Lake (2.59 per trap net). Crappie lengths ranged from 5.8 to 14.7 inches with a mean of 10.7 inches. Thirty-six percent of the catch that was able to be aged was from the 2010 year-class and an additional 17.6 percent from the 2011 year-class. The 2003 year-class appears to be the strongest year-class ever produced in Rainy Lake and was also the most recent strong year-class. The 2010 and 2011 year-classes appear to be strong based on preliminary data. The 2010 year-class averaged 10.4 inches long in 2014 and should provide quality fishing opportunities over the next few years. This sporadic recruitment on Rainy Lake is typical of Black Crappie populations.

Other species

The catch rate of cisco species was 5.96 per net, which is higher than the catch rate of 1.10 per net in 2013 and the highest catch rate ever recorded on Rainy Lake. Two Lake Whitefish were caught in the 2014 standard gill nets in Rainy Lake. White suckers were caught at a rate of 1.46 per net which is near the first quartile for Rainy Lake. Rock Bass were caught at an all-time high of 2.33 per gill net in 2014. Black Bullhead, Black Crappie, Burbot, Longnose Sucker, Pumpkinseed, Shorthead Redhorse and Smallmouth Bass were also captured in the 2014 gill nets.

For more information on this lake, contact:

Area Fisheries Supervisor
392 Hwy 11 E
International Falls, MN 56649
Phone: (218) 286-5220
Internet: International Falls 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 B0394 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

Tip Logo    Turn in Poachers (TIP):

    Toll-free: (800) 652-9093