Lake information report

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Name: Rainy

Nearest Town: International Falls
Primary County: St. Louis
Survey Date: 04/01/2012
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.

Fish Health:

Disease:Viral Hemorrhagic Septicemia (VHS)Date Tested:4/21/2010Result:Negative
Source: MNDNR

Lake Characteristics

Lake Area (acres): 230301.3
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 2012 Survey Year


Gear Used

Number of fish per net

Average Fish Weight (lbs)

Normal Range (lbs)


Normal Range

Black Crappie Trap net 5.55 1.3 - 2.6 1.16 0.3 - 0.6
Gill net 0.58 0.2 - 0.8 0.34 0.2 - 0.6
Cisco Species Gill net 3.38 N/A 0.67 N/A
Lake Whitefish Gill net 0.04 0.1 - 3.0 1.73 0.9 - 2.8
Northern Pike Gill net 1.54 1.1 - 2.4 3.78 2.8 - 4.3
Rainbow Smelt Gill net 0.04 N/A 0.02 N/A
Rock Bass Gill net 1.33 0.6 - 1.6 0.29 0.2 - 0.3
Sauger Gill net 2.08 2.1 - 4.3 0.30 0.3 - 0.5
Shorthead Redhorse Gill net 0.04 0.1 - 1.0 0.38 1.6 - 2.9
Smallmouth Bass Gill net 0.46 0.2 - 0.6 0.88 0.7 - 1.2
Walleye Trap net 0.05 0.9 - 1.9 6.60 0.9 - 1.3
Gill net 6.38 3.6 - 10.8 0.93 0.8 - 1.3
White Sucker Gill net 2.17 1.4 - 3.0 2.08 1.7 - 2.2
Yellow Perch Gill net 13.50 1.4 - 6.8 0.26 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 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 4 13 40 68 0 0 0 0 125
cisco species 0 20 28 27 6 0 0 0 81
lake whitefish 0 0 0 0 1 0 0 0 1
northern pike 0 0 0 1 9 12 6 9 37
rainbow smelt 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 1
rock bass 11 20 1 0 0 0 0 0 32
sauger 0 14 26 10 0 0 0 0 50
shorthead redhorse 0 0 1 0 0 0 0 0 1
smallmouth bass 2 3 2 2 2 0 0 0 11
walleye 0 40 34 36 28 14 2 0 154
white sucker 0 4 2 8 34 4 0 0 52
yellow perch 59 186 76 3 0 0 0 0 324

For the record, the largest Shorthead Redhorse taken in Minnesota weighed 7 lbs., 15 oz. and was caught:

    Where: Rum River near Ramsey, Anoka County
    When: 8/5/83
    Statistics: 27" length, 15" 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 04/01/2012)


Twelve fish species were captured during the annual fall gill netting on Rainy Lake in 2012. Walleye made up 20.2% of the catch by number. Walleye and northern pike represented 51.5% of the catch by total weight.

The 2012 walleye gill net catch rate was 6.38 fish per net which is above the long-term median of 5.47 per net for Rainy Lake. The 1998 to 2010 average catch rate (historical mean) was 7.62 per net. For the past 17 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 7.59 per net. The 2012 catch rate of 6.38 per gill net was down from the 7.67 per gill net captured in 2011 but represents the second highest catch rate since 2007 and is above the long-term median of 5.50 walleyes per net. Consistent recruitment has been the main factor contributing to the observed increase in walleye catch rates.

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 in 2008 dipped below one per net 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 1.33 in 2012, slightly lower than 2011 and just below the third quartile for Rainy Lake. Currently walleye greater than 17 inches (and less than 28 inches) are protected by length regulations. Creel data from 2011 indicated that walleye 17 inches or greater in length made up 29% of the total catch for 2011. Lengths of gill netted walleye ranged from 6.9 to 25.16 inches. The average walleye length was 12.9 inches and the average weight was 0.93 pounds.

The walleye catch consisted of 12 age groups. Ages ranged from age-1 to age-16 with an average of 4.2 years. Age-1 walleye made up 26.1 percent of the gill-net catch and age-2 and age-6 each made up 16.3 percent. Of the cohorts represented in the gill net catch since 2000, the 2001, 2003, 2006 and 2007 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 walleye produced a strong year-class once every four years. Throughout the 1990s, six of the ten year-classes were rated as strong. During the first half of the 2000s three of the seven 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 is also strong marking the first time since 1997-98 that Rainy Lake has produced consecutive strong year-classes.

Since 1996 walleye growth rates on Rainy Lake have decreased. Length at capture for walleye in 2012 was less than the historical mean for almost all age classes over age-4. 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 abundance since 2003 based on fall gill netting. The observed growth pattern may be the fisheries return to pre-overexploited growth rates.

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 year class moves into the slot the strong 2007 year-class will be the main contributor to the harvest. The future looks promising as several age-1 and age-2 fish were caught in the gill nets in 2012.

Northern Pike

The 2012 northern pike gill net catch rate was 1.54, which is slightly below the normal range for Rainy Lake and just below the median for Lake Class 2 lakes statewide. 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 2.0 per gill net. Northern pike lengths ranged from 14.3 to 38.4 inches. The average length was 24.9 inches and the average weight was 3.78 pounds.

Age-3 and age-4 northern pike made up 19.4 and 25.0 percent of the northern pike catch, respectively, while age-6 made up 16.7 percent of the northern pike catch. Northern pike ages ranged from age-1 to age-12. The average northern pike age was 4.9 years. The calculation of the year-class strength index indicated there has not been a strong year-class of northern pike since 2005. The 2009 year-class initially appeared strong but was caught in lower numbers in 2012.


The 2012 sauger gill net catch rate of 2.08 per net was similar to recent years and near the first quartile for Rainy Lake. Sauger lengths ranged from 7.7 to 13.7 inches. The average length was 10.3 inches with an average weight of 0.30 pounds.

Age-5 sauger represented 26.0 percent of the sauger catch in the 2012 gill net catch while age-2 sauger made up an additional 18.0 percent of the catch. The average sauger age was 4.8 years. The year-class strength index indicates that 2001 was the most recent strong year-class of sauger produced in Rainy Lake, but good numbers from the 2010 cohort in the 2011 and 2012 gill nets suggest the 2010 year-class may be strong.

Relative 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 in 2011 were targeting sauger (Vondra 2012). Low sauger abundance, small average size, and a healthy walleye fishery are likely the cause for effort being directed towards walleye.

Yellow Perch

The 2012 yellow perch catch rate of 13.5 per net was the highest catch rate ever recorded on Rainy Lake and well above the normal range for all Lake Class 2 lakes. Yellow perch ranged in length from 5.0 to 12.1 inches, with an average of 7.7 inches and an average weight of 0.26 pounds.

Age-2 yellow perch made up 47.9 percent of the perch catch and age-1 made up an additional 14.6 percent of the catch. Yellow perch from eight year-classes up to age-9 were represented in the 2012 gill-net catch. The 2005, 2006, and 2007 year-classes were all strong as were the 2001, 2002, and 2003 year-classes. The 2008 and 2009 year classes appear to be weak. Good gill net catch rates of age-1 and age-2 yellow perch suggest the 2010 and 2011 year-classes may be strong. Strong, consistent recruitment of yellow perch appears to be driving the recent increase in the yellow perch gill net catch rate.

Yellow perch gill net numbers appear to have increased in Rainy Lake since the consecutive low catch years of 2001 and 2002. The length distribution of perch captured in the gill nets suggest larger fish are more common in Rainy Lake than in the past as 24 percent of the perch caught in gill nets in 2012 were nine inches or longer. This increase in larger fish should provide some good harvest opportunities for the next few years. With the exception of 2004, recruitment has been exceptional for the past 11 years with six of the seven best year-classes for Rainy Lake occurring since 2001. This strong yellow perch production should continue providing a strong forage base and angling opportunities.

Smallmouth Bass

Due to poor weather and a heavy spring workload, spring electrofishing targeting smallmouth bass took place during a single sampling event on the night of June 5th with just two stations being sampled. A total of 2,721 seconds (0.76 hours) of "on-time" were recorded. The total smallmouth bass catch was 12 fish for a catch rate of 15.9 per hour. This catch rate is slightly lower than recent years but within the range observed in past surveys. Smallmouth bass ranged in length from 11.3 to 18.7 inches in length with an average of 13.9 inches. Five 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 harvest numbers are low on Rainy Lake and angler opportunities in 2013 should remain good.

Black Crappie

Annual trap netting targeting black crappie has been 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 14 through May 16 in 2012. Length, weight, sex, maturity, and a scale sample for aging were collected from captured black crappie.

A total of 111 black crappies were caught for a catch rate of 5.55 fish per net. This catch rate was the fifth highest on record and the highest since 2007 (9.1 per net). The 2012 catch rate is more than double the median catch rate of 2.59 per net. Crappie lengths ranged from 5.91 to 14.57 inches with an average of 11.91 inches. Twenty-nine percent of the catch was from the 2006 year-class with an additional 22.2 percent from the 2003 year-class. The 2003 year-class appears to be the strongest year-class ever produced in Rainy Lake and when combined with an average year-class in 2005 and a strong 2006 year-class explains much of the high trap net catch rate in 2012.

Other species

The 2012 catch rate of cisco species was 3.38 per net, which is down from the record high in 2010 of 5.79 but higher than the third quartile for Rainy Lake and the third highest catch rate ever recorded on Rainy Lake. One lake whitefish was captured in standard gill nets in Rainy Lake. White suckers were caught at a rate near the median for Rainy Lake at 2.17 per net. Black crappie, rainbow smelt, rock bass, shorthead redhorse, and smallmouth bass were also captured in the 2012 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

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    Toll-free: (800) 652-9093