Fisheries Lake Survey

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Name: Rainy

Nearest Town: International Falls
Primary County: St. Louis
Survey Date: 04/01/2013
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? Spawning habitat improvements can enhance naturally reproducing populations of fish species such as walleye and northern pike.

Fish Sampled for the 2013 Survey Year


Gear Used

Number of fish per net

Average Fish Weight (lbs)

Normal Range (lbs)


Normal Range

Black Crappie Trap net 2.15 1.3 - 2.6 0.81 0.3 - 0.6
Gill net 0.42 0.2 - 0.8 0.38 0.2 - 0.6
Burbot Gill net 0.04 0.1 - 0.3 0.19 0.7 - 2.1
Cisco Species Gill net 1.12 N/A 0.41 N/A
Lake Whitefish Gill net 0.08 0.1 - 3.0 0.32 0.9 - 2.8
Northern Pike Trap net 0.95 N/A 1.57 N/A
Gill net 2.00 1.1 - 2.4 3.47 2.8 - 4.3
Rock Bass Trap net 0.20 1.2 - 4.0 ND 0.2 - 0.4
Gill net 1.29 0.6 - 1.6 0.28 0.2 - 0.3
Sauger Trap net 0.05 N/A 1.87 N/A
Gill net 2.00 2.1 - 4.3 0.25 0.3 - 0.5
Shorthead Redhorse Trap net 0.15 N/A ND N/A
Smallmouth Bass Gill net 0.46 0.2 - 0.6 1.27 0.7 - 1.2
Walleye Trap net 1.40 0.9 - 1.9 3.04 0.9 - 1.3
Gill net 7.96 3.6 - 10.8 0.86 0.8 - 1.3
White Sucker Trap net 0.55 0.1 - 0.7 ND 1.4 - 3.8
Gill net 1.88 1.4 - 3.0 2.02 1.7 - 2.2
Yellow Perch Trap net 2.50 2.2 - 8.5 ND 0.2 - 0.2
Gill net 7.38 1.4 - 6.8 0.33 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 2013 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 6 12 18 17 0 0 0 0 53
burbot 0 0 1 0 0 0 0 0 1
cisco species 0 16 4 6 1 0 0 0 27
lake whitefish 0 0 2 0 0 0 0 0 2
northern pike 0 0 2 7 23 19 9 7 67
rock bass 8 23 0 0 0 0 0 0 35
sauger 2 18 22 6 1 0 0 0 49
shorthead redhorse 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 3
smallmouth bass 3 1 1 3 3 0 0 0 11
walleye 1 27 73 37 57 20 4 0 219
white sucker 0 7 1 8 25 4 0 0 56
yellow perch 14 106 55 2 0 0 0 0 227

For the record, the largest Flathead Catfish taken in Minnesota weighed 70 lbs. and was caught:

    Where: St. Croix River
    When: 1970

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 04/01/2013)


Eleven fish species were captured during the annual fall gill netting on Rainy Lake in 2013. Walleye made up 32.3% of the catch by number. Walleye and Northern Pike represented 62.6% of the catch by total weight.

The 2013 Walleye gill net catch rate was 7.96 fish per net which is above the average range for Rainy Lake. The 1998 to 2012 average catch rate (historical average) was 7.64. 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 7.61 per net. The 2013 catch rate of 7.96 per gill net was up from the 6.38 per gill net captured in 2012 and the highest since 2006. Consistent recruitment has been the main factor contributing to the observed increase in catch rates.

Lengths of gill netted Walleye ranged from 6.8 to 25.1 inches. The average Walleye length was 12.9 inches and the average weight was 0.86 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 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 1.43 in 2013 which is near the upper end of 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 2013 Walleye catch consisted of 17 age groups. Ages ranged from age-0 to age-19 with a mean of 4.5 years. Age-2 Walleyes made up 31.4 percent of the gill-net catch and age-3 an additional 19.9 percent. Age-7 Walleyes composed 12.6 percent of the 2013 catch. Of the cohorts represented in the gill net catch since 2000, the 2001, 2003, 2006, 2007, and 2010 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 2000s four of the ten 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. The 2010 year-class is strong and early indications suggest the 2011 and 2012 year-classes may also be strong which would be the longest string of above average year-classes since the 1994-1998 run of strong year-classes.

Since 1996 Walleye growth rates on Rainy Lake have decreased. Length at capture for Walleye in 2013 was less than the historical mean for almost all age classes over age-3. 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 (currently averaging 16.6 inches long) the strong 2007 year-class will be the main contributor to the harvest. Members of the strong 2010 year-class are already reaching harvestable size and will continue to do so over the next few years. In addition, the future looks promising as the 2011 year-class has the potential to be a very strong year-class.

Northern Pike

The 2013 Northern Pike gill net catch rate was 2.00 per net, which is near the lower end of the average range for Rainy Lake and just below the median for similar 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 14.1 to 39.5 inches. The mean length was 23.2 inches and the mean weight was 3.47 pounds.

Age-3 and age-5 Northern Pike made up 33.3 and 22.9 percent of the Northern Pike catch, respectively while age-4 made up 14.6 percent of the Northern Pike catch. Northern Pike ages ranged from age-1 to age-11. The mean Northern Pike age was 4.5 years. The calculation of a year-class strength index indicated there has not been a strong year-class of Northern Pike since 2005. The 2009 year-class initially appeared strong but was caught in lower numbers in 2012 and 2013.

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 2012 Sauger gill net catch rate of 2.00 per net was similar to recent years and near the lower end of the normal range for Rainy Lake. Sauger lengths ranged from 4.5 to 14.2 inches. The average length was 9.5 inches with a mean weight of 0.26 pounds.

Age-3 Sauger represented 42.6 percent of the Sauger catch in the 2013 gill net catch while age-2 Sauger made up an additional 19.2 percent of the catch. The mean Sauger age was 3.4 years. The year-class strength index indicates that 2010 was the most recent strong year-class of Sauger produced in Rainy Lake. The 2010 year-class is the strongest produced since 1991.

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. Low Sauger abundance, small average size, and a healthy Walleye fishery are likely the cause for effort being directed towards Walleye.

Yellow Perch

The 2013 Yellow Perch catch rate of 7.4 per net near the top of the normal range for Rainy Lake and higher than average for similar lakes. Yellow Perch ranged in length from 5.1 to 12.2 inches, with an average of 8.3 inches and an average weight of 0.33 pounds.

Age-3 Yellow Perch made up 43.9 percent of the perch catch and age-2 made up an additional 29.0 percent of the catch. Yellow Perch from nine year-classes up to age-10 were represented in the 2013 gill-net catch. Since 2000, there have been seven strong year-classes of Yellow Perch produced on Rainy Lake. This level of Yellow Perch production is unprecedented in the history of Rainy Lake sampling. The 2010 year-class now appears to be the strongest year-class ever produced on Rainy Lake and follows a weak 2009 year-class and an average 2008 year-class.

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 this increase in the Yellow Perch catch rate. The dip in Yellow Perch catch numbers in 2013 following a record high in 2012 is due in part to the first two average or weak year-classes (2008 and 2009) on Rainy since 2004. However, the record setting 2010 year-class will be the foundation for continued high Yellow Perch numbers over the next few years in addition to the 2011 and 2012 year-classes that also appear strong from preliminary data. The length distribution of Yellow Perch captured in the gill nets suggest larger fish are more common in Rainy Lake than in the past as 32 percent of the Yellow Perch caught in the 2013 gill nets were nine inches or longer. This increase in larger fish should provide some good harvest opportunities for the next few years.

Smallmouth Bass

Spring electrofishing targeting Smallmouth Bass took place during the nights of June 10th and June 11th with seven stations sampled. A total of 9,659 seconds of "on-time" were recorded. The total Smallmouth Bass catch was 34 fish for a catch rate of 12.7 per hour. This catch rate is similar to recent years. Smallmouth Bass ranged in length from 2.7 to 18.4 inches in length with a mean of 10.4 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. Although gill nets typically to do not sample Smallmouth Bass very well, 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 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 27 through May 29 in 2013. Length, weight, sex, maturity, and a scale sample for aging were collected from captured Black Crappie.

A total of 43 Black Crappies were caught for a catch rate of 2.15 fish per net. This catch rate is near bottom of the average range for Rainy Lake. Crappie lengths ranged from 5.8 to 15.0 inches with a mean of 10.7 inches. Fifty-three percent of the catch that was able to be aged was from the 2010 year-class with an additional 13.9 percent each from the 2004, 2005, and 2011 year-classes. 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 year-class appears to be strong based on preliminary data and appears nearly as strong as the 2003 year-class. The 2010 year-class averaged 9.1 inches long in 2013 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 1.13 per net, which is down from recent assessments and near the median for Rainy Lake. Warm water temperatures in September may have contributed to lower catches in 2013. Two Lake Whitefish were caught in the 2013 standard gill nets in Rainy Lake. White Suckers were caught at a rate just below the median for Rainy Lake at 1.88 per net. Black Crappie, Burbot, Rock Bass, and Smallmouth Bass were also captured in the 2013 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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