Fisheries Lake Survey

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Name: Kabetogama

Nearest Town: Ray
Primary County: St. Louis
Survey Date: 06/12/2014
Inventory Number: 69084500

Public Access Information

Ownership Type Description
DNR Concrete
National Park Service Concrete
DNR Gravel
National Park Service Concrete
DNR Concrete
DNR Concrete

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): 24034.09
Littoral Area (acres): 7440
Maximum Depth (ft): 80
Water Clarity (ft): 8.8 (5.6-13.5)

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

Did you know? Much of Minnesota's fisheries program is reimbursed by the Federal Aid in Sport Fish Restoration Program (federal excise tax), administered by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

Fish Sampled for the 2014 Survey Year


Gear Used

Number of fish per net

Average Fish Weight (lbs)

Normal Range (lbs)


Normal Range

Burbot Gill net 0.15 0.1 - 0.3 0.57 0.7 - 2.1
Cisco Species Gill net 3.20 N/A 1.38 N/A
Lake Whitefish Gill net 0.05 0.1 - 3.0 2.55 0.9 - 2.8
Northern Pike Gill net 1.70 1.1 - 2.4 3.42 2.8 - 4.3
Redhorse Gill net 0.20 N/A 5.85 N/A
Rock Bass Gill net 1.05 0.6 - 1.6 0.21 0.2 - 0.3
Sauger Gill net 2.90 2.1 - 4.3 0.59 0.3 - 0.5
Smallmouth Bass Gill net 0.55 0.2 - 0.6 1.55 0.7 - 1.2
Walleye Gill net 5.45 3.6 - 10.8 1.70 0.8 - 1.3
White Sucker Gill net 2.30 1.4 - 3.0 2.50 1.7 - 2.2
Yellow Perch Gill net 8.05 1.4 - 6.8 0.50 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
burbot 0 0 2 0 1 0 0 0 3
cisco species 0 1 1 23 39 0 0 0 64
lake whitefish 0 0 0 0 1 0 0 0 1
northern pike 0 0 0 0 9 15 6 4 34
redhorse 0 0 0 0 2 0 2 0 4
rock bass 6 15 0 0 0 0 0 0 21
sauger 0 2 19 32 5 0 0 0 58
smallmouth bass 0 0 1 7 3 0 0 0 11
walleye 1 7 12 20 51 18 0 0 109
white sucker 0 0 0 8 34 4 0 0 46
yellow perch 5 40 110 6 0 0 0 0 161

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 Stocking Activity

Fish Stocked by Species for the Last Ten Years

Year Species Size Number Pounds
2010 Walleye fry 2,500,000 24.8
2009 Walleye fry 2,000,000 20.0
2008 Walleye fry 2,035,000 20.4

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 guidelines 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., 69084500
Cisco   All sizes     Mercury
Crappie     All sizes   Mercury
Northern Pike   shorter than 23" 23" or longer   Mercury
Sauger     All sizes   Mercury
Smallmouth Bass     All sizes   Mercury
Walleye   shorter than 19" 19" or longer   Mercury
White Sucker All sizes        
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., 69084500
Cisco All sizes        
Crappie   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        
Yellow Perch 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 06/12/2014)


Eleven fish species were captured during fall gill netting on Lake Kabetogama in 2014. Yellow Perch was the most abundant species in the catch making up 31.4 percent of the total by number. Walleye was the second most abundant species adding 21.3 percent to the catch by number. Walleye made up the largest proportion of the total yield comprising 28.4 percent of the total weight of the gill net catch. This year's Walleye gill net catch rate of 5.45 fish per net was the lowest catch rate since the inception of the Large Lake Program in 1983 for Lake Kabetogama and slightly lower than the median of all Lake Class 2 lakes. The Walleye yield per net for Lake Kabetogama has bounced up and down in the past few years but has hit some of the highest yield numbers since the late 1980s and early 1990s with a recent high in 2012 of 14.91 pounds per net. In fact, since 1986 only 1987, 1988, and 1991 had higher Walleye yields than 2012. However, the 2014 Walleye yield was below the first quartile for Lake Kabetogama (9.26 pounds per net) and the lowest since 2009. The catch rate of Walleye over 17 inches in length was 2.90 in 2014 which is near the third quartile for Lake Kabetogama. This follows two years of record high catch rates of Walleye over 17 inches in 2012 and 2013. The 2012 rate was 1.5 times higher than the third quartile for Lake Kabetogama (3.00 per net) and an all-time high.

Lengths of gill net captured Walleye ranged from 5.31 to 23.86 inches in 2014. The mean length was 16.08 inches. The mean weight was 1.70 pounds. Walleye growth has remained relatively consistent over time. However, the observed length at capture in 2014 was lower than previous surveys for age-7 through age-10 fish.

Sixteen age groups from age-1 to age-17 were present in the Walleye catch. The mean age was 5.5 years. Age-6 Walleye from the 2008 year class comprised 14.7 percent of the total Walleye catch. Age-3 and age-4 Walleye each made up an additional 13.8 percent of the catch. Analysis of gill netting data using a year-class strength index (YCI) suggests the 2006 and 2001cohorts were the only two strong year-classes produced in the recent past. Lake Kabetogama had been producing a strong year-class every 5th year dating back to 1996. The most recent data suggests a strong year-class has not been produced on Lake Kabetogama since 2006 which would mark the longest span without a strong year-class on Lake Kabetogama since the large lake monitoring program began in 1983.

Strong year-classes of Walleye are not occurring as frequently as they once were in Lake Kabetogama. While at this time we are unsure of the cause, high juvenile mortality appears to be affecting Walleye recruitment and therefore production of strong year classes. Examining mortality of juvenile (age-1 to age-3) Walleye showed that mortality has significantly increased in recent years.

Seining and fall electrofishing are used to monitor age-0 Walleye growth and abundance and predict year class strength on Lake Kabetogama. A total of 31 seine hauls were carried out during 2014, and 16 species of fish were represented in the catch. A total of 7,542 fish were captured. Age-0 Walleye were the most numerous species caught, representing 39.5 percent of the catch. Age-0 Yellow Perch composed an additional 38.7 percent. The catch rate of age-0 Walleye was 96.0 per haul which was more than four times higher than the long-term average of 21.6 per haul and the third highest catch rate ever recorded on Lake Kabetogama. The catch rate of age-0 Yellow Perch was 94.1 per haul, totaling 2,917 fish. This catch rate was lower than the long-term mean of 417.5 per haul and less than the 2013 catch rate of 111.3 age-0 Yellow Perch per haul.

The late ice-out in 2014 likely contributed to slow age-0 Walleye growth. Mean Walleye length increased from 1.51 inches on July 2nd to 2.59 inches on July 24th. There is a positive relationship on Lake Kabetogama between the age-0 Walleye length on July 31st and the subsequent year-class strength from gill net data. Age-0 Walleye growth was slower than average in 2014 and seining data suggests it will be a weak year-class.

Fall electrofishing has also been used on Lake Kabetogama to predict future Walleye year-class strength, and in 2014 a total of seven stations were sampled. Sampling occurred on the nights of October 6th and 13th. A total of 95 young-of-year Walleye were captured. The catch rate of age-0 Walleye was 31.9 fish per hour of "on-time". The historical mean was 36.2 age-0 fish per hour. Consistent with seining results, summer growth appeared slow with age-0 Walleyes averaging 5.53 inches long in the fall electofishing sample which is below the long-term median of 5.64 inches.

Analysis of historical fall electrofishing data of age-0 Walleyes indicates the strongest correlation to subsequent year-class strength is catch rate of age-0 Walleyes greater than or equal to 6.5 inches long. The overall catch rate of age-0 Walleyes provides additional strength to this correlation. Together these two variables explain 75 percent of the variation in subsequent year-class strength.

Consistent with seining results, the 2014 fall electrofishing results predict 2014 will be a poor year-class. This model predicted the 2012 year-class to be a strong year-class based on 2012 fall electrofishing results, as did the seining results from July, 2012. However, 2013 and 2014 gill netting caught only 21 age-1 and 12 age-2 fish, respectively, suggesting 2012 will be weak. The 2013 year-class is also projecting to be weak based on the gill net catch and electrofishing model projections. The 2006 Walleye year-class has driven much of the harvest fishery on Kabetogama in the past several years, and made its mark as the first strong year-class of Walleyes to recruit to the gill nets since the 2001 year-class did so in 2004. Aside from the two very strong year-classes in 2001 and 2006, every year-class from 1999 through 2013 appears to be very weak. This created a void of harvestable-size fish available to the anglers as a majority of individual fish from the 2006 year-class now appear to have grown into the protected slot. All 10 fish caught in the gill nets in 2014 from the 2006 year-class were 17 inches or longer.

Female spawner biomass estimates from a model that uses gill net catch rates to estimate biomass were made back to 1983 to allow for stock-recruit analysis of the entire large lake data set. Female spawner stock biomass fluctuated between 0.9 and 1.8 pounds per acre from 1983 through 2005. In 2006 the female spawner biomass exceeded 2.0 pounds per acre for the first time. In 2007 and 2008, the female spawner biomass dropped slightly but was still above the mean from 1989 to the present. The 2010 and 2012 female spawner biomass set new record highs with 2.16 and 2.26 lbs/acre, respectively. The 2013 estimate was lower than 2012, and the 2014 estimate was the lowest since 2001 at 1.34 lbs/acre. This drop can be attributed to a lower catch of walleyes from the 2006 year-class in 2014 with just 10 individuals. This compares to 37 walleyes in 2013 from the 2006 year-class. It appears that several years of harvest and natural mortality have reduced the number of walleyes from the 2006 year-class and with no strong year-classes following, catch rates and female spawner biomass is likely to continue the downward trend.


The Sauger gill net catch rate of 2.90 per net was near the bottom of the normal range for Lake Kabetogama and slightly lower than the median for similar lakes. Gill netted Sauger ranged in length from 7.9 to 16.1 inches with a mean of 12.4 inches. The mean Sauger weight was 0.59 pounds.

Seven year-classes were present in the Sauger catch. Age-4 made up 51.7 percent of the Sauger catch, while age-2 fish added another 19.0 percent. There have been three strong year-classes (2003, 2007, and 2010) in the past 15 years.

Sauger catch rates in the gill nets have been steady following a decline in the mid-2000s from highs experienced in the late 1990s and early 2000s. An abnormal period of three out of four strong year classes from 1995 to 1998, including two of the strongest year-classes ever in 1997 and 1998, were the catalyst for this spike in Sauger abundance. Recruitment has since normalized and appears on a schedule of a strong year-class every third or fourth year. This consistent recruitment has resulted in a very stable catch rate of Sauger fluctuating between 2.85 and 3.70 fish per gill net since 2006. The strong 2007 year-class averaged 15.8 inches long and the strong 2010 year-class ranged from 10.7 to 14.5 inches in 2014 gill nets. Good numbers of harvestable size Sauger in recent years may help fill some of the void until another strong year-class of Walleye recruits to the fishery.

Northern Pike

The 2014 Northern Pike gill net catch rate of 1.70 per net was near the bottom of the normal range for Lake Kabetogama and near the median for similar lakes. The 2014 gill net catch rate is the lowest since 2008 and follows the second highest catch rate ever in 2013 (3.25 per net). The historical median for Lake Kabetogama is 2.0 per net.

The Northern Pike gill net catch consisted of eight age groups. Age-3 pike from the 2011 year-class comprised 32 percent of the Northern Pike catch while age-2 from the 2012 year-class added 24 percent to the 2014 catch. The mean age was 3.6 years. The 2011 year-class appears to be an average year-class. The 2010 year-class is the most recent strong year-class of Northern Pike and were caught in good numbers in 2011, 2012, 2013, and 2014. Lake Kabetogama experienced a very early ice-out in 2010 and therefore a longer growing season. This longer growing season may have been favorable to Northern Pike despite low water levels in 2010 that had the potential to hamper Northern Pike spawning.

Northern Pike lengths ranged from 17.1 to 42.4 inches with a mean of 23.8 inches. The mean weight was 3.42 pounds. Trophy-sized Northern Pike are present in Lake Kabetogama. One fish just under 40 inches and one that was 42.4 inches long were caught in the 2014 gill nets and a 45.4 inch long Northern Pike weighing 18.6 pounds was caught in 2012.

Yellow Perch

The 2014 Yellow Perch catch rate of 8.1 was lower than the 2013 catch rate but near the top of the normal range for Lake Kabetogama and higher than average for similar lakes. This decrease in catch rates follows a rise that culminated with the highest catch rate ever recorded on Lake Kabetogama which occurred in 2012. The historical mean is 7.1 Yellow Perch per lift. Yellow Perch lengths ranged from 5.5 to 12.7 inches with a mean of 9.6 inches in 2014 gill nets. The mean weight was 0.50 pounds. Yellow Perch size structure has improved with 72 percent of the 2014 gill net catch measuring nine inches or longer and 53 percent 10 inches or longer.

Ten age groups were represented in the perch catch. Age-4 Yellow Perch made up 42.5 percent of the catch with the age-2 year-class providing an additional 19.9 percent. The mean perch age was 3.9 years. The index of year class strength indicates the 2005 through 2010 year-classes are all strong and the 2010 year-class is the strongest ever on Lake Kabetogama. The 2011 year-class is the first cohort since 2004 to recruit to the gear as a weak year-class and the 2012 and 2013 year-classes are projecting as weak at this time.

Yellow Perch abundance has increased in recent years and an all time high gill net catch rate was recorded in 2012. Recent years with poor Walleye recruitment may have contributed to higher perch recruitment as the YOY Yellow Perch were freed from a major source of predation. Another potential explanation for the recent strong year-classes of Yellow Perch is favorable weather for spawning and a longer growing season. Northern Minnesota has experienced earlier springs and later falls in recent years. In fact, Lake Kabetogama experienced record early ice-outs in 2010 and 2012, breaking the previous record by nine and 11 days, respectively. Yellow Perch production may also be influenced by higher spring water levels under the current water level management regime implemented in 2000. Larson et. al. (in press) found possible evidence of increasing Yellow Perch production with higher spring water levels on Kabetogama and Rainy Lakes using model simulations of seining data. However, slope estimates had wide confidence intervals and always overlapped zero. The recent string of six consecutive strong year-classes is unprecedented on Lake Kabetogama and explains the record high gill net catches. However, with the projected string of three weak year-classes it is likely that catch rates will continue to decline until another strong year-class recruits to the gear.

Smallmouth Bass

A total of eight stations were sampled during spring electrofishing events targeting Smallmouth Bass on the nights of June 12 and June 16, 2014. Effort per station ranged from 908 to 1,919 seconds of "on time". Total effort was 10,748 seconds.

A total of 70 Smallmouth Bass were captured during spring electrofishing. The catch rate was higher than 2013 (18.04 per hour) but similar to the 2012 catch rate at 23.45 bass per hour of on-time. Six year-classes were represented in the 2014 catch. Age-3 (2011 year-class) represented 39.2 percent of the bass catch while age-2 made up an additional 28.0 percent of the catch. Smallmouth lengths ranged from 5.7 to 17.1 inches in 2014 electrofishing. Quality-sized fish are present with Smallmouth Bass up to 18.5 inches sampled in 2013.

Other Species

Sixty-four Ciscos were captured in the 2014 gill net survey for a catch rate of 3.25 per net which is near the long-term median for Lake Kabetogama. Ciscos ranged in length from 6.4 to 17.8 inches with a mean of 15.1 inches. White Suckers were captured at a rate of 2.3 per gill net which was the third lowest catch rate ever recorded for Lake Kabetogama but near the median for similar lakes. Rock bass numbers appear to have increased in recent years setting an all-time record high catch rate in 2013 (4.4 per gill net). The 2014 catch rate was 1.1 per gill net which is higher than the third quartile for Lake Kabetogama. Three Burbot were also caught in the 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 B0208 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