About 40% of Voyageurs National Parks total area of 341 mi2 consists of aquatic habitat. The park has 30 named lakes which consist of four large lakes and 26 smaller interior lakes. The fish populations and communities in these lakes have great ecological importance and are very popular with park visitors, many of whom enjoy angling. Because of this importance and popularity, these fish populations have been and continue to be the subject of numerous surveys, studies, and long-term assessment programs which have identified 54 fish species in the park’s aquatic habitats.
The Large Lakes
Kabetogama, Namakan, Rainy, and Sand Point lakes make up 96%, about 80,000 acres, of all lake acreage in the park and have been shown to have the highest species diversity ranging from 36 to 45 of the 54 known fish species. Some of the better-known fish species include Walleye Sander vitreus, Sauger Sander canadensis, Northern Pike Esox lucius, Smallmouth Bass Micropterus dolomieu, Yellow Perch Perca flavescens, and Black Crappie Pomoxis nigromaculatus. They are also home to the Park’s most prehistoric species, the Lake Sturgeon Acipenser fulvescens. Lake Sturgeon are a bottom dwelling fish that eat prey like snails, worms, mussels, clams, crayfish, insect larvae, small fishes and other organisms. They can live to 55 (males) to 150 (females) years old and can grow over six feet long and weight over 200 pounds.
The Interior Lakes
The 26 interior lakes range in size from 20 acres to 754 acres with unique characteristics supporting up to 21 fish species, with most of the lakes having less than 10. Five of the interior lakes’ ecosystems support cold water species with three supporting Lake Trout Salvelinus namaycush, and four supporting Cisco Coregonus artedi. Lake Trout require cold, well-oxygenated water throughout the year where they feed on a variety of organisms and fishes but prefer Cisco. There is even an interior lake, Shoepack, that has its own genetically distinct population of Muskellunge Esox masquinongy.
Voyageurs National Park has ongoing research with various partners to study fish populations and factors affecting them such as aquatic invasive species, lake level management, and available habitat. The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (MNDNR) also monitors abundance, growth, condition, and size at maturity of some fish populations in these lakes to regulate harvest within sustainable yields. Water quality research and monitoring carried out by park staff and collaborators provides information that is used to detect changes that may signal fish habitat deterioration or improvements and is used by partner agencies in Ontario and Minnesota to help estimate sustainable yields of fish from border waters including Rainy, Namakan, and Sand Point lakes.
How Can I Help?
Remember to follow Minnesota State fishing laws and guidelines and Voyageurs National Park regulations on interior lakes.
Last updated: August 14, 2020