Saturday, February 4th, 2023
Saturday, February 4th, 2023

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Minnesota Lake Profile – Siseebakwet Lake, Itasca County


Walleyes rule in Siseebakwet (just call me Sugar) Lake


By Glen Schmitt
Staff Writer


It’s likely many people have never heard of Siseebakwet Lake, south of Grand Rapids. That’s probably because it’s commonly referred to as Sugar Lake, its unofficial name.


But that’s what local anglers call Siseebakwet. No matter what you call it, this lake is loaded with walleyes, produces quality panfish from time to time, and holds some bigger northern pike.


Walleyes are the primary focus for most anglers who fish Siseebakwet. It’s stocked heavily with walleye fingerlings during odd-numbered years, and those fish typically provide anglers with an abundance of eating-size walleyes to catch.


According to DNR lake survey information, walleye numbers have been high since the early 2000s. The most recent survey, conducted in 2017, produced 37 walleyes per gill net, which was the highest catch rate ever recorded on this 1,200-acre fishery.


“We stock it with higher numbers of fingerlings and they do well – survival might be too good,” said Dave Weitzel, DNR Fisheries supervisor in Grand Rapids. “Biologically, it’s kind of an exception. The lake has an abundance of prime, eating-size walleyes.”


The majority of walleyes you pull from Siseebakwet will be less than 18 inches long. In the 2017 survey, for example, the walleyes sampled averaged 13 inches in length. Many of those fish should be somewhere in the vicinity of 15 or 16 inches long today.


Despite its strong walleye population, catching walleyes can be difficult due to the lake’s amazingly clear water. Most years, Siseebakwet’s water clarity is somewhere between 12 and 14 feet.


That makes it a prime candidate for low-light walleye-fishing outings. Walleyes are not impossible to catch during daytime, but the job gets much easier once the sun drops below the tree tops.


“Its clear water is the biggest knock about the lake,” Weitzel said. “It’s a low-light, night (walleye) bite. People do well pulling Rapalas on the sand flats at night.”


Siseebakwet’s secondary option is probably its crappies. While the lake holds largemouth bass and bluegills, it isn’t blessed with ideal spawning habit for those species.


Bass numbers are limited and the bluegills that are present don’t offer much in the way of size. But that doesn’t mean the right pod of bluegills won’t yield a few fish in the 8-inch class. 


Crappies reproduce consistently given the lake’s bulrushes, which provide ideal spawning habitat for them. Fish in the 11- to 12-inch class are somewhat common, they tend to grow fast in Siseebakwet, and crappies up to 14 inches are a legitimate possibility.


The highest number of crappies sampled during the 2017 survey measured between 12 and 14 inches in length. That’s somewhat impressive because crappies were rarely sampled in the lake prior to 2012.


“It has nice crappies and some bigger bluegills, but crappies get most of the pressure,” said Bill Powell, owner of Fred’s Live Bait in Deer River. “You’ll see those community crappie spots over deep water during the ice-fishing season.”


Limited spawning habitat also keeps the lake’s northern pike population in check. The lack of pike is likely also playing a role in Siseebakwet’s excellent walleye numbers.


But a perch and tullibee forage base does allow the pike that do swim here to grow large. Every once in a while, you’ll catch a pike over 35 inches.


“It has a good reputation for producing a 38- to 40-inch pike,” Weitzel added.


Siseebakwet also has the ability to grow some bigger perch. While numbers of large perch are not high, it’s possible to catch a few bonus fish from 9 to 11 inches while fishing for panfish or walleyes. 

Siseebakwet (Sugar) Lake

Nearest town……Grand Rapids

Surface area……………1,209 acres 

Maximum depth…………105 feet

Shore length……………5.75 miles

Water clarity………………….14 feet


Fish species present: walleye, black crappie, bluegill, northern pike, yellow perch, pumpkinseed, largemouth bass, tullibee (cisco), rock bass, burbot (eelpout), white sucker. 


For information: DNR area fisheries office (218) 328-8836, the DNR website or Fred’s Live Bait (218) 246-8710.

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