Focus is back to walleye and bass on Lake Medora
By Bill Parker
Keweenaw County’s Lake Medora has seen its share of management strategies over the years, bouncing from a whitefish lake to a walleye and smallmouth bass lake, to a trout lake, and back to a walleye and bass lake. Along the way various stocking efforts have been employed with varying success rates.
Today, Medora is once again being managed mainly as a smallmouth bass, perch, and walleye lake.
Medora is a 695-acre inland lake located at the northern tip of the Keweenaw Peninsula, about four miles southwest of Copper Harbor. It was formed in the 1860s by damming Medora Creek (the Mosquito River) to supply water-power to the Keweenaw Copper Company.
Historically, Medora was known for its prized whitefish fishery until the late 1960s when perch overtook the whitefish. According to DNR records, small yellow perch were abundant in the lake and the perch outcompeted the whitefish for plankton, resulting in a poor sport-fishery for both whitefish and perch.
Due to the declining fishing conditions, lake property owners requested that the DNR stock walleyes, to provide another sportfish and to crop off some of the stunted perch.
The DNR began stocking walleyes into Lake Medora in 1971.
Records show that walleye management was successful for about 10 years, and during that period netting surveys revealed a diminished yellow perch population
By 1992 yellow perch numbers were very low resulting in an abundance of small, skinny walleyes. However the lake whitefish had totally disappeared from the Medora fishery.
Walleye stocking occurred in 1982 and 2002 with follow-up surveys showing small and skinny walleyes, as well as a depleted forage base and very low numbers of yellow perch. In 2005, the management plan for the lake was to cease any further introductions of walleyes.
“Rainbow trout are a planktivorous fish that will utilize the zooplankton within Lake Medora as a forage supply,” wrote George Madison, a senior fisheries biologist with the DNR, in a report following a 2018 survey of the fishery in Lake Medora. “The history of fisheries management of Lake Medora shows that past introductions of rainbow trout, when perch populations were low, had occasionally worked in providing a viable sport fishery.”
Between 2015 and 2017 the DNR planted lake trout, splake, and rainbow trout in Medora in an effort to provide a viable sport fishery. Those efforts included 6,500 splake averaging 7.9 inches in 2015 along with 22,704 rainbows averaging 2.91 inches; 500 12-inch lake trout in 2016 along with 20,904 rainbows averaging 3.46 inches; and another 22,889 rainbows averaging 3.23 inches in 2017.
Unfortunately the trout fishery didn’t pan out.
“There have been no reports of successful angler catches of any of these fish,” Madison wrote in his report. “The stocking of trout in this lake was discontinued in 2019.”
The good news is that the walleye fishery is self-sustaining and bass and perch populations are strong.
“This lake will persist to support a fishery of smallmouth bass, yellow perch, and small-size walleye,” Madison wrote. “Future walleye regulations here may consider the liberal category of a 15-inch minimum size limit, whereby two walleye of the five-fish daily possession limit may be of 13 inches or larger.”
In the 2018 survey good numbers of walleye, smallies, and perch were collected, along with one 22.5-inch splake.
The walleyes ranged between 1 and 22 inches and averaged 12.7 inches, but only 21% were legal sized (15 inches or larger). Smallmouth bass ranged between 4 and 16 inches with an average of 12.7. About 21% were legal sized (14 inches or larger). Perch was the most abundant sportfish. They ranged up to 14 inches and averaged 7.8 with 19% being acceptable for anglers (7 inches or larger).
If you’re looking for a beautiful lake with aesthetically appealing surroundings, healthy populations of smallmouth bass, perch, and walleyes, take a trip north to Copper Country and visit Lake Medora.
Gull Lake Creek and Meadow Lake Creek flow into Lake Medora in the two large bays along its western shore. An unnamed creek also flows in from the south in the southeastern corner. Medora Creek drains out of Lake Medora to the south and eventually dumps into the Montreal River.
The lake bottoms-out at 30 feet deep, but most of the water is between 20 and 25 feet deep. Rocky shorelines and gravel bars are scattered throughout the lake, creating excellent habitat for smallmouths and walleyes. There are also a few small islands, points, rock ledges, sunken islands, bars, and drop-offs that provide critical fish habitat.
About half of the shoreline is developed.
Some of the best fishing on the lake occurs along the shoreline. Crankbaits worked through the rocks will usually attract smallmouth bass.
Walleye fishing is pretty good along the shore, too. Crankbaits will produce good results as will leeches fished under a slip-bobber.
Try the rocky edges and the weedbeds at the northwest end of the lake.
The only public access site on Lake Medora is located on the south shore off US-41. It features a paved ramp and parking for up to 12 vehicles.
Nearest town…Copper Harbor
Surface water…………..695 acres
Maximum depth…………30 feet
Water clarity……….Light brown
Fish species present:
Smallmouth bass, walleye, yellow perch, splake.
DNR district fisheries office (906) 353-6651, the DNR web site http://www.michigan.gov/dnr, Northwoods Sporting Goods, (906) 482-5210.