Sunday, January 29th, 2023
Sunday, January 29th, 2023

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Pike Lake, St. Louis County

There’s plenty to like about Duluth area’s Pike Lake

By Glen Schmitt
Staff Writer

With heavily developed shorelines, its proximity to Duluth, and extremely clear water, St. Louis County’s Pike Lake is a busy place most summer weekends. 

Indeed, recreational boaters utilize this relatively small but clean body of water to cruise, play, and to cool off. But anglers also spend plenty of time here, primarily looking for walleyes, largemouth bass, and northern pike.

Despite minimal natural reproduction, a strong walleye population has come to be expected in Pike. The majority of walleyes here are the result of successful walleye fry stocking by the DNR, which occurs during even-numbered years.

Somewhere in the vicinity of 490,000 walleye fry are stocked in Pike every other year, and they tend to thrive. It’s been that way for years and continues to be the path to what’s provided anglers with some exceptional walleye-catching opportunities.

“There just isn’t much habitat for natural reproduction, and it really is one of the clearer lakes in the area,” said Dan Wilfond, DNR Fisheries specialist in Duluth. “But Pike is one of our poster child fry-stocking lakes. They do quite well.”

Gill nets in a 2019 DNR survey averaged 15.3 walleyes per lift, which was nearly unchanged from 15.8 in a 2014 survey. Those are impressive numbers for any type of lake, and 97% of the fish sampled in 2019 were aged and matched to stocked year-classes.

In addition, those walleyes averaged over 16 inches long, with strong numbers of fish from 14 to 19 inches in length. The biggest walleye sampled in 2019 was just over 23 inches, so that simply means the lake has plenty of fish in it to keep right now and in the future.

“It’s mostly about the walleyes out there,” said John Chalstrom, of Chalstrom’s Bait in Duluth. “You can definitely grab a few for dinner out of Pike, and we hear about an occasional bigger fish being caught from time to time.”

While walleye numbers have remained strong, catching them can be a challenge, mainly due to the factors already stated: clear water and a high level of recreation. Pike might be a lake to work during low-light periods or to fish at night as a result.

The lake’s largemouth bass population is not overly abundant, but there are enough of them to fish for, and bass numbers have remained pretty consistent over the years.

You can expect most fish to be in the 13-inch class, with a few bigger bass mixed in. Look to the deep weeds and keep in mind that all those homes that dot the shoreline also have docks next to them.

“There are so many docks out there, and with the clear water, (largemouths) sit in those shaded areas,” Wilfond said. “You might see an 18-inch bass, but not numbers of them.”

Northern pike abundance has been and continues to be low throughout the lake. The lake’s lack of pike likely plays a big part in the success of the aforementioned walleye-stocking efforts.

Despite a limited number of northern pike, the size structure is among the best in the Duluth area, according to Wilfond. The average size of the 16 pike sampled in 2019 was an impressive 30 inches.

“The lake never has had high northern pike abundance,” he said. “But they tend to be porkers – really high-quality fish that will give you a pull.”

Bluegills are more abundant than crappies in Pike, but most are of the potato-chip size variety. Inconsistent recruitment has kept crappie numbers down over the years, but you’ll stumble upon an occasional fish at, or slightly over, 12 inches long.

“It does have some decent crappies that people bump into,” Chalstrom said. “And the people who target them do catch nice bluegills. I know I’ve found some nicer bluegills mixed in out there.” 

Pike Lake

Nearest town……Hermantown

Surface area………………494 acres 

Maximum depth…………..62 feet

Shore length…………………5 miles

Water clarity………………….17 feet

AIS present……….Zebra mussel

Fish species present:

Walleye, largemouth bass, northern pike, black crappie, bluegill, pumpkinseed, green sunfish, burbot, rock bass, yellow perch, white sucker. 

For information:

DNR area fisheries office (218) 302-3264, the DNR website or Chalstrom’s Bait and Tackle (218) 726-0094.

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