Walleye take is legal on Iron County’s Winslow Lake
By Bill Parker
Northern Wisconsin locals and visitors who fish both sides of the Wisconsin and Michigan border will be glad to know the long-time ban on keeping walleyes from Iron County’s Winslow Lake has been lifted. Anglers may now take a meal home with them.
“The no-take walleye regulation was removed. By partnering with our own tribal coordination unit and the Great Lakes Indian Fish and Wildlife Commission, we are continuing to monitor the walleye population with fall walleye recruitment surveys and a spring walleye population estimate survey,” said Michigan DNR Fish Biologist Jennifer Johnson. “With the natural variability in walleye recruitment, it is still too early to fully assess how the population is trending post-regulation change.“
For nearly 25 years walleyes were protected in Winslow Lake and anglers there have been practicing release fishing. With pressure from anglers, Johnson pushed through a proposal to get the “no-take” order rescinded.
“Beginning in 1992, fishing regulations at Winslow Lake and two additional lakes (Stager Lake in Iron County and Six Mile Lake in Dickinson County) were changed to no-possession walleye lakes,” Johnson wrote in a report following the most recent survey of the status of the fishery in the 258-acre lake.
“The zero bag walleye regulations were recommended by Law Enforcement Division personnel after excessive angler extraction of walleyes occurred on Stager Lake and walleye fishing pressure was building at Winslow Lake,” Johnson wrote.
The initial goal of the protection was to help a stunted bluegill population by cropping off some of those fish, and to establish a viable walleye population.
“Both of those goals have been met,” Johnson wrote.
The Michigan DNR regularly stocked walleyes in Winslow Lake from 1979 through 1995.
In 1996, walleyes were considered self-sustaining and the stocking program ended.
The most recent survey revealed an walleye abundance of 7.3 fish per acre, which is considered a good to excellent fishery. The walleyes captured in the survey ranged from 6 to 28 inches and averaged 17.7. About 93% were 15 inches or larger, which is the legal size for harvest.
“Natural reproduction of walleyes also has been established in Winslow Lake since 1996,” Johnson wrote in her summary. “However, walleye growth rates weren’t calculated until 1999. During that time growth rates for walleye were 1.6 inches below state average. In 2013, growth rates decreased even further to 2.8 inches below the state average. The slow growth rates likely can be attributed to intra-specific competition – too many walleyes competing for food and habitat.”
Walleyes aren’t the only game fish species found in Winslow Lake. The survey produced a total of 1,605 fish representing 15 species, including black crappies, bluegills, white suckers, hybrid sunfish, largemouth bass, smallmouth bass, northern pike, pumpkinseed sunfish, walleyes, and yellow perch.
Bluegills were the most abundant species by number collected in the survey. The ’gills averaged 5.6 inches and ranged up to 10.
Crappies averaged 6.9 and ranged up to 13 inches. Perch numbers were light, but they averaged 8 inches and ranged up to 12. The survey also produced hybrid sunfish to 8 inches, smallmouth bass to 16, and one tiny largemouth bass. The northern pike averaged a tad over 20 inches and ranged up to 30.
In response to the chronic slow growth rate of northern pike and lack of legally harvestable sizes of 24 inches or larger, the size limit has been removed and the daily bag limit stands at five fish of any size, but only one may be 24 inches or longer.
Winslow Lake is located in the Paint River watershed in Michigan’s Iron County about 21 miles northwest of the city of Iron River and a similar distance from the Wisconsin towns of Land O’ Lakes and Alvin. It has a maximum depth of 22 feet
The 7.8 miles of shoreline is mostly undeveloped with approximately one-third owned by the U.S. Forest Service. There are a couple dozen or so cottages along the southwestern basin of the lake.
Tote Creek, on the northern shore, and two unnamed tributaries flow into Winslow Lake. The outlet is Winslow Creek, located in the southwest bay that flows to the North Branch of the Paint River. There is a five-foot private dam at the outlet, which was rebuilt in the early 1980s
“The goal in Winslow Lake should strive for a balanced predator and prey fish populations, which will result in a healthy fish community for all anglers to enjoy,” Johnson wrote.
For walleyes, try drifting or trolling along the weedy breaklines with a crawler harness or cast a jig and crawler or jig and leech combo into the pockets.
Panfish will hit most live baits, including waxies, leaf worms, and minnows. Look for weedbeds in 6 to 10 feet of water. Public access is available at the southeast end of the lake off National Forest Road 2152.
Nearest town………….Iron River
Surface area………………258 acres
Maximum depth………….22 feet
Fish species present:
Bluegill, black crappie, white sucker, hybrid sunfish, largemouth bass, northern pike, pumpkinseed sunfish, smallmouth bass, walleye, yellow perch.
DNR district office (906) 875-6622, DNR web site wwwmichigan.gov/dnr, Luckey’s Sport Shop (906) 265-0151.