Deer Lake is a 298 acre waterbody located about 15 miles northwest of Bemidji. Of those 298 acres, 119 are littoral (less than 15 feet in depth) and the maximum depth is 42 feet. Deer has one main inlet from Lake Erick and an outlet that immediately feeds into the Turtle River. There is a public access on the east side adjacent to Minnesota Highway 89 with capacity for 5 vehicles. About 1/3 of the shoreline is developed and the rest is mostly bog and wetland. Deer Lake has special regulations for Northern Pike (24 to 36-inch protected slot) and Largemouth Bass (all must be released). Popular gamefish include Walleye, Largemouth Bass, Northern Pike, Bluegill, and Black Crappie.
Walleye are surprisingly low in abundance but pursued by anglers, nonetheless. A total of 8 were captured in the survey with lengths ranging from 11.1 to 20.4 inches and averaging 16.5 inches. Walleye fingerlings are stocked in the fall on odd numbered years at a rate of 1 lb/littoral-acre (~118 lbs total). Generally, larger fingerlings are selected for Deer Lake to avoid early predation by Northern Pike or Largemouth Bass. However, the main forage in the lake, Yellow Perch, has declined in recent years leaving predator fish few options in what they eat.
Northern Pike are moderate in abundance in Deer Lake with a potential for larger fish. A total of 38 pike were captured and measured with lengths ranging from 11.8 to 32.1 inches. The average length of 23.2 inches is consistent with previous surveys, but the proportion of pike over 24 inches increased from 39% (2011) to 51% in 2016. Both lower abundance and improved size are objectives of the special regulation for Northern pike. Tullibee (Cisco) are also present in Deer Lake and are a very important food source for Northern Pike and especially beneficial in helping pike achieve larger sizes. There is no shortage of prime pike habitat in Deer including submerged vegetation and near-shore drop-offs.
The panfish in Deer Lake are also highly prized by local anglers. Bluegills are abundant with 152 measured in the survey. Lengths ranged from 3.4 to 9.3 inches and averaged 5.1 inches in trap nets. Only 8 Black Crappie were captured in the survey but that species is rarely represented accurately because of timing and water temperatures during standard summer surveys. Lengths ranged from 5.0 to 11.0 inches and averaged 8.3 inches. Even though only a few were captured and measured, Deer Lake still draws a dedicated following of successful crappie anglers.
Largemouth Bass are abundant in the lake, and currently protected by the catch and release only regulation. A targeted night electrofishing assessment captured 82 fish in roughly an hour and twenty minutes. Lengths ranged from 8 inches to just over 18 inches and averaged 13.5 inches. The bass population has been very stable over the last 10 years and growth has remained consistently average for this type of lake. Plenty of bulrush and lily pads provide ample habitat for shallow bass searching for an easy meal.