Basswood Lake is located approximately 12 miles NE of Ely in the BWCAW. This 22,722 acre lake lies along the international border with Ontario and approximately 60% of the waters are in Minnesota. Outboard motors are allowed on most of the portion in Minnesota and a 25 hp motor limit is present. There is another section that is paddle only. The entire Ontario side of the lake is non-motorized and managed as a wilderness area known as Quetico Provincial Park.
Prairie Portage is located on the east end of the lake and is the only motorized portage present for access. A concessionaire will transport your watercraft with a truck and trailer from Sucker Lake on the Moose Lake Chain to Inlet Bay on Basswood. There are several other portages located around the lake including two where portage wheels are allowed to transport your boat from Fall and Newton lakes to Pipestone Bay on Basswood. There are numerous USFS campsites located on Basswood Lake. Because of its popularity with anglers and wilderness enthusiasts the permits required by the USFS for visiting Basswood, particularly the motor use permits, are in high demand and often difficult to secure. Basswood Lake is considered as infested waters with spiny water flea being discovered in 2014.
Fish sampling in 2015 consisted of trap netting in early June and gill netting in late August and early September. The trap net catch was dominated by bluegill (52%) and black crappie (21%). Panfish were most abundant on the east side of the lake. This was the first time trap nets were used on this lake. Walleye made up 50% of the gill net sample. Fifteen species were sampled between the two gear types.
Bluegill numbers in 2015 (12.8/trap net) were below average compared to other similar lakes in the area. The average bluegill sampled was 7.4 inches and the largest bluegill sampled was 9.8 inches long. Thirty-five percent of the bluegill sampled were 8 inches or larger.
Black crappie numbers in 2015 (5.1/trap net) were above average compared to other similar lakes in the area. The average crappie sampled was 10.3 inches and the largest crappie sampled was 13.5 inches long. Sixty-seven percent of the crappie sampled were 10 inches or larger.
Largemouth bass, hybrid sunfish and pumpkinseed were sampled in the trap nets and not in the gill nets. The average largemouth sampled was 15.5 inches and the longest largemouth sampled was 19.2 inches long.
Walleye abundance in 2015 (13.6/gill net) was above average (6.3/gill net) compared to other similar lakes in the area and nearly identical to the long term average for all surveys on this lake. The average walleye sampled was 13.6 inches long and about 4 years old. The largest walleye sampled was 25.9 inches long. Seventy-two percent of the walleye sampled were under 15 inches long. Anglers should note that a change in the walleye bag limit has occurred on the border water portions of Basswood to reflect inland statewide regulations.
Northern pike numbers in 2015 (2.5/gill net) were slightly above average compared to other similar lakes in the area and slightly below the long term average for all surveys on this lake. The average pike sampled was 25.5 inches which is larger than the long term average of 22.4 inches. The largest pike sampled was 41.3 inches long. A special regulation for northern pike with a slot limit protecting fish from 24 to 36 inches was introduced in 2003. Fifty-five percent of the pike sampled in 2015 were in this size range.
Smallmouth bass numbers in 2015 (1.0/gill net) were slightly above average compared to other similar lakes in the area and slightly above the long term average for all surveys on this lake. The average smallmouth sampled was 15.6 inches long and about 8 to 9 years old. The largest smallmouth sampled was 20.4 inches long.
Yellow perch abundance in 2015 (1.4/gill net) was below average compared to other similar lakes in the area and below the long term average for all surveys on this lake. The average length of 7.1 inches is identical to the long term average and the largest perch sampled was 10 inches long.
Cisco, lake whitefish, white sucker, shorthead redhorse, rock bass and burbot were also sampled in the gill nets. The gill nets were set at depths under 35 feet so cold water species like cisco and whitefish were not sampled in numbers that accurately reflect their abundance. There is an annual sport netting season for cisco and primarily whitefish.
Crayfish numbers in 2015 declined sharply since the 2005 assessment. Northern clearwater crayfish were again most common, primarily on the east end of the lake. One rusty crayfish was sampled and low numbers of northern crayfish were also sampled in 2015.
- Spiny Waterflea
Recreational activities such as recreational boating, angling, waterfowl hunting, and diving may spread aquatic invasive species. Some aquatic invasive species can attach to boats, while others can become tangled on propellers, anchor lines, or boat trailers. Many species can survive in bilge water, ballast tanks, and motors or may hide in dirt or sand that clings to nets, buckets, anchors, and waders. Fortunately, completing simple steps can prevent the transport of aquatic invasive species.