Catfish Lake, Wisconsin, USA

Also known as:  Eagle River Chain of Lakes

Welcome to the ultimate guide for history, statistics, local fun facts and the best things to do at Catfish Lake.

If you’re considering Catfish Lake vacation rentals, we’ve made it super easy to explore accommodations and nearby hotels using the interactive map below. Simply click on a listing to compare similar properties, best rates and availability for your dates. Or keep scrolling to read our Catfish Lake guide!

Catfish Lake visitor and community guide

Centerpiece of the Eagle River Chain of Lakes, Catfish Lake holds a special spot in the hearts of visitors to the Lake Superior Northwoods region of Wisconsin. The largest lake in the chain, Catfish Lake is a natural lake and a favorite of both anglers and resort visitors to the Eagle River area. Settled in the early 1800s, the Eagle River area saw a massive population increase in the 1880s when loggers arrived from Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. Word soon spread of the multiple chains of lakes teaming with fish, and the area began to draw sportsmen as seasonal visitors. Within a few years, the area was logged out and the loggers mostly moved on. The memory of this remote northern fishing destination 150 miles northwest of Green Bay remained, drawing hardy anglers to fish camps and rustic lodges. Because the area is so far from major cities, Catfish Lake never suffered over-development with vacation cottages and resorts as did more accessible areas.

Today, Catfish Lake remains an uncrowded, although increasingly upscale tourist venue. Most available lakefront property has been developed and holds an eclectic mix of lovely private homes and a few townhouses and condos mixed with the occasional resort. The lake is a favorite among boating enthusiasts who can access all ten lakes in the Eagle River chain from Catfish Lake. Sailing, windsurfing, water-skiing, jet skiing, diving and snorkeling are favored activities here, as is swimming. The many coves lend themselves to canoeing, kayaking and pontooning along the wooded shoreline. A marina at the channel between Catfish and Voyageur Lakes rents boats, pontoons and motors. A public boat ramp is located on the northwest shore off Highway 32. Wildlife is still plentiful in the area, and few residents venture far without a pair of binoculars and camera at the ready as bald eagles are plentiful in the area.

The Eagle River flows through the lake; boaters have direct access to Cranberry and Voyageur Lakes and through them, to Eagle Lake, Scattering Rice Lake, Otter Lake, Lynx Lake, Duck Lake, Yellow Birch Lake and Watersmeet Lake. Although natural lakes, the water levels in the entire system are regulated by the Otter Rapids hydroelectric dam operated by Wisconsin Public Service Corporation. Boaters can access the 20 lakes in the higher ‘Three Lakes’ chain by way of a Boat hoist/tramway at Burnt Rollways Dam south of Cranberry Lake on the Otter River. The channel between the two chains is dredged and maintained to provide access to boats up to 30 feet long and eight feet wide. It is reported the two combined chains make up the largest inland freshwater chain of lakes in the world. Access to this boating paradise is one of the main reasons for Catfish Lake’s increasing popularity among vacationers.

Catfish Lake and the Eagle River Chain are very popular fishing waters. Although specializing in walleye, muskie and largemouth bass, other species caught are smallmouth bass, crappie, bluegill and northern pike. In winter, ice fishing becomes the sport of choice as shanties appear over the favored ‘hard water’ hotspots. The Catfish Lake area offers a wealth of activities year-round to please the outdoors fan. The Town of Eagle River three miles away is considered a snowmobiling capital. The World Championship Snowmobile Derby is held at the ice oval north of the city, and local snowmobile clubs offer a number of groomed trails through the area. These same trails and others provide ample room for cross-country skiing and snowshoeing. Provisions for downhill skiing, snowboarding and sledding can all be found nearby. In warmer weather, hiking, mountain biking, horseback riding, miniature golf and wildlife viewing take precedence along with golf. Eagle River offers a variety of festivals and activities throughout the year, including the Klondike Days Voyageur Encampment in mid-winter each year.

Several campgrounds and camping resorts exist near Catfish Lake. One needn’t be a fan of camping and rustic living to enjoy the area around Catfish Lake, however: several newly-developed resorts on the Eagle River chain offer every possible amenity from gourmet meals to spa treatments and world-class entertainment. Although Eagle River is a small city with only 1500 residents, shopping is provided for everyday items, groceries and hardware. Eagle River offers movie theaters, restaurants and all necessary services to occupy the family on the occasional rainy day.

A variety of vacation rentals can be found along the shores of Catfish Lake. Many private residences and cottages can be rented by the week or month. Many are luxury homes with all amenities, private beaches and provisions for water sports. A motel located at the west end of the lake offers weekly rentals, and the several resorts and condo complexes on the Eagle River chain can provide exactly the kind of vacation venue to suit the most discerning visitor. Real estate in the form of existing homes is often found along the shore, although building lots are quite rare. So come investigate the possibilities at Catfish Lake. Let Catfish Lake become the centerpiece of your summer or winter vacation. Perhaps you’ll stay for both!

Custom Catfish Lake house decor

Read our full review of these personalized lake house signs.

Things to do at Catfish Lake

  • Vacation Rentals
  • Fishing
  • Ice Fishing
  • Boating
  • Sailing
  • Swimming
  • Beach
  • Canoeing
  • Kayaking
  • Jet Skiing
  • Water Skiing
  • Snorkeling
  • Golf
  • Camping
  • Campground
  • Hiking
  • Biking
  • Downhill Skiing
  • Snowboarding
  • Cross-Country Skiing
  • Snowmobiling
  • Horseback Riding
  • Wildlife Viewing
  • Birding
  • Miniature Golf
  • Movie Theater
  • Shopping

Fish species found at Catfish Lake

  • Bass
  • Black Bass
  • Bluegill
  • Catfish
  • Crappie
  • Largemouth Bass
  • Muskellunge
  • Northern Pike
  • Perch
  • Pike
  • Smallmouth Bass
  • Sunfish
  • Walleye

Best hotels and vacation rentals at Catfish Lake

The Catfish Lake map shown above is a simple and stress-free way to search for trip accommodations. But if you want to take a deeper dive to find the ideal waterfront home, cabin, condo, hotel or resort, visit our favorite lodging partners by clicking the buttons below.

Note: These are affiliate links so we may earn a small commission if you book through them. While there is no extra cost to you, it helps provide resources to keep our site running (thank you)! You can read our full disclosure policy here.

Catfish Lake photo gallery

New photos coming soon!

Catfish Lake statistics & helpful links

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Lake Type: Natural Freshwater Lake, Dammed

Water Level Control: Wisconsin Public Service Corporation

Surface Area: 1,012 acres

Shoreline Length: 11 miles

Normal Elevation (Full Pond): 1,615 feet

Average Depth: 12 feet

Maximum Depth: 30 feet

Water Volume: 11,818 acre-feet

We strive to keep the information on LakeLubbers as accurate as possible. However, if you’ve found something in this article that needs updating, we’d certainly love to hear from you! Please fill out our Content Correction form.

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