Mille Lacs Lake, Minnesota, USA

Lake Locations:

USA - Midwest - Minnesota - Central -

Also known as:  Lake Mille Lacs

August 2015 Update: The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources issued an order August 2, 2015 banning walleye fishing for the rest of the season. The 40,000-pound annual quota had been exceeded, reducing the walleye population to a dangerously low level.

Mille Lacs Lake imposes a commanding presence in the Central Region of Minnesota. At 132,000 acres, Lake Mille Lacs is Minnesota’s second largest inland lake. Relatively shallow, the large lake is one of many glacial pothole lakes in the area 100 miles west of Duluth. Fed by nearly 20 small tributaries, the only outlet is the Rum River which flows into the Mississippi. Early in explorer history, the Brainerd Lakes area was called “Region of Thousand Lakes” (Pays de Mille Lacs) in French. As the largest lake in the group, the name stuck. Archaeologists say the area around the lake shows evidence of being the site of the oldest human settlement in Minnesota. When the first European explorers arrived in the area, the Native American population was the Dakota and later, the Ojibwa. Father Hennepin visited the lake in the mid 1600s; a small state park named for him nestles along the southern shore. Today, 61,000 acres of land stretching from the south shore toward the east is Reservation land belonging to the Mille Lacs Band of Ojibwa.

Mille Lacs Lake is famous as the “Walleye Capital of the World.” Located 100 miles north of Minneapolis, the lake became the fishing destination of choice well over a hundred years ago. With a maximum depth of 42 feet, the lake is well-supplied with shallower mudflats in its northern half that offer an optimal spawning environment for these game fish. Fishing camps and resorts built up along the shoreline from 1920 to 1950, with many still doing a thriving business with the third and forth generations of vacationers. All water sports can be engaged in at Mille Lacs Lake, including power boating, water skiing, tubing, pontoon boating, jet skiing, canoeing, kayaking and swimming. Sailing has become extremely popular with regattas and sail board competitions held regularly. The large lake lends itself to windsurfing, a newly popular sport for the area.

It’s in the area of fishing that Mille Lacs Lake really shines. Because the shallow lake has no temperature stratification, fish readily travel the entire lake while feeding. The lake has many species of fish including walleye, northern pike, muskie, jumbo perch, smallmouth bass and tullibee (cisco). Fish are generally safe to eat with limits recommended for pregnant women and small children. Fishing guides can be hired to assure the optimum catch. The lake still supports an old form of fishing cruise called ‘launches’ which were popular early in the last century. Much like a charter, the launches are operated by several of the fishing resorts and can carry up to 70 people for an afternoon or a day of fishing. For those wishing to fish independently, public boat launches are available as are several commercial marinas which provide boat rentals. The lakeside villages of Isle, Wahkon, Garrison, Onamia and Vineland will supply the visitor with bait, ice, groceries, lodgings and all necessary camping and fishing accessories.

As with most northern Minnesota lakes, fishing season isn’t limited just to summer. In fact, ice fishing often brings a larger amount of visitors than the warmer months. The resorts and vacation rentals are open year round and provide all amenities for the ice fisherman. Unique ice fishing houses are available for rent, often with all amenities, including satellite television, cooking facilities and sleeping space for up to six fishermen. Soon after the first of December, the building of the shanty town begins. As the ice often gets two to four feet thick, over 1000 miles of roads are plowed on the ice. The shanty town, euphemistically called ‘Frostbite Flats’ may contain as many as 8000 fishing houses. Snowmobile and vehicle traffic comes and goes all day and night, while the temporary inhabitants engage in often silly behavior such as practical jokes and too much drink. Meals are often delivered by snowmobile from establishments along the shore. One favorite local event is to attend the World Famous Fish House Parade at Aitkin, a few miles to the north of the lake. Each year, on the first Saturday after Thanksgiving, there is a parade of fishing shanties in town heading for the ice. The entire weekend is filled with festival activities highlighted by the comedic parade of costumed fishermen and their elaborately themed and designed fish houses. Decorated in fish-themed splendor, the spectacle is reminiscent of a high school homecoming parade with an overt bent toward Animal House. Whether they catch those giant walleyes or not, these ice fishermen, and festival-goers, will have a week-end to remember.

Father Hennepin and Mille Lacs Kathio State Parks occupy portions of the southern shore of Mille Lacs Lake. Wealthwood State Forest claims a portion of the northern end of the lake. These parks provide campgrounds, picnic areas, swimming beaches, trails for hiking, mountain biking, cross-county skiing and snowshoeing. South of the lake, the Mille Lacs Wildlife Management Area is home to 50 mammals and over 200 bird species. The Mille Lacs Lake area is home to white-tailed deer, ruffled grouse, black bear and various duck species. The Dept of Natural Resources provides a down-loadable checklist of area birds to aid bird watching. Hunting is popular here in season. The Mille Lacs Soo Line Trail, Minnesota’s newest rails to trails project provides paved and gravel-surface hiking and biking pathways connecting Mille Lacs Kathio and Father Hennepin State Parks. Groomed snowmobile trails are plentiful in the area and maps can be obtained from local businesses.

Those wishing some off-water activity will find plenty to keep them occupied near the shore The Mille Lacs Band operates a casino across the road from the lake with Vegas-class entertainment, sumptuous buffets and all the gaming most visitors would desire. For those desiring to know the history of the area, the Mille Lacs Lake Historical Society Museum is located in the village of Isle near Father Hennepin State Park. A few miles away, the Mille Lacs Indian Museum provides tribal history, native craft lessons and interpretive activities. Next door, a renovated 1930s trading post acts as a gift shop. Under the sponsorship of the Historical Society, a Rendezvous occurs late each summer. These activities are of particular interest to children and a good way to fend off boredom after a few days at the lake.

Anyone who hasn’t experienced the unique joys of Mille Lacs Lake will want to make time for a visit at their earliest convenience. Vacation rentals, including cottages, townhouses, bed-and-breakfast establishments, motels and sleep-in ice houses are all available as lodgings. Real estate is available in the immediate vicinity, including some lakefront and lake view properties. Mille Lacs Lake is truly a Minnesota treasure – one you’ll want to return to time after time. Come on up! The walleye are waiting!

Things to do at Mille Lacs Lake

  • Vacation Rentals
  • Fishing
  • Ice Fishing
  • Boating
  • Sailing
  • Swimming
  • Beach
  • Canoeing
  • Kayaking
  • Jet Skiing
  • Water Skiing
  • Tubing
  • Camping
  • Campground
  • Picnicking
  • Hiking
  • Biking
  • Snowmobiling
  • Snowshoeing
  • Hunting
  • Wildlife Viewing
  • Birding
  • State Park
  • State Forest
  • Museum
  • Casino Gambling

Fish species found at Mille Lacs Lake

  • Bass
  • Black Bass
  • Cisco
  • Muskellunge
  • Northern Pike
  • Perch
  • Pike
  • Smallmouth Bass
  • Walleye

Mille Lacs Lake Photo Gallery

Mille Lacs Lake Statistics & Helpful Links

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Lake Type: Natural Freshwater Lake, Not Dammed

Surface Area: 132,516 acres

Shoreline Length: 75 miles

Normal Elevation (Full Pond): 1,251 feet

Average Depth: 21 feet

Maximum Depth: 42 feet

Water Volume: 2,782,736 acre-feet

Lake Area-Population: 22,000

Drainage Area: 182 sq. miles

Trophic State: Mesotrophic

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Trophic State | LakeLubbers

Trophic State measures the level of algae and nutrients in a lake.

An oligotrophic lake is very clear (blue in color) and does not support much plant or fish life. A hyper-oligotrophic lake is the clearest of all lakes, and is nearly devoid of plants and fish.

A mesotrophic lake is slightly green and supports a moderate degree of plant and fish life. A lake's most desired trophic state is generally this mid-point - the mesotrophic state.

A eutrophic lake is somewhat murky and supports a large amount of plant and fish life. A hypereutrophic lake is clouded with algae, plant life, and fish life. A eutrophic or hyper-eutrophic lake can be difficult to navigate by boat - and is often an unpleasant place to swim.

The use of phosphorus-rich and nitrogen-rich fertilizer on lawns and golf courses surrounding a lake can cause it to become eutrophic or hypereutrophic.


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Catchment or Drainage Area | LakeLubbers

This is the surrounding area that drains into a lake, including land, rivers and their tributaries. This is also known as the lake's "catchment basin".

Small lakes at the highest peaks of mountains have small drainage areas. The world's oceans have the largest drainage areas.


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Lake-Area Population | LakeLubbers

This is the estimated number of people who live in a house with a view of a lake, plus those who self-describe the lake as their home, for example: "I live at Smith Mountain Lake."


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Water Residence Time | LakeLubbers

This is the estimated time that it takes for an amount of water equal to the entire volume of a lake to flow out of - or evaporate from - the lake.

Residence Time can be as short as a few days for fast-flowing small lakes, and can exceed 100 years for slow-flowing large lakes.


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Completion Year | LakeLubbers

This is the year that a reservoir was first filled to the reservoir's normal elevation - or the year that a natural lake was first dammed. A large reservoir can take more than a year to fill after its dam is first closed.

The Grand Anicut in southern India is generally considered the world's oldest dam that still operates. Grand Anicut was constructed in the second century BC. It now impounds an irrigation network that includes roughly one million acres.

You can find many of the the world's newest reservoirs on LakeLubbers. Many of the world's oldest reservoirs appear on the last page of that list.


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Water Volume | LakeLubbers

This is the estimated volume of water that a lake contains -- measured at the lake's normal elevation. By this measure, the world's largest freshwater lake is Siberia's Lake Baikal.

You can find many of the the world's largest lakes (by water volume) on LakeLubbers.

Water Volume can be measured in acre-feet, in cubic miles, or in cubic kilometers. One acre-foot is the amount of water needed to cover one acre (43,560 square feet) to a depth of one foot. One cubic mile equals 3,379,200 acre-feet. One cubic kilometer equals 810,713 acre-feet.

1 acre-foot is equal to 325,851 US gallons. Siberia's Lake Baikal contains about 6,276,367,740,000,000 gallons of freshwater - nearly 1 million gallons for every living person on earth.

The other - and more widely used - measure of a lake's size is the lake's surface acreage. By that measure, the world's largest freshwater lake is North America's Lake Superior.


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Maximum Depth | LakeLubbers

This is the estimated greatest depth of the water in a lake -- measured at the lake's normal elevation. The world's deepest lake is Siberia's Lake Baikal; that lake's maximum depth is estimated at 5,314 feet.

You can find many of the the world's deepest lakes on LakeLubbers. If you select the last page of that list, you will find the (maximum depth of) the shallowest lakes in our database.


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Average Depth | LakeLubbers

This is the estimated average depth of the water in a lake -- measured at the lake's normal elevation. If the water volume and surface area of a lake are known, an estimate of the lake's average depth can be calculated:

Water volume ÷ Surface Area = Average Depth

Example: 1,000,000 acre-feet ÷ 20,000 acres = 50 feet average depth


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Maximum Elevation | LakeLubbers

This is a lake's highest water level, measured by the lake's surface distance above sea level, that can occur during flooding. A lake's highest possible maximum elevation is usually the top of the lake's dam or spillway.

At lakes that include residential development, government regulations usually forbid the construction of homes below a lake's maximum elevation.


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Minimum Elevation | LakeLubbers

This is a lake's lowest water level, measured by the lake's surface distance above sea level, that can be reasonably expected to occur. Low lake levels can occur due to deliberate seasonal draw downs for irrigation or impending snow melt, reduced water inflows, drought and evaporation, residential or commercial water demands, and hydropower generation.

Some lakes' minimum and maximum elevations are virtually the same. Lakes that generate hydropower may vary by several feet - according to power demand. Lakes whose primary purpose is to prevent flooding can seasonally vary by 100 feet or more.

When some lakes reach their minimum elevation, their boat ramps may not be long enough to permit boat access - and boats docked on shallow parts of the lake may end up on dry ground. In those cases, kayakers and shore-based anglers may be among the few happy recreational users of the lake.


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Normal Elevation | LakeLubbers

This is a lake's normal water level, measured by the lake's surface distance above sea level. For a reservoir, this water level is also known as "full pond" or "full pool".

You can find many of the world's highest-elevated lakes on LakeLubbers. Lakes with the lowest elevations (known by LakeLubbers) are shown on the final page of that list.


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Shoreline Length | LakeLubbers

This is the length of the exterior shoreline around a lake - measured at the lake's normal elevation. The shoreline length can be considerably shorter or longer when lake water levels are lower or higher than normal.

A lake with many coves has a much longer shoreline than a lake of similar surface area that is nearly circular in shape.

When known, the shoreline miles that we report in our statistics include only the lake's exterior shoreline, and exclude the shorelines of islands located within a lake's boundaries. In lakes with many islands, those islands' combined shorelines may exceed a lake's exterior shoreline.

You can find many of the world's longest-shoreline lakes on Lakelubbers.


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Surface Area | LakeLubbers

This is the area (acreage, square kilometers, etc.) of the top surface area of a lake - measured at a lake's normal elevation. The surface area can be considerably smaller or larger when lake levels are lower or higher than normal. North America's Lake Superior is the world's largest freshwater lake by this measure.

The other measure of a lake's size is the lake's water volume. By that measure, the world's largest freshwater lake is Lake Baikal in Siberia.

You can find many of the world's largest lakes (acres) on Lakelubbers. There is no widely-accepted minimum surface area that defines a lake. What Lakelubbers describes as a lake, you might call a pond. The smallest lake that Lakelubbers currently includes is Hawaii's 2-acre Lake Waiau.


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Water Level Control | LakeLubbers

This is the organization that controls water releases or outflows from the lake or reservoir. In the USA, this is often the US Army Corps of Engineers, a power company, a municipal water system, an irrigation district, or a paper manufacturing company. In the case of private or gated lakes, a homeowners' association may be the lake's controlling authority.

Many lakes cross borders, including North America's Great Lakes. The control of such lakes and their coveted freshwater may be amicably shared - or hotly disputed.

"Water wars" continue at many lakes as growing populations and crop irrigation needs compete for the freshwater that lakes contain.


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Lake Type | LakeLubbers

There are 3 basic types of lakes that are currently included on LakeLubbers. 2 types may be dammed or not dammed, producing 5 classifications.

- A Reservoir is a man-made freshwater lake that is usually created by damming rivers.

- A Natural Freshwater Lake occurs naturally - often by glacial activity - and has a salinity of less than 30 parts per thousand. It may be dammed to produce electricity or for other reasons.

- A Natural Saltwater Lake occurs naturally and has a salinity of more than 30 parts per thousand (ppt). It may be dammed.

"Brackish" water may be categorized as freshwater or saltwater, depending on its salt content (salinity). Oligohaline water has less than 15 ppt of salt. Mesohaline water has 15-29 ppt. Polyhaline has 30-335 ppt.


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