Shoal Lake, Manitoba & Ontario, Canada

Lake Locations:

Canada - Manitoba - Ontario -

Remote, inviting and beautiful describes Shoal Lake. Sprawling across about 80,000 acres in southwestern Ontario at the border with Manitoba, Shoal Lake is one of the Province’s best-kept secrets. The size is only an estimate; the lake has never been fully surveyed. Because hundreds of small islands break the surface, shoreline length is difficult to measure. And because the only real road access to the huge lake is from the north-and leads primarily to two First Nations reserves-few will ever see this majestic north country lake in all its glory.

Shoal Lake receives the waters from Falcon River, Falcon Lake and High Lake in Manitoba, multiple smaller streams, and a shared water surface with Lake-of-The-Woods and its water source, the Rainy River. As Lake-of-The-Woods is partially in Minnesota, Shoal Lake is subject to several jurisdictions, not the least of which is the City of Winnipeg. Although the majority of the lake is within Ontario, a small part of the western shoreline falls in Manitoba. The City of Winnipeg secured rights to draw its municipal water supplies from Shoal Lake over 100 years ago. Winnipeg maintains a small water treatment plant at the lake; an aqueduct carries treated water to Winnipeg, where it is stored until needed. Good engineering allows the water to flow via gravity to the city. Auxiliary pumps are almost never needed.

A few private cottages exist on Shoal Lake, with most located on islands near the north shore. Two children’s camps are located on MacKinnon Island and Cash Island. There are limited places for visitors to stay at Shoal Lake. One fishing lodge occupies an island in the middle part of the lake. Visitors must by transported to the lodge by boat from the docks at the north end. Another fishing camp/lodge is located on the Ash Rapids channel between Shoal Lake and Lake-of-The-Woods. Lake-of-The-Woods has many lodges and resorts however, and some fishermen follow the channel through to Shoal Lake.

Although the lodges are considered fishing resorts, nearly all fishing on Shoal Lake is strictly regulated. Due to a walleye fishery collapse in 1984, most fishing is catch and release. The two Ojibway bands with reserves on Shoal Lake have aboriginal rights to fishing and have maintained commercial fisheries for many years. Fishing is an important economic industry to the bands, and they are still allowed to harvest set limits of various species of fish each year. The lake is noted for many northern pike, smallmouth bass, yellow perch, largemouth bass, crappie, muskellunge and whitefish; local reports show that sturgeon and smelt are also present. These limits don’t appear to have stopped fishermen from eagerly planning an annual visit to the two fishing lodges on the lake. Anglers cheerfully take pictures of the fish they catch before releasing them back into the water. The health of the fishery is under constant monitoring, and future decisions on fishing regulations are developed to reflect new findings. The many shallow bays and submerged weed beds make for excellent fish habitat, while the islands provide additional spawning shallows.

The area around Shoal Lake is rich in wildlife. Waterfowl nest and feed in the extensive wetlands along the Falcon River, while the bogs and marshes near the shoreline are home to moose, black bear, wolf, lynx, white-tailed deer, snowshoe hare, woodchuck and a variety of small mammals. Birds found here include great blue heron, herring gull, hooded merganser, cormorant, ruffed grouse, turkey vulture, pileated woodpecker, red-tailed hawk, ducks, loons and shorebirds. Bald eagles are common. As so much of the shoreline is inaccessible by road, the best way to view many of these native fauna is by boat. The two fishing lodges usually provide boats as a part of the rental package, guaranteeing they will continue to see much business for bird watching and nature observation in addition to fishing.

Historically, water flowed out to Lake-of-The-Woods from Shoal Lake. Near the turn of the 20th century, the natural shallow channel at Ash Rapids was deepened to provide more water to aid in navigation for the timber industry and mining interests. When Norman Dam was built near Kenora around 1898, water levels rose about three feet in some areas. Water now flows both ways between the two lakes, making withdrawal by the City of Winnipeg less noticeable. Because higher water flooded some former low-lying lands near the south shore of Lake-of-The-Woods, including lands within the State of Minnesota, an international board was formed to control water levels via the dam. Although local officials have day-to-day operation of the dam, any water level change of more than a few inches requires the determination of the International Lake of the Woods Control Board.

Due to the significance of municipal water supply from Shoal Lake, the First Nations bands who hold reserve lands along the northern shore have been forced to abandon plans for development. This has been a hardship to the tribes who struggle to provide economically for their members with few sources of income. The original treaties resulted in Canadian laws that state that the City of Winnipeg can withdraw the water without making any payment for it. Now, as Winnipeg expands, additional water is being provided to new communities, to the perceived detriment of these First Nations bands. Not surprisingly, there are now demands that the City of Winnipeg make payment to these bands for the use of their treaty resources. It remains to be seen how this will eventually be resolved.

Lodgings for visitors to Shoal Lake are few, relying mainly on the fishing lodges previously mentioned. Lake-of-The-Woods has a variety of vacation lodgings, resorts and cottages available. Best access to Shoal Lake is the portion of Lake-of-The-Woods near the Ash Rapids channel. Be sure to locate a resort or cottage community which provides boats and guide services, since navigating the lake’s islands can be confusing to newcomers. And if you happen to locate a private cottage on Shoal Lake itself, you have secured a prize worth albums of vacation photos and bragging rights for a lifetime. Come, catch that giant northern-and take his picture before you throw him back!

* Statistics for Shoal Lake are limited and often estimates.

Things to do at Shoal Lake

  • Vacation Rentals
  • Fishing
  • Boating
  • Camping
  • Snowshoeing
  • Wildlife Viewing
  • Birding

Fish species found at Shoal Lake

  • Bass
  • Black Bass
  • Crappie
  • Largemouth Bass
  • Muskellunge
  • Northern Pike
  • Perch
  • Pike
  • Smallmouth Bass
  • Smelt
  • Sturgeon
  • Walleye
  • Whitefish
  • Yellow Perch

Shoal Lake Photo Gallery

    Shoal Lake Statistics & Helpful Links

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    Lake Type: Natural Freshwater Lake, Dammed

    Water Level Control: International Lake of the Woods Control Board

    Surface Area: 80,000 acres

    Normal Elevation (Full Pond): 1,056 feet

    Average Depth: 30 feet

    Drainage Area: 371 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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