Trout Lake, Wisconsin, USA

Lake Locations:

USA - Midwest - Wisconsin - Lake Superior Northwoods Region -

Also known as:  North Trout Lake, South Trout Lake

Hiding in plain sight behind a relatively common name, Trout Lake in Wisconsin’s Vilas County offers nearly 4,000 acres of clear, cool water. Even in a county with the most lakes in the state, this spectacular water body in the Lake Superior Northwoods Region stands out for beauty, superb fishing and memorable recreational opportunities. Located a few miles from the Michigan border, Trout Lake consists of two lake basins connected by a narrow strip of water. For clarity, they are often called North Trout Lake and South Trout Lake. Boats can easily travel to both basins from one of the four public boat launch sites on the lake. Nearly 17 miles of shoreline, much of it under the control of the Northern Highland American Legion State Forest, offers myriad opportunities to observe wildlife and paddle in quiet waters along the shore.

One of Trout Lake’s major attractions is the chance to catch a record lake trout. Fishing is the main attraction to this lake, as it is to many of the lakes in the area. Walleye, muskie and northern pike are usually the angler’s targets as lake trout aren’t nearly as common in these lakes as in the historic past. Trout Lake also holds largemouth bass, smallmouth bass, perch, bluegill and rock bass; walleye, muskie and lake trout are stocked as needed by the Department of Natural Resources. With the University of Wisconsin-Madison Trout Lake Research Station located near shore, and a special research buoy in the water, Trout Lake’s water quality and aquatic life are extensively monitored in real time so no problems are allowed to develop. The lake is deep as area lakes go-reaching 117 feet at some points. In winter, ice fishing is a popular pastime, with every angler having his own favorite spots to drop a line.

Several resort properties and a small number of private homes and cottages are hidden beneath the tree canopy ringing Trout Lake. Two campgrounds, managed by State Forest staff, offer a spot to erect a tent or park an RV. The campsites are somewhat rustic as campsites go, with picnic facilities, boat launches, drinking water and pit toilets provided. Designated swimming beaches are not provided as the bottom here is somewhat stony. The campground on the North Trout basin has an RV dumpsite. Several canoe-in campsites are offered along the west shoreline on a first-come basis. The lake holds several islands, three of which are publicly owned and open for exploration. Another is a refuge and supports eagle nesting sites. Fees are charged by the State Forest for driving the area roads, parking and camping. Paddling near shore and around the islands is a pleasant activity; however, sudden winds can churn up rather large waves on the larger expanses of water. Therefore, life jackets are not only a legal requirement for boating but may be a true life-saver. Many visitors use the campground boat ramps to launch their canoes and kayaks.

Some of the resorts rent fishing boats and motors by the full or half-day. Canoes and peddleboats are also available for rent. With 80% of the shoreline owned by the state, wildlife is plentiful, as are waterfowl and songbirds. Loons are common on the lake, but water visitors should be sure to avoid them to protect their well-known need for solitude while raising their chicks. Watersports are allowed such as waterskiing, but public boat facilities for ski boats are scarce and there is no marina or place to purchase boat gas on the lake. Most larger boats belong to property owners who provide their own facilities. The resort town of Boulder Junction is only a few miles away, and most visitors avail themselves of services there for their boating needs, including gas, repairs and pontoon rentals (with delivery). The area also has a number of bait and tackle shops, fishing guide services and outfitters to make any outdoor adventure become a reality.

The quiet roads around Trout Lake are perfect for leisurely strolls and wildlife watching. Boulder Junction prides itself as being a bicycle-friendly town, with miles of bike trails for both easy pedaling and more strenuous mountain biking. Starting in 2015, a Triathlon will be held here that substitutes paddling for swimming and is expected to become an annual event. Snowmobile trails cross the area near Trout Lake, and there are plenty of trails for snowshoeing and cross-country skiing. Because area lakes are known for walleye fishing, there is usually a fishing festival going on somewhere in the area during the season. The nearby towns of Manitowish Waters, Minocqua and Eagle River all have outdoor-themed museums and activities of particular interest to children (the adults will like them also). And the Trout Lake Golf Club is nearby for golfers who just can’t bear to pass up their weekly game.

Several locations nearby are interesting for nature lovers to explore. The Trout River State Natural Area is just downstream along the Trout River after it exits Trout Lake. This area is a quiet waterway, home to several endangered species of fish and plants and most easily accessed by water. Also immediately south of the lake, the Trout Lake Conifer Swamp holds stands of black spruce, white cedar, balsam fir and tamarack, referred to as a northern wet-mesic forest. Wetter areas hold orchids, sphagnum moss, Canada mayflower and other bog plants, while the drier areas are nesting havens for a wide variety of birds among the black ash, alders, white birch and large-toothed aspen. Black bears are seen here frequently. During summer and early fall, free tours of a cranberry bog are offered within 15 miles. And year round, this tourism-geared area has festivals and celebration going on to delight young and old alike.

Trout Lake is the perfect spot to make family vacation memories. Several private rentals on the lake offer modern cottages and lakefront living by the week. Most include a fishing boat and a sandy shoreline swimming hole. Families come back year after year, dreaming of the day when they can purchase their own little piece of paradise. Building lots are few and likely won’t increase since much of the lakefront is public land. Even in a land of many lakes, Trout Lake is a desirable place to own property. A variety of lodgings are available in Boulder Junction and at the many lakes near Trout Lake. The area holds several small restaurants and cafes good for either a quick snack or a hearty meal. And several small shops offer goods that are unique to the area. So make a reservation today, and come experience all the natural beauty that is Trout Lake.

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Things to do at Trout Lake WI

  • Vacation Rentals
  • Fishing
  • Ice Fishing
  • Boating
  • Swimming
  • Beach
  • Canoeing
  • Kayaking
  • Water Skiing
  • Golf
  • Camping
  • Campground
  • Picnicking
  • Hiking
  • Biking
  • Cross-Country Skiing
  • Snowmobiling
  • Wildlife Viewing
  • Birding
  • State Forest
  • Museum

Fish species found at Trout Lake WI

  • Bass
  • Black Bass
  • Bluegill
  • Lake Trout
  • Largemouth Bass
  • Muskellunge
  • Northern Pike
  • Perch
  • Pike
  • Smallmouth Bass
  • Sunfish
  • Trout
  • Walleye

Trout Lake WI Photo Gallery

Trout Lake WI Statistics & Helpful Links

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Lake Type: Natural Freshwater Lake, Not Dammed

Surface Area: 3,864 acres

Shoreline Length: 17 miles

Normal Elevation (Full Pond): 1,600 feet

Average Depth: 49 feet

Maximum Depth: 117 feet

Trophic State: Oligotrophic

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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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