Leech Lake is the third largest lake entirely within the boundaries of Minnesota and has approximately 112,000 surface acres. In its original state, Leech Lake covered about 106,000 acres. In 1884, a dam was built on the Leech River which raised the lake approximately two feet and increased the surface area to its present size. The deepest point in the lake is about 170 feet and is located in Walker Bay.
Approximately 80% of the lake is less than 35 feet deep. Nearly 50 percent of the 195 miles of shoreline consist of a gravel-rubble-boulder mixture, nearly all of which is used by spawning Walleye. Leech Lake has an irregular shape with many large and small bays and is geographically in three glacial zones. This contributes greatly to the unique character and diversity of the lake. Walker and Kabekona Bays are deep, clear water basins which display characteristics similar to Canadian lake trout lakes and are considered oligotrophic in nature. Large, shallow bays such as Steamboat and Boy display characteristics similar to lakes with high nutrient levels (eutrophic) and decreased water transparency. The main portion of the lake, like most large Minnesota walleye lakes, is somewhere in between and is considered mesotrophic.
Similar to other large lakes in Minnesota, the fish community is dominated by species in the perch and pike families. Walleye, Northern Pike, and Muskellunge are the principal predators and found in varying abundance throughout the lake. Although most fish species are found in every portion of the lake, the largest concentrations of Walleye and Muskellunge exist in the mesotrophic areas. The largest concentrations of Northern Pike are in eutrophic bays which support large areas of dense vegetation. Yellow Perch are abundant throughout the lake and provide the primary food for Walleye and Northern Pike. Cisco, most often found in the mesotrophic areas, provide an important food source for muskellunge and trophy northern pike.
Mesotrophic areas also have populations of White Sucker, Lake Whitefish, Burbot and Rock Bass. Besides these species, the eutrophic bays have populations of Bowfin, Shorthead Redhorse, Bullhead, Pumpkinseed, Bluegill, Largemouth Bass, and Black Crappie.
-By Ted J. Sledge, former Large Lake Specialist, DNR Fisheries Office - 2000