Manitowish Waters’ Fisheries Facts

Multiple types of fish habitat are present in the rivers, streams, lakes and channels of Manitowish Waters… and so is a healthy fishery with a diversity of fish species.

  • 35 species of fish are known to be in or have been identified in the 10 lakes and connecting channels in the waters above the dam.
  • 42 species of fish are known to be in or have been identified in the 3 lakes and the Manitowish River below the dam.
  • Gamefish include muskellunge (muskie), northern pike, walleye, largemouth and smallmouth bass.
  • Panfish include yellow perch, pumpkinseed, crappie, rock bass, and bluegill.
  • All 10 lakes of the Manitowish Waters Chain of Lakes above the dam are considered Class A Muskie Lakes.
  • Papoose Creek is a DNR recognized Class 2 Trout Creek.
  • Lake sturgeon travel the waters below the dam in the Manitowish River.
  • Cisco (Lake herring), categorized by the State of Wisconsin as of “Special Concern”, are present in some of the deeper lakes in the Chain of Lakes.
  • State threatened species present in Manitowish Waters include the pugnose shiner and the greater redhorse.
  • Also classified as a threatened species, the longear sunfish has rarely been identified in Manitowish Waters. Whitefish are last known to have been present in 2011 (Little Star Lake).

Above information on number of species present and species that are threatened or of special concern was gathered from a 2012 Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources Environmental Analysis titled Evaluation of a New Operating Order for the Rest Lake Dam.

Lending a Helping Hand… Fish Stocking & Enhancement in Manitowish Waters


The Barr Fishway (fish elevator) was constructed at the site of Rest Lake Dam to allow passage of fish from Vance to Rest Lake. It operated into the late 1940’s.


The Manitowish Waters Fish Hatchery was established at the site of the Rest Lake Dam. This collaborative effort between the Wisconsin Conservation Commission and the Town of Manitowish Waters (then known as Spider Lake) operated into the 1950’s.


Fish including muskie, walleye and bass have been stocked some of the years during the period from 1974 to 2022 in one or more of ten lakes of the Manitowish Waters Chain of Lakes and/or Vance, Dead Pike, and Circle Lily lakes.


24,000 sturgeon fingerlings were released into the Manitowish River.  Fish were initially captured in the Manitowish River where eggs and milt were harvested. The eggs were then transported to and hatched and reared at the Wild Rose Fish Hatchery before the fingerlings were transported back to the Manitowish River for release.


Walleyes for Tomorrow has provided a portable fish hatchery, the “Walleye Wagon”, in Manitowish Waters.  Fish have been locally netted, eggs and milt harvested, eggs hatched and reared to fry, and then released into the Manitowish Waters Chain of Lakes. This program is continuing as of 2024.