North Fish Creek, Fish Creek Watershed (LS08)
North Fish Creek, Fish Creek Watershed (LS08)
North Fish Creek (2888000)
0.42 Miles
17.05 - 17.47
Natural Community
Natural communities (stream and lake natural communities) represent model results that use predicted flow and temperature based on landscape features and related assumptions. Ranges of flow and temperature associated with specific aquatic life communities (fish, macroinvertebrates) help biologists identify appropriate resource management goals. Wisconsin's Riverine Natural Communities.
Year Last Monitored
This is the most recent date of water monitoring stored in the SWIMS system. Additional surveys for fish and habitat may be available subsequent to this date.
Trout Water 
Trout Waters are represented by Class I, Class II or Class III waters. These classes have specific ecological characteristics and management actions associated with them. For more information regarding Trout Classifications, see the Fisheries Trout Class Webpages.
Outstanding or Exceptional 
Wisconsin has designated many of the state's highest quality waters as Outstanding Resource Waters (ORWs) or Exceptional Resource Waters (ERWs). Waters designated as ORW or ERW are surface waters which provide outstanding recreational opportunities, support valuable fisheries and wildlife habitat, have good water quality, and are not significantly impacted by human activities. ORW and ERW status identifies waters that the State of Wisconsin has determined warrant additional protection from the effects of pollution. These designations are intended to meet federal Clean Water Act obligations requiring Wisconsin to adopt an 'antidegradation' policy that is designed to prevent any lowering of water quality - especially in those waters having significant ecological or cultural value.
Impaired Water 
A water is polluted or 'impaired' if it does not support full use by humans, wildlife, fish and other aquatic life and it is shown that one or more of the pollutant criteria are not met.

Fish and Aquatic Life

Current Use
The use the water currently supports. This is not a designation or classification; it is based on the current condition of the water. Information in this column is not designed for, and should not be used for, regulatory purposes.
Fish and Aquatic Life - waters that do not have a specific use designation subcategory assigned but which are considered fishable, swimmable waters.
Attainable Use
The use that the investigator believes the water could achieve through managing "controllable" sources. Beaver dams, hydroelectric dams, low gradient streams, and naturally occurring low flows are generally not considered controllable. The attainable use may be the same as the current use or it may be higher.
Fish and Aquatic Life - waters that do not have a specific use designation subcategory assigned but which are considered fishable, swimmable waters.
Designated Use
This is the water classification legally recognized by NR102 and NR104, Wis. Adm. Code. The classification determines water quality criteria and effluent limits. Waters obtain designated uses through classification procedures.
Default FAL
Fish and Aquatic Life - Default Waters do not have a specific use designation subcategory but are considered fishable, swimmable waters.


Baseline Monitoring Survey: 2003: Site Seq No130222; CountyBAYFIELD; StationNamNORTH FISH CREEK - STATION 1 - AT TOWN DUMP ROAD; WBIC2888000; Srvy Seq No81382; Primary Survey PurposeBASELINE MONITORING; Targetfish CodeZ100 ; Survey StatusDATA ENTRY COMPLETE AND PROOFED;Sample Date08-27-2003; Gear TypeBACKPACK SHOCKER; Distance Shocked: Dist Units 356.80 METERS: BLACKNOSE DACE 2 BROWN TROUT 50 COHO SALMON 149 RAINBOW TROUT 247

Date  2003

Author   Aquatic Biologist


North Fish Creek is part of the South Shore Fish and Wildlife Area, a WDNR land acquisition and management project with a goal of purchasing 4,258 acres from willing sellers in this watershed, encompassing North Fish Creek, Pine Creek, Little Pine Creek, Lake Louise and Fish Creek Slough. This stream has one of the few self-sustaining migratory trout and salmon runs in the state, but is threatened by land use practices in the watershed, primarily extensive agriculture and potential logging activities. Fisheries managers report a declining fishery over the last 20 years; this fishery is thought to have contributed up to 15 percent of the total migratory fishery in Wisconsin waters of Lake Superior through its production of rainbow and brown trout, coho salmon and northern pike (Davis). Fish Creek and its tributaries account for 20 percent of the state's self-sustaining migratory fisheries; a recent survey estimated that 47,000 one-year-old migratory trout and young-of-year coho salmon are presently produced in the river system.

This watershed supports a diverse population of reptiles and amphibians, including rare wood turtles in the slough areas at the river mouth, as well as white-tailed deer, black bear, beaver, woodcock and snowshoe hare, and numerous migratory birds (Davis).

The 1,100-acre headwaters area for the creek is one of the few remaining examples of true boreal forest in Wisconsin. The upper reach of North Fish Creek flows through a severely eroded channel with steep gradient, narrow valley and large, highly erodible bluffs with abundant springs in a reach dominated by boulders, cobble, gravel and sand bottom. A widening floodplain and valley characterize the middle reach, where the stream bottom becomes more sand and occasional gravel. The lower eight miles is characterized by low gradient, a wide valley and predominately sand with minor gravel. The creek drains mostly red clay and sand soils; the clay component of this soil type allows little water to be absorbed. The majority of erosion in North Fish Creek is attributed to 10 steep, eroding bluffs along the main stem above the confluence with Pine Creek (Fitzpatrick 19981). These bluffs contribute about 15,000 tons of sediment per year. The bluffs contain about 50 percent sand-sized particles (Fitzpatrick 19982).

This stream has had a history of devastating floods that almost strangled the stream course and left raw banks and debris that periodically slide into the stream. Most of the streambank pastureland is unfenced (Pratt 1977). In areas, the stream bottom consists of shifting sands. In places, banks have become exposed sand and gravel washes. Farming in the watershed increases the potential for flooding, since rain falls directly on the impermeable clay soils rather than being absorbed in the undergrowth of forested areas, or diffused by the canopy (Davis). In addition, snowmelt occurs more rapidly in areas lacking forest cover. Climax woody species such as firs, pines and maple provide the best erosion control due to stronger root systems, full canopy and the relationship between these tree types and soil moisture (Davis).

The annual sediment load carried by North Fish Creek in 1990, taken from a station in the lower nine miles, was 20,690 tons; in 1991 the load was 33,100 tons, with most of the load made up of sand-sized particles (Rose). Upstream stations registered lower amounts with lower percentages of sand, with the most upstream station measuring only 479 tons as the average annual load with almost all of it transported during snowmelt and rainfall, made up primarily silt and clay particles (Rose).

From: Turville-Heitz, Meg. 1999. Lake Superior Basin Water Quality Management Plan. Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources, Madison, WI.

Date  1999

Author   Aquatic Biologist

North Fish Creek, Fish Creek Watershed (LS08) Fish and Aquatic LifeNorth Fish Creek, Fish Creek Watershed (LS08) RecreationNorth Fish Creek, Fish Creek Watershed (LS08) Fish Consumption

General Condition

North Fish Creek was assessed during the 2018 listing cycle; new total phosphorus sample data were clearly below the 2018 WisCALM listing thresholds for the Fish and Aquatic Life use. This water was meeting this designated use and was not considered impaired. This water was proposed to be identified as a Category 2 water.

Date  2017

Author  Ashley Beranek


Wisconsin has over 84,000 miles of streams, 15,000 lakes and milllions of acres of wetlands. Assessing the condition of this vast amount of water is challenging. The state's water monitoring program uses a media-based, cross-program approach to analyze water condition. An updated monitoring strategy (2015-2020) is now available.

Compliance with Clean Water Act fishable, swimmable standards are located in the Executive Summary of Water Condition in 2016 . See also 'monitoring' and 'projects'.


Management Goals

Wisconsin's Water Quality Standards provide qualitative and quantitative goals for waters that are protective of Fishable, Swimmable conditions [Learn more]. Waters that do not meet water quality standards are considered impaired and restoration actions are planned and carried out until the water is once again fishable and swimmable

Management goals can include creation or implementation of a Total Maximum Daily Load analysis, a Nine Key Element Plan, or other restoration work, education and outreach and more. If specific recommendations exist for this water, they will be displayed below online.


Monitoring the condition of a river, stream, or lake includes gathering physical, chemical, biological, and habitat data. Comprehensive studies often gather all these parameters in great detail, while lighter assessment events will involve sampling physical, chemical and biological data such as macroinvertebrates. Aquatic macroinvertebrates and fish communities integrate watershed or catchment condition, providing great insight into overall ecosystem health. Chemical and habitat parameters tell researchers more about human induced problems including contaminated runoff, point source dischargers, or habitat issues that foster or limit the potential of aquatic communities to thrive in a given area. Wisconsin's Water Monitoring Strategy was recenty updated.

Grants and Management Projects

Monitoring Projects

Watershed Characteristics

North Fish Creek is located in the Fish Creek watershed which is 156.55 miĀ². Land use in the watershed is primarily forest (60.80%), grassland (19.40%) and a mix of wetland (9.10%) and other uses (10.70%). This watershed has 292.51 stream miles, 3,880.64 lake acres and 4,418.55 wetland acres.

Nonpoint Source Characteristics

This watershed is ranked Medium for runoff impacts on streams, Not Available for runoff impacts on lakes and Low for runoff impacts on groundwater and therefore has an overall rank of Low. This value can be used in ranking the watershed or individual waterbodies for grant funding under state and county programs.However, all waters are affected by diffuse pollutant sources regardless of initial water quality. Applications for specific runoff projects under state or county grant programs may be pursued. For more information, go to surface water program grants.

Natural Community

North Fish Creek is considered a Coldwater under the state's Natural Community Determinations.

Natural communities (stream and lake natural communities) represent model resultsand DNR staff valiation processes that confirm or update predicted conditions based on flow and temperature modeling from historic and current landscape features and related variables. Predicated flow and temperatures for waters are associated predicated fish assemblages (communities). Biologists evaluate the model results against current survey data to determine if the modeled results are corect and whether biological indicators show water quaity degradation. This analysis is a core component of the state's resource management framework. Wisconsin's Riverine Natural Communities.