Bearskin Lake, Middle Tomahawk River Watershed (UW37)
Bearskin Lake, Middle Tomahawk River Watershed (UW37)
Bearskin Lake (1523600)
402.70 Acres
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 Natural Communities.
Shallow Lowland
Year Last Monitored
This is the most recent date of monitoring data stored in SWIMS. Additional surveys for fish and habitat may be available subsequent to this date.
This lake is impaired
Excess Algal Growth
Total Phosphorus, Unknown Pollutant
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.
Shallow Lowland
Shallow lowland lake describes the depth and location of the lake in a watershed. These variables affect the lakes response to watershed variables.
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.
Aquatic Life
Waters that support fish and aquatic life communities (healthy biological communities).
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.


Bearskin Lake , in the Middle Tomahawk River Watershed, is a 402.69 acre lake that falls in Oneida County. This lake is managed for fishing and swimming and is currently considered impaired.

Date  2015

Author   Aquatic Biologist

Historical Description

Source: 1966, Surface Water Resources of Oneida County Bearskin Lake, T37N, R6E, Section 1 Surface Acres = 383.7, S.D.F. = 2.16, Maximum Depth=26 feet.

A soft water drainage lake having slightly acid, clear water of moderate transparency. Gravel and rubble are the principal littoral materials (40 percent) with muck (35 percent) and sand (20percent) also constituting a major portion of the bottom materials with a limited area of boulders. The shoreline is predominantly upland (95 percent) with a limited bog-meadow wetland adjoining the lake basin. Muskellunge, northern pike, walleye, largemouth bass, smallmouth bass, perch, bluegill, crappie, rock bass, pumpkinseed, bullhead and sucker inhabit this lake. Public access facilities with parking is provided. Navigable stream access is also available. Commercial facilities consist of six resorts, Forty-four dwellings and a public campground are also to be found on this lake. Mallard and black duck utilize this lake for nesting sites. Puddle ducks and diving ducks use this lake on their fall migration.

Date  1966

Author   Surface Water Inventory Of Wisconsin

Bearskin Lake, Middle Tomahawk River Watershed (UW37) Fish and Aquatic LifeBearskin Lake, Middle Tomahawk River Watershed (UW37) RecreationBearskin Lake, Middle Tomahawk River Watershed (UW37) Fish Consumption

Impaired Waters

Bearskin Lake (WBIC 1523600) was placed on the impaired waters list for excess algal growth in 2012. The 2018 assessments showed continued excess algal growth; new chlorophyll-a sample data exceeded the 2018 WisCALM listing thresholds for the Recreation use. Total phosphorus data were clearly below the Recreation use and Fish and Aquatic Life use listing thresholds. Based on the most updated information, no change in the existing impaired waters listing was needed.

Date  2017

Author  Ashley Beranek

Impaired Waters

Bearskin Lake (1523600) was placed on the impaired waters list for total phosphorus and excess algal growth in 2012. The 2016 assessments showed continued excess algal growth; chlorophyll sample data exceed 2016 WisCALM listing thresholds for the Recreation use, however, total phosphorus were clearly below REC thresholds. Total phosphorus and chlorophyll data were clearly below Fish and Aquatic Life listing thresholds. Based on the most updated information, the total phosphorus pollutant was proposed for deletion, but excess algal growth remained.

Date  2015

Author  Aaron Larson


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 2018. See also the 'monitoring and projects' tab.



Lake Management Plan Development
Hold Workshops
Develop/Distribute Newsletter
Aquatic Invasive Species Removal
BIG BEARSKIN LAKE ASSOCIATION: Bearskin Lake Stewardship Program, Phase 2
Watercraft Inspections Clean Boats, Clean Waters
Lakes Planning Grant
Issue News/Media Release
Informational Meetings
Shoreland Monitoring, Assessment, Inventory
Shoreland Monitoring, Assessment or Inventory
Develop/Distribute Brochures/Literature
Develop/Distribute Newsletter
Informational Meetings
Issue News/Media Release
Information and Education
Water Quality Planning
The Big Bearskin Lake Association will conduct a lake water quality improvement program with the goal of increasing water clarity and resulting sechi disc readings This project will use barley straw to inhibit blue-green algae growth in the lake. Anticipated results include improvement in water transparency and aquatic plant growth and distribution through out the lake. Specific activities of this project include the installation of the straw bales, water quality monitoring, and aquatic plant survey, and development of a final report.
County Land and Water Management Plan
Town of Hazelhurst proposes to develop a comprehensive land use plan and implementation strategies to address the land and water issues in the Town. The Town proposes to work closely with Oneida County's lake classification program to create a land use plan that matches appropriate land uses with the specific class of lakes in the watershed.

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

Bearskin Lake is located in the Middle Tomahawk River watershed which is 233.30 miĀ². Land use in the watershed is primarily forest (64.60%), wetland (26.90%) and a mix of open (7%) and other uses (1.50%). This watershed has 191.49 stream miles, 4,575.90 lake acres and 42,061.39 wetland acres.

Nonpoint Source Characteristics

This watershed is ranked Not Ranked for runoff impacts on streams, Low 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

Bearskin Lake is considered a Shallow Lowland under the state's Natural Community Determinations.

Natural communities (stream and lake natural communities) represent model results and 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.

Shallow lowland lake describes the depth and location of the lake in a watershed. These variables affect the lakes response to watershed variables.