Big Lake, Lower Apple River Watershed (SC04)
Big Lake, Lower Apple River Watershed (SC04)
Big Lake (2615900)
244.72 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.
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.
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.


Big Lake, in the Lower Apple River Watershed, is a 244.71 acre lake that falls in Polk County. This lake is managed for fishing and swimming and is currently not considered impaired.

Date  2011

Author   Aquatic Biologist

Historical Description

These lakes' communities formed a lake management district approximately a decade ago. They
have financed an independent feasibility study which was completed by "Lim Tech Consultants"
in Oct., 1987. These connected lakes are somewhat unique in that the water quality in
Churchpine is markedly higher than that of Big Lake and to a degree Round Lake. Some of
this difference can be attributed to basin morphometry but it appears that watershed sources
may be impacting the nutrient budget of Big Lake.

A self-help volunteer has been monitoring conditions on these lakes since 1985. It is
recommended that this lake district receive high priority for planning grants or other study
funding to document watershed conditions and plan for possible non-point source remedial

Date  1992

Author   Surface Water Inventory Of Wisconsin

Historical Description

Source: 1961, Surface Water Resources of Polk County Big Lake T33N, R18W, Sec. 36 Surface Acres = 244.3, S.D.F. = 1.42, Maximum Depth = 25 ft., M.P.A. = 96 A lake with an intermittent outlet, Horse Creek. Fish species present include northern pike, walleyes, Largemouth bass, bluegills, black crappies, rock bass, pumpkinseed, perch and bullheads. Public frontage consists of two 20-foot town roads without parking and four unimproved platted access roadways (190 feet). Private developments include 17 cottages. Muskrats are common. Mallards and blue-winged teal may nest here.

Date  1961

Author   Surface Water Inventory Of Wisconsin

Big Lake, Lower Apple River Watershed (SC04) Fish and Aquatic LifeBig Lake, Lower Apple River Watershed (SC04) RecreationBig Lake, Lower Apple River Watershed (SC04) Fish Consumption

General Condition

Big Lake (WBIC 2615900) was placed on the impaired waters list for excess algal growth in 2014. In the 2022 cycle chlorophyll-a levels were low enough to warrant delisting. This lake is proposed for the Healthy Waters List.

Date  2022

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



Habitat Restoration - Shoreland
The following practices are dispersed along all three lakes: fish sticks on 1 and 350 ft2 native plantings on 8 lakeshore properties.
Best Management Practices, Implement
Church Pine, Round, and Big Lake P & R District will implement best practices described in Wisconsin's 2014-2017 Healthy Lakes Implementation Plan. Practices include: fish sticks on 1 and 350 ft2 native plantings on 8 lakeshore properties, respectively. The best practices require a contract to remain in effect for 10 years and must include minimum operation and maintenance requirements and data collection as described in grant condition #17.
Nutrient Budget Development
Monitor Water Quality or Sediment
Aquatic Plant Management Plan
Round & Big Lake Protect. & Rehab. Dist. Proposes to implement several parts of Big Lake Macrophyte Management Plan. The project activities include : A) a complete Lake District Homeowners education of the management plan implementation. B) The pilot treatment program to reduce plant density and control curly leaf pondweed. C) the third part of this project is a complete evaluation of all of parts of the pilot treatment programs (part B).

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

Big Lake is located in the Lower Apple River watershed which is 202.16 miĀ². Land use in the watershed is primarily forest (31.20%), agricultural (28.20%) and a mix of grassland (25.70%) and other uses (14.80%). This watershed has 151.64 stream miles, 4,391.99 lake acres and 9,095.80 wetland acres.

Nonpoint Source Characteristics

This watershed is ranked High for runoff impacts on streams, Medium for runoff impacts on lakes and High for runoff impacts on groundwater and therefore has an overall rank of High. 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

Big Lake is considered a Shallow Lowland 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.

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