Formerly a deep, fjord-like bay of ancient Lake Michigan, Torch Lake became an inland lake when a sand bar formed across the mouth of the bay (now the lake’s northwest end). The shoreline consists mostly of cobble-sized rocks. However, large areas of sand are present in some locations, most notably at the north and south ends. Bottom sediments in the deepest waters are grey or white in color due to the deposition of marl with only low levels of organic material. Almost everywhere, the lake has a wide, sandy, shallow region paralleling the shore, which ends in a steep drop-off. Aquatic plants are sparse, with muskgrass (or Chara) being the most abundant. Pondweeds, water milfoil, and wild celery (or tapegrass) are found in only a few locations.
Named tributaries include the Clam River (Torch Lake’s major inlet), and Spencer, Wilkinson, and Eastport Creeks. All of the other tributaries are very small and apparently unnamed. The Torch River flows out of the south end of the lake.
Torch Lake is noted for its coldwater fishery, including lake trout and whitefish, both of which are self-sustaining through natural reproduction. Burbot are common in a deep-water community association with the trout, whitefish, and deep-water sculpin. Smallmouth bass, yellow perch, and rock bass, and muskellunge are commonly fished for in Torch Lake, and Torch Lake is known for large muskies and whitefish. Fishing pressure is generally considered to be light. Because of its unproductive nature, Torch Lake does not yield large numbers of fish.
Fish Consumption Advisories have been listed for five species of its fish: brown trout, lake trout, lake whitefish, smallmouth bass, and yellow perch. High concentrations of mercury, PolyChlorinated Biphenyls (PCB’s), and dioxins—all toxic byproducts of industrialization—are the reasons for the advisories. It has recently been advised to never eat lake trout from Torch Lake, even for a healthy male. More information is available in the link under Additional Resources below.
Monitoring and Research:
Torch Lake is monitored every three years through the Watershed Council’s Comprehensive Water Quality Monitoring (CWQM) Program for dissolved oxygen, specific conductivity, pH, nitrate-nitrogen, total nitrogen, total phosphorus, and chloride levels.
Water transparency, chlorophyll-a, and water temperature are also monitored in Torch Lake each summer by volunteers as part of the Watershed Council’s Volunteer Lake Monitoring (VLM) Program.
The Elk River Chain of Lakes Watershed Plan Implementation Team meets regularly and is working to protect the lakes in the Chain.
This lake is monitored through the State’s Cooperative Lakes Monitoring Program (CLMP).
Interactive shelter map
Golden Brown Benthic Algae insert.
View an interactive map, including public access sites, at Michigan Fishweb.
Learn about safely eating fish from this lake in the Michigan Fish Consumption Advisory.
Information about Threatened, Endangered, and Special Concern species in this lake’s watershed is available on the Michigan Natural Features Inventory (MNFI) website.
A wide variety of maps for this area are available online at the Michigan Natural Features Inventory (MNFI) Data Resources page.
See additional resources on our Aquavist page.
|2022 Elk River Chain of Lakes Watershed Management Plan||Beals Lake, Ben-Way Lake, Clam Lake, EGLE/EPA Approved Watershed Management Plans, Elk Lake, Elk River, Elk River Chain of Lakes Watershed, Ellsworth Lake, Hanley Lake, Intermediate Lake, Lake Bellaire, Scotts Lake, Six Mile Lake, Skegemog Lake, St. Clair Lake, Torch Lake, Wilson Lake||beals-lake ben-way-lake clam-lake watershed-plan-approved elk-lake elk-river elk-river-chain-of-lakes-watershed ellsworth-lake hanley-lake intermediate-lake lake-bellaire scotts-lake six-mile-lake skegemog-lake st-clair-lake torch-lake wilson-lake inland-lakes rivers-streams watersheds|
|2021 Torch Lake Aquatic Plant Survey||Aquatic Plant Surveys, Torch Lake||aquatic-plant-surveys torch-lake inland-lakes|
|2021 Torch Lake Aquatic Plant||Aquatic Plant Surveys, Torch Lake||aquatic-plant-surveys torch-lake inland-lakes|
|2017 Torch Lake Shoreline Survey||Shoreline Surveys, Torch Lake||shoreline-surveys torch-lake inland-lakes|
|2014-2015 Elk River Invasive Species Monitoring Project Report||Beals Lake, Ben-Way Lake, Clam Lake, Elk Lake, Elk River, Elk River Chain of Lakes Watershed, Ellsworth Lake, Hanley Lake, Intermediate Lake, Invasive Species Monitoring, Lake Bellaire, Scotts Lake, Six Mile Lake, Skegemog Lake, St. Clair Lake, Torch Lake, Wilson Lake||beals-lake ben-way-lake clam-lake elk-lake elk-river elk-river-chain-of-lakes-watershed ellsworth-lake hanley-lake intermediate-lake invasive-species-monitoring lake-bellaire scotts-lake six-mile-lake skegemog-lake st-clair-lake torch-lake wilson-lake inland-lakes rivers-streams watersheds|
|2010 Lake Bellaire, Clam Lake, Torch Lake Shoreline Algal Survey||Clam Lake, Lake Bellaire, Torch Lake||clam-lake lake-bellaire torch-lake inland-lakes|
|2010 Elk River Chain of Lakes Profile CWQM||Ben-Way Lake, Clam Lake, Comprehensive Water Quality Monitoring, Elk Lake, Elk River Chain of Lakes Watershed, Ellsworth Lake, Hanley Lake, Intermediate Lake, Six Mile Lake, Skegemog Lake, St. Clair Lake, Torch Lake, Wilson Lake||ben-way-lake clam-lake comprehensive-water-quality-monitoring elk-lake elk-river-chain-of-lakes-watershed ellsworth-lake hanley-lake intermediate-lake six-mile-lake skegemog-lake st-clair-lake torch-lake wilson-lake inland-lakes watersheds|