Hard winter means starting over for some lakes in the area

Published 2:28pm Saturday, February 15, 2014

Column: Woods & Water, by Dick Herfindahl

I’m getting a little tired of the weather being the main topic of conversation in my recent columns. The hard winter we’ve been experiencing has taken its toll on our area resources — mainly the fish population. Although the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources said it’s healthy to have an occasional fish kill, it’s hard to accept the fact that a lake such as Pickerel — which was just coming into its own as a fishery — has suffered a setback. With that lake’s history of freezing out in past years, I guess a freeze-out was inevitable.

As an outdoors enthusiast, I’ve always considered myself a fisherman first, but one who appreciates the total outdoors package. Whenever I drive past any body of water — whether it’s a lake or a small stream — I always wonder what type of fish, if any, lurk below the surface. I’ve been that way for as far back as I can remember, and I’d guess it’s what keeps my enthusiasm for the sport alive. That little kid curiosity fuels my imagination and makes me want to explore new waters whenever the opportunity arises. This is no doubt the reason it saddens me to know that some of our area lakes — which we take pretty much for granted — have succumbed to the hard winter and suffered a fish kill. I personally believe no lake will totally kill off, but I’m no marine biologist. I’m just a fisherman with that little kid mentality when it comes to our resources. It’s hard to think of starting over on a lake. The DNR already planned to restock Albert Lea Lake this spring.

There are still lakes in the area that to my knowledge have not suffered winter kills. Two of those lakes, St. Olaf and Beaver, are not that far away and can be just the ticket for a summer family outing. Both lakes have fishing piers and nice picnic areas along with swimming beaches. Each of these lakes offer a variety of fish; what a great way to spend an afternoon enjoying the outdoors with family.

When I was a kid, these are the two lakes that gave me great memories that I still cherish today. It’s funny how much fun you can have just by taking a short drive to enjoy a little fishing and a picnic. Who says picnic anymore, and does anyone still own a picnic basket? I believe we still have one in the attic complete with those colorful plastic plates with separate compartments, hard plastic cups with handles and a thermos bottle to keep the Kool-Aid cool. When I was a kid, a picnic was cold meat sandwiches, my mother’s famous potato salad and Van Camps pork and beans. To me, it just couldn’t possibly get any better than that.

It’s amazing how taking a little break from our busy lives and driving just a short way to enjoy an afternoon relaxing with family can make memories that will last a lifetime. Of course I’m talking about me and the times I enjoyed, but then I didn’t have Facebook, Twitter or other social media to worry about; I just had a fishing pole, a can of worms and an appetite for a good old picnic lunch.


State park permit sales increase

Minnesota state parks reported increases in permit sales and overnight stays in 2013.

Sales of Minnesota state park permits increased in 2013, an indication that more people are connecting with the outdoors, according to the DNR.

Sales of year-round permits totaled 136,300 in 2013, up 2 percent from 2012 and 21 percent from 2008, when Minnesota voters approved the Clean Water, Land and Legacy Amendment. The parks and trails fund receives 14.25 percent of the sales tax revenue and may only be spent to support parks and trails of regional or statewide significance.

“We got off to a slow start last year due to the cold, wet spring, so it was gratifying to finish 2013 ahead of 2012,” said Courtland Nelson, director of the DNR’s parks and trails division. “We’re obviously pleased to see evidence of increasing interest in Minnesota’s 76 state park and recreation areas. This news comes at a time when national parks and many other states are reporting significant declines in their visits and overnight stays.”

Nelson attributes the increase in the popularity of Minnesota state parks to a general trend of more families stay-cationing to save money, programs and special events designed to attract visitors to parks during the off-peak seasons and continued high satisfaction ratings on customer service from visitors. Trip satisfaction is as high as it’s been since measurements began 25 years ago; 83 percent of visitors surveyed in 2012 rated their experience in the excellent range.

Year-round Minnesota state park permits are available by calling the DNR information center at 651-296-6157 or toll-free at 888-646-6367. They can also be purchased at Minnesota state park and recreation areas with staffed offices. One-day permits, $5, can be purchased at Minnesota state parks and recreation areas.

“By purchasing a permit, you help maintain and improve the natural resources, facilities, and education and outreach programs that make Minnesota’s state parks among the best in the nation,” Nelson said.

Until next time, stay warm and get out when you can and enjoy a little Minnesota winter fun.

Please remember to keep our troops in your thoughts and prayers because they are the reason we are able to enjoy all the freedoms that we have today.

Dick Herfindahl’s column appears in the Tribune each Sunday.