Sportsman’s Club has invested much in Fountain Lake

Published 12:00 am Monday, June 10, 2002

This year’s Take a Kid Fishing day, sponsored by the Fountain Lake Sportsman’s Club along with the Minnesota Department of Conservation, was once again a success. There were 204 fish weighed in and about 250 kids participating, plus adults. Total participation was estimated at around 600. That’s not bad for a day with threatening weather and a lot of other activities going on at the same time.

One parent asked if rough fish counted. I think, to a kid, all fish count.

This is not only a time for parents, grandparents, aunts or uncles to bond with the kids but also a time for dodging flying minnows and bobbers, untangling snags and untangling crossed lines. Most of all it is just a time to have some fun.

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At one time we have all heard the phrase &uot;doing things most people think just happen.&uot; Well this term can certainly be applied to the sportsman’s club.

It started out with a group of concerned outdoors enthusiasts who had one thing in common: Improving the quality of Fountain Lake.

According to one of the founding members, Howard &uot;Bud&uot; Nelson, a small group of men that approached former councilman Frank Cuden about getting an aeration system going in Fountain Lake. He said he would bring it to the council if they would present him with a plan. Other original members were Emil Springborg, Roy Springborg, Merlin Steele, Orville Peterson and Don Levison.

Bud said that the first time it was presented the proposal was shot down; the second time there were 40 people at the meeting and it was still shot down. The third time it was presented the numbers were so large that &uot;there wasn’t room for them all in city hall.&uot; This time it passed, the aerators were installed and that, basically, was the beginning of the club. The official club beginning is listed as Jan. 5, 1980.

They then approached the DNR about stocking the lake but the DNR was skeptical about the survival rate of walleye in the lake.

The club, with permission from the DNR, purchased 1,000 walleye fingerlings with their own money and stocked them in Fountain Lake. Test nettings showed they not only survived but also were thriving.

The DNR started stocking and after further analysis decide to stock catfish to clean up the small carp. The sportsman’s club and the DNR have had a real good relationship over the years.

Bud couldn’t emphasize enough the important role the DNR has played in revitalizing the lake.

The DNR plays a very important role in all this but without the desire of a few men to see the lake they loved improved, none of this would have happened. Bud said he loves the lake and even though he hasn’t been able to fish lately, due to ill health, he still manages to drive around the lake that he loves every day.

Most of us who have lived in Albert Lea or Freeborn County for most of our lives can remember the fish kill. When &uot;ice out&uot; occurred you knew if there had been a hard winter because there were dead fish floating along shore everywhere. The smell was something special &045; if it happened today McDonald’s wouldn’t be selling many fish sandwiches in the spring.

The club has done many other things over the years to improve the quality of fishing in the lake.

They have built carp traps in area creeks that flow into the lake and have removed thousands of pounds of carp. They have had commercial fishermen come in and net tons of carp from the creeks.

The club has also installed fish habitat in various locations around the lake, built a fishing pier, sponsored not only this event but also an ice fishing contest and purchased about a dozen fishing poles to use to take seniors from area rest homes out fishing for a day.

Along with walleye, they have also had largemouth bass, northern pike, crappie, bluegill and catfish stocked in the lake over the last 20 years. They were instrumental in getting the lake reclassified to a rough fish and game fish lake.

Long-time member Duane Przybilla said the ice-fishing contest is no longer being held because of insurance costs. He also said the fishing pier is no longer there, for the same reason. There are still fishing piers at Edgewater and at Channel View Park. They will again this year take seniors from the various rest homes in the area out for a day of fishing.

I asked him what one thing stands out for him about the club over the years and he said, &uot;Seeing the lake improve, getting cleaned up and the increased interest in fishing.&uot; For years nobody fished the lake and it was really quite abused.

Conservation Officer Tony Musatov was on hand at Saturday’s event to help out and answer any questions people might have had. The DNR donates this day to parents who can fish without a license as long as they are with a child under 16.

Officer Musatov said there was a small fish kill in the channel last week that could be attributed to algae bloom and lack of rain. Since then it has rained and the rest of the fish population is healthy and thriving.

As a kid I probably fished every inch of shoreline on Fountain Lake each summer. There were times I would leave the house in the morning and tell my mother I was going to town to fish for the day. She would pack me a lunch, which I would tie to my bike and off I would go. Little did I dream there would someday be walleye and largemouth bass in the lake. The only bass I ever caught as a kid was a nice smallmouth off the shore by Pioneer Park.

According to club Vice President Gary Anderson, the number of members has gone from almost 1,000 at the club’s inception to about 25 today (well, 26 &045; I just joined). He said that keeping the club active is one way to help ensure the DNR involvement and the stocking will continue.

Anyone interested in getting involved with helping preserve one of our area’s most valuable resources can join the club for a $5 fee and a donation of some of your time. To find out how to join call Steve Lowman at 373-9316.

This is a non-profit organization and without donations an event like this would not work. Thanks to the following individuals and businesses that contributed money, prizes and helpers: Lloyd Van Guilder of the Southern Minnesota Bass Club donated the nice trophies; other contributors were: Frank Trotter, Eagles Aerie #2258; Moose Lodge; Christenson Plumbing & Heating; City & County Employees Credit Union;

DJ’s Pawn; Elayne Wickman South Side Barber Shop; Hayward Fire Department; McDonald’s; and Walmart, merchandise and workers. Also Lakeside Cafe, which dispersed cool ice treats to all the kids.

The club motto is &uot;Get a Kid Hooked on Fishing, Not Drugs.&uot; I have a feeling that a few of the parents may just have gotten &uot;hooked&uot; too.

Albert Lea resident Dick Herfindahl writes outdoors columns for the Tribune.