Fish kill on area lakes has fishermen concerned

Published 6:19 pm Saturday, July 14, 2012

The hot temperatures that we have been experiencing the last few weeks have many area fishermen concerned. I have seen this occur in past years, but it hasn’t happened in this area for quite some time. It is something that is hard to accept because there is nothing to do but let nature take its course. From the reports I have heard, dead fish have been found on Fountain, Bear, Geneva and Pickerel lakes in our immediate area. When I first heard about the fish kill a feeling of frustration came over me when I thought about how the northern fishing was just starting to pick up on these area lakes.

The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources issued the following news release concerning the fish kills:

Record-setting heat may be contributing to fish kills in lakes across the state.

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“Natural summer fish kills are not unusual,” according to Brian Schultz, DNR assistant regional fisheries manager. “In the past several days, however, we’re getting increased reports of dead and dying fish in many lakes from around the state.”

Unusually warm weather has raised water temperatures of many shallow lakes. Schultz has received reports from DNR field staff of surface water temperatures in some lakes reaching 90 degrees, with temps at the bottom only a few degrees cooler where maximum depths are less than 10 feet.

“Those are some high readings and northern pike are especially vulnerable when the water gets this warm,” Schultz said. “They are a cool water species and just can’t adjust to the high temperatures when sustained for more than a few days.”

Warm water temps can also impact other species such as walleye, yellow perch and bluegills.

“It is difficult to pin a summer kill on just one cause,” Schultz said, “And although it is a natural occurrence, it can be disturbing.”

Fish kills are usually not serious in the long run. Most lakes contain thousands of fish per acre and the fish kills represents a very small percent of that total.

Some positive effects from partial fish kills is that it creates an open niche in the fish population, allowing the remaining fish species to grow faster with less competition.

Minnesota lakes are resilient. The DNR has documented these conditions many times and lake conditions and fish populations do return to managed expectations, either naturally or with the help of stocking if necessary.

I had a gentleman call me the other evening wondering if the fish kill could be caused by the treating of Fountain Lake for algae. I told him that for a fleeting moment that thought had entered my mind, but with other area lakes experiencing the same thing I know that it had no effect on it. He said that although he was pushing 90 and was no longer able to fish he was concerned about the future of fishing for his grandchildren and the generations that are to come.

I could tell that he was a person who is fond of fishing and the outdoors and hoped to pass it on.

This is what we should all strive for as sportsmen; preserving the habitat and the sport of fishing and hunting. We need to introduce as many youth as we can to these sports so that they can carry on the traditions we have established.

Area organizations like the Fountain Lake Sportsman’s Club, Minnesota Deer Hunters, Pheasants Forever, Ducks Unlimited and Minnesota Waterfowl to name a few do a great job of introducing the youth to these various sports.

As individuals we can take a little time out of our busy schedules to introduce our kids, grandkids or friends to the outdoors experience at one of our area lakes.

We are fortunate that we have access to a lot of shoreline that we can use for fishing. It doesn’t cost a lot to introduce a kid to fishing — just a little time.

My grandson, Trevor, from time to time will ask me if I want to go fishing with him at one of our area lakes.

I took him up on it last Sunday and went with him and his family. I had a lot of fun and managed to catch some fish to boot. Watching him and his love for the outdoors is a rewarding experience, and the satisfaction I get out of having shared my experiences with him is priceless. I have to admit that he has passed his Grandpa in his knowledge of the outdoors and that’s a good thing!

Until next time, take a little time to relax and enjoy a picnic at an area park, go for a walk or wet a line and soak a worm, but mainly just enjoy the outdoors experience and stay cool.

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.

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