Area fishing has been good this fall for perch, walleye and pike

Published 2:47 pm Saturday, November 9, 2013

Column: Woods & Water, by Dick Herfindahl

The deer hunting season opened Saturday, and with the waterfowl and pheasant season already underway it would seem that fishing has taken the back seat. This however isn’t totally true as evidenced by the number of people fishing the channel between Fountain and Albert Lea lakes. The perch bite has been very good, and a number of walleye are also being caught. For the most part, the smaller walleyes have been very aggressive with a few nice ones mixed in. The sportsmen among us release the smaller eyes with only one over 20 inches being a legal keeper. Legally no minimum size on walleye exists in these waters, but I hope that common sense prevails.

I’ve also heard there are some nice perch and pike being caught on Pickerel Lake. It wasn’t that long ago the lake was killed off and the Department of Natural Resources’ plan was implemented. It doesn’t really seem like it’s taken all that long for that lake to start producing some decent fishing. This is an exciting time for area fishermen, and it looks like things will only be getting better in the future.

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When I look back to my days as a youth walking the shores of Fountain Lake, I never dreamt these lakes would become the fishing lakes that they are today. As a kid, I can remember catching sunnies and crappies and an occasional northern or bass. But in those days, they were few and far between. It seemed like you couldn’t drop a line in the water without catching a bullhead or two. Hey, except for getting stung more times than I could count — math may not have been my best subject — I was still catching fish.

There were also times when I’d ride my bike back to the mink farm, which was where Bancroft Bay Park is today to go fishing for a day. The Schneider kids — my classmates at Hammer School — lived there, and their dads worked at the mink farm. We’d buy a chunk of horse meat, and Willy Schneider would cut it into small chunks for us. The big sunnies and bluegills really liked that horse meat, and it was tough enough to stay on the hook for many a fish. It sure was a lot of fun catching those big sunfish and bluegills, but we also caught some big old yellow-belly bullheads. To be honest, we didn’t seem to care what we were catching, as long as it was fish and not a mud turtle, which could really put a damper on things. I don’t believe any one of us kids ever figured out an easy way to take a turtle off the hook. A kid could definitely waste a lot of valuable fishing time on a turtle.

My mother used to refer to the mink farm as Coney Island, because that was where her, my aunt Ruby and their cousins would swim and hang out. According to some old pictures I have, there was even a swimming raft. I’d guess this area was used for recreation long before someone picked up a Frisbee and created disc golf. I like to drive back to that park from time to time just to reminisce about those days.


Legacy dollars leave legacy in northern forest

When Minnesotans behold the vast forests of the north, they look much as they did before voters passed the Legacy Amendment to the state constitution in 2008.

Yet the difference is huge and reassuring for recreational users and resource managers who view these lands by looking at property ownership maps.

“What you don’t see from the road is the visionary public policy that has protected more than 210,000 acres of forest in the name of public recreation, sound fish and wildlife management and sustainable supplies of timber for the wood products industry,” said Forrest Boe, DNR Forestry Division director. “That amount of protection would not have happened without the Legacy Amendment.”

It was five years ago citizens voted to impose a sales tax of three-eighths of 1 percent on themselves for 25 years. Since 2009, when tax revenues began to flow, the Legacy Amendment has generated more than a billion dollars for clean water, parks and trails, habitat conservation and Minnesota’s arts and cultural heritage. Of that amount, more than $200 million was appropriated to the DNR for its direct use. And of that amount, $41.4 million was allocated to a pioneering project called Minnesota’s Forests for the Future.

“Legacy funds were used to protect 207,441 acres of forest with permanent conservation easements,” Boe said. “Another 2,746 acres were protected by fee acquisition. At an average protection cost of $254 per acre, there was strong support in the hunting, timber industry, legislative and natural resource communities that this was a good investment in Minnesota’s future.”

That investment took the form of appropriations to the DNR totaling $18 million in 2009, $18 million in 2010 and $5.4 million in 2011. These dollars went primarily to a forest conservation easement purchased from the UPM/Blandin Paper Co.

Specifically, Legacy dollars were used to protect 190,000 acres of working forest land in Itasca, Aitkin, St. Louis, Cass, Beltrami, Koochiching and Clearwater counties called the Upper Mississippi Forest Legacy Project. They were also used to protect another 20,000 acres through several smaller projects.

Until next time, hunt safe and enjoy some of our areas many natural resources. Time is always well spent when you spend it in our great Minnesota outdoors.

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

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