There are times when doing less may just bring a better outcome

Published 9:00 am Sunday, February 28, 2016

Woods & Water by Dick Herfindahl

Just the other day, I read that the watershed folks said they may be able to start dredging Albert Lea Lake in about five years. Once the dredging of Fountain Lake starts I may become a little more optimistic about that actually happening. I know they have been doing quite a lot of work to improve the water quality of our area lakes and streams. Unfortunately for me, I have some serious reservations about how much man’s intervention in nature actually makes all things better.

An example of that was what my grandson, Trevor, experienced a few weeks ago. If you have ever driven past Pickerel Lake on Highway 69 when the ice is out, you have more than likely seen the many clumps of weeds that now are floating about the lake. This in itself is an act of nature, but what Trevor found was a result of reclaiming a lake. He went there to see what the ice fishing would be like a few years after the last restocking effort, and what he found was that under every hole he drilled were weeds right up to the bottom of the ice. He did find one spot where the weeds were about two feet below the surface. Now, you might be thinking he drilled a hole in the wrong spot, but that’s not necessarily so. After moving around the lake and drilling 70-plus holes in different areas of the lake, he only found that one spot where the weeds weren’t up to the surface.

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This leads me to think this lake will probably never be much of a fishing lake again. Yes, I said again, because although it had an over-abundance of rough fish at one time, there were still gamefish in the lake and the lake was navigable. As it stands now, after reclaiming the lake, about the only type of boat that could navigate that lake in the summer would be a canoe or an air boat. I do not like to be negative in my writing, but I have always loved the beauty of this lake and looked at it as a body of water fit for both fishing and hunting. As it stands today, it resembles a duck pond, and even if there are fish in there you’d have a hard time getting a line to them. The water clarity of Pickerel Lake is very good right now, but that can be a double-edged sword. I know there is a trade-off; whenever you take away the rough fish and clean up the water, the vegetation flourishes, especially in a shallow body of water like Pickerel Lake. Is there a light at the end of the tunnel, or is this lake destined to become a slough? I don’t know the answer to that, but I do know that I don’t get that good feeling I once did when I drive past this once beautiful body of water. With all this being said, I encourage the city to extend the local option sales tax so the work that has been done so far can be carried on.

From most reports I have heard, fishing on local lakes has been spotty. I did talk to someone that had good luck with the crappie bite on a Fairmont area lake. No slabs, but some decent eating fish. It has been pretty slow on our local lakes, and I attribute a lot of the hit and miss fishing to the late ice-over. Some of the larger northern Minnesota lakes have been producing limits of walleye and some nice jumbos.

With that in mind, the Minnesota DNR is reminding fishermen that dark houses, fish houses and portables must be off the ice no later than midnight for each of the dates given in the following categories below.

Dates of removal are determined by an east-west line formed by U.S. Highway 10, east along Highway 34 to Minnesota Highway 200, east along Highway 200 to U.S. Highway 2, and east along Highway 2 to the Minnesota-Wisconsin border.

• South of line: March 7

• North of line: March 21

If shelters are not removed, owners will be prosecuted, and the structure and contents may be confiscated and removed or destroyed by a conservation officer.

After removal dates, shelters may remain on the ice between midnight and one hour before sunrise only when occupied or attended.

Storing or leaving shelters on a public access is prohibited.

It is unlawful to improperly dispose of ice fishing shacks anywhere in the state. Please clean up around your shack and check with local refuse providers or landfills for ice shelter disposal information.

Until next time, enjoy the outdoors and always be careful when you venture out on an area lake, because with this warmer weather no ice is ever 100 percent safe.

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


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