Chris Schultz

Outdoors Column

By Chris Schultz

Winsted-Lester Prairie Journal & Howard Lake-Waverly Herald, Minn.

March 8, 1999

Angling pressure can be intense on our local lakes

The easiest way to find out where the fish are biting on our local lakes is to follow the crowd, and if the fish are biting at all, there is typically a big crowd to follow.

I believe most of the people around here don't realize exactly how much angling pressure our local lakes receive in a given season.

A busy opening day, a speckling of anglers on an average day - it just doesn't seem like much.

However, take a drive out to Howard, Ida, Mary, or just any lake in the area where the panfish are biting. If a few fish are being caught and the word is out, there are typically anglers on the lake in huge numbers.

The pressure can get so intense and the crowds so large the resources can no longer handle it and something has to give.

Sorry to say, that something almost always is the fish, followed closely by the quality of angling.

I don't have any numbers or DNR surveys to back me up, but the trends and examples have been easy to see.

Take Howard for example. Howard probably receives more fishing pressure than any other lake in our area.

Three and four years ago, Howard was an angling dream, big crappies hit in huge numbers all winter long and the sunfish bite was good all summer.

Since then, the lake has slowed more than just a little bit. Catches of crappies this winter and last were slim. The sunfish are hard to find, if you can find any keepers at all, and the number of walleyes caught has also seemed to drop off.

In my opinion, the lake is healthy, but it is all a matter of angling pressure. The lake will produce fish in good numbers, then because of intense pressure and the sheer number of fish being caught, the resource will falter and it will take time for it to recover.

It's kind of a cycle of good fishing and bad. The lake gets fished out to a certain extent and then needs time to recover.

Other good examples of this cycle are Mary, Dog, and Ida, all lakes that can provide excellent fishing for sunfish and crappies.

In certain years, the lakes will produce like gangbusters and draw huge crowds of anglers, then slow down for several years to recover and produce good fishing again.

To me, it's a scary cycle because the periods of recovery seem to get longer and longer and the periods of good fishing shorter and shorter.

I'm not being critical of any specific group or state agency. In fact, the DNR, local sportsmen's clubs, and lake associations are doing their best to improve and protect our fishing resources.

Actually, although I am concerned about the future, I believe our local lakes provide pretty good or better than average fishing.

The question is though, how much pressure can they handle?

Our population is growing, more anglers are coming out from the metro area, and in general more people are angling.

Also, with new techniques, gadgets, and information, anglers are becoming much more efficient. In some cases, anglers are becoming more efficient at catching fish than Mother Nature is at producing them.

On a positive note, while anglers are becoming more efficient, they are also becoming more ethical and conservation minded.

The practice of catch-and-release for example has become almost the standard for trophy fish instead of just a novelty a few anglers followed. New regulations, slot limits, and special regulations on certain lakes have made or hopefully will make a difference.

At this time, and in regard to the large amount of angling pressure our local lakes receive, especially for panfish, I see special or new laws dealing with panfish catches on certain lakes arriving very soon.

It may not be the answer, and is probably only one little part of a much more complicated solution. But doing something is better than doing nothing at all.

If nothing is done, the cycles of good fishing to bad I mentioned above may become more defined as angling pressure on our local lakes continues to increase.

Outdoor notes

  • I'd like to thank all the readers who called or sent me notes regarding an old dog I had named Tucker. I appreciate your thoughts and and just to let you know, Angus is doing fine, although he seems to still be a bit confused.
  • Remember to buy your new 1999 Minnesota angling license before you head to the lake. Your 1998 license expired on Feb. 28.
  • The Lester Prairie Sportsmen's Club will hold its 20th annual father-son banquet Friday, March 19 at the Lester Prairie City Hall.
  • The Winsted Sportsmen's Club will meet on Tuesday, March 9 at 7 p.m at Tom's Corner Bar in Winsted. Club members also reported their annual lake clean up project went very well with much less garbage left on the lakes compared to previous years. Club President Tom Kieser noted that anglers are getting better and better at cleaning up the lakes and taking all their garbage off the ice with them.
  • State Senator Steve Dille (R-Dassel) recently received a sportsmen's award from the Minnesota Outdoor Heritage Alliance.
  • Take a DNR certified firearms safety training course this spring.
  • If you haven't noticed, spring is just around the corner. The days are getting longer, the sun warmer, Canada geese are in the air, and the lakes will open up very soon.

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