Anglers who fish in Carlton County and southern St. Louis County benefit from the management, habitat and oversight work of the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources' Duluth area fisheries staff.
Area Fisheries Supervisor Deserae Hendrickson and a staff of three full-time (currently one vacancy) and three part-time employees manage 194 fishing lakes and 550 miles of rivers and trout streams. Those waters include popular fishing destinations such as the St. Louis River Estuary, Island Reservoir and the Blackhoof, Knife and Sucker rivers, which are premier steelhead trout streams.
A Duluth area fisheries crew electro-fishes during a population assessment of a North Shore stream.
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Virtually all the work of the Duluth area fisheries staff is funded by money raised through fishing license sales. But reductions in buying power due to increasing costs for products, services and equipment have put this work and the recreational opportunities it creates at risk.
In response, the DNR is seeking a fishing license fee increase in the 2017 legislative session. The increase would raise the price of a resident annual fishing license from $22 to $25. Other fishing license types also would increase. The proposed increases should sustain existing fisheries operations until 2021.
The increase for an individual license – roughly the price of a scoop of minnows – may fill some existing vacancies but will not create any new positions or build programs. Rather, it will simply sustain existing programs and area office budgets, many of which already are reduced.
State law prohibits tax dollars, including funds generated by the Minnesota Legacy Amendment and Minnesota State Lottery, from funding area fisheries offices and the core work they do. Fisheries management that creates world-class fishing here in Minnesota is a user-funded, user-benefit system.
General hunting and fishing license fees were last increased in 2012 at an amount designed to keep game and fish operations solvent for about six years. Prior to that, it had been 10 years since the last general fee increase. Periodic fee increases – one about every five years since 1970 – are how Minnesota funds routine fisheries management. Many fishing organizations traditionally have supported periodic fee increases because high-quality fishing is recreation worth paying for.
In November 2016, the Game and Fish Fund Budget Oversight Committee – a citizen group that monitors the DNR's fisheries, wildlife and enforcement revenues and expenditures – recommended that the Legislature increase fishing and hunting license fees during the 2017 legislative session.
The DNR's fisheries section has a long tradition of belt-tightening. Statewide, staff size is down about 13 percent from roughly a decade ago. Moreover, the section is holding an additional 24 vacancies, most of which will not be filled even with fee increase. This means it is common for field offices to have fewer employees and leaner budgets than they once did.
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The Duluth Area Fisheries manages the St. Louis River along with the inland lakes and streams in Carlton, southern St. Louis and southwestern Lake counties. The Duluth Area Hatchery spawns kamloop and steelhead strains of Rainbow Trout from Minnesota north shore streams. Fish are present in the hatchery only in April and May. After spawning, fish are reared at the French River Coldwater Hatchery to provide for stocking needs in Lake Superior and its tributaries, as well as, inland lakes.
The Lake Superior Area manages the Minnesota waters of Lake Superior from Duluth up to the Canadian border. For more details, see Lake Superior's website.
We are located near the mouth of the French River off the North Shore Drive and the French River Coldwater Hatchery is next door.
From Duluth (approximately 7 miles from the Lester River): Take Highway 61 to Ryan Road (County Road 50) and take a right. Follow Ryan Road to the North Shore Scenic Drive and take a left. Our office is on the left just over the bridge at the French River.
If you prefer a more scenic route, take the North Shore Scenic Drive at Brighton Beach and follow it 7 miles to the French River.
The Duluth Area Fisheries is open to visitors from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. weekdays.