Anglers who fish in Chisago, Isanti, Kanabec and Pine county areas benefit from the management, habitat and oversight work of the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources' Hinckley area fisheries staff.
Area Fisheries Supervisor Leslie George and a staff of five full-time and one part-time employee manage 160 fishing lakes and 261 miles of rivers and streams. These waters include popular fishing destinations such as Grindstone Lake, the Chisago area lakes as well as four popular rivers – the St. Croix, Kettle, Rum and Snake.
A fisheries specialist inserts a tag into a small lake sturgeon to study its life history. Data collected allows fisheries biologists to better manage sturgeon populations.
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Virtually all the work of the Hinckley 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 – will not add staff 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.
From I 35 Hinckley exit (State Highway 48): Go west on Highway 23/48 (Fire Monument Road). Turn RIGHT at the first stop sign (County Road 61). Go north six blocks past downtown Hinckley; turn RIGHT at Second Street (just past the Conoco station). Go two blocks; turn LEFT at Power Avenue. The office is located in the large blue and white pole building; enter at the fourth door to the right.
On Thursday, July 28 the Hinckley Area Fisheries Office received a report of numerous dead fish on Little Stanchfield Lake west of Grandy in Isanti County. Fish of various sizes and species were reported. As with the fish kill earlier in the week on the Snake River, this kill was likely due to low oxygen levels. A combination of factors, including an influx of organic matter from high water on the Rum River, high temperatures last weekend, and mixing of the water column due to storm activity, created temporary conditions that depleted oxygen in the lake. Any fish that are caught live in the lake should be safe to eat, as long as they are thoroughly rinsed with fresh water.
On Monday, July 25 the Hinckley Area Fisheries Office received several reports of dead fish in the Snake River and on portions of shoreline in Cross Lake. DNR personnel investigated the situation Monday and found small numbers of dead fish on the east shore of Cross Lake south of the Snake River outlet, and scattered dead fish between Cross Lake and the I-35 bridge over the Snake River. The Pollution Control Agency reports low dissolved oxygen levels in the Snake River at Grasston and below the Cross Lake dam. These levels weren't low enough to kill most fish, but in backwater areas where water is stagnant, oxygen levels can drop even further overnight. This is likely the cause of the fish kill.
Recent heavy rains and flooding have washed large amounts of organic matter into the Snake River system. This matter, from wetlands and bogs, uses up oxygen as it decomposes. As water levels continue to drop, the matter will eventually get washed out of the system and oxygen levels will return to normal. Oxygen levels in most parts of Cross Lake should not be affected.
The St. Croix River will be the main waterway targeted for a fish population assessment in 2016 by Hinckley Fisheries crews. The river will be sampled using an electrofishing boat at 12 survey sites. Sampling dates will depend on water levels. Several trout streams will also be sampled in August and September. These include:
Crews have begun sampling lakes as part of the ongoing fish population and habitat monitoring conducted by the Section of Fisheries. Lakes on the 2016 schedule include Goose and West Rush lakes in Chisago county, Green Lake in Isanti County, and Tamarack, Sand, and Grindstone lakes in Pine County. Sampling methods include gill nets, trap nets, night electrofishing (completed late spring), shoreline seining, and shoreline backpack electrofishing (Sand and Grindstone only). Preliminary results will be posted here as they become available.
Vegetation and shoreline habitat surveys are also planned for the following lakes: Tamarack, Big Pine, South Pine, and Sturgeon lakes in Pine County, and Lake Eleven in Kanabec County.
300 rainbow and 300 brown trout were stocked in Crooked Creek east of Hinckley on Thursday, April 7. These fish went to two locations in the creek: just north of State Highway 48, and at the Matthew Lourey State Trail crossing in St. Croix State Park. Hay Creek and Little Hay Creek, also within and near St. Croix State Park, have natural brook trout populations and offer fishing opportunities. A map of these streams is available here .
East and West Rush Lakes were among the lakes with darkhouse spearing bans that were recently lifted by state legislative action. Spearing bans were originally put in place on muskellunge lakes to prevent accidental spearing of muskie in lakes with populations that were just getting established. Now that muskie populations are widely established, and the genetic strain stocked looks more distinct from northern pike, spearing bans are considered unnecessary.
This action is not expected to cause big changes to the winter fishery on East and West Rush for several reasons: 1) There is a 26-40 inch protected slot limit on northern pike, which may cause spearers to choose nearby lakes with no limits; 2) Low water clarity can make spearing difficult; and 3) Creel surveys on nearby lakes where spearing has been allowed have shown that spearing makes up a small percentage (<5%) of all winter fishing pressure.
|Leslie George||Area firstname.lastname@example.org|
|Deb Sewell||Assistant area email@example.com|
|Heath Weaver||Fisheries firstname.lastname@example.org|
|John Frank||Fisheries email@example.com|
|Nate Painovich||Fisheries firstname.lastname@example.org|
|Eric Sanft||Fisheries email@example.com|
|Kim Hammill||Office administrative firstname.lastname@example.org|