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 – may fill some existing vacancies but will not create any new positions. 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.
A meeting will be held at 7 pm on Tuesday, September 26 at the Hinckley Community Center to present information regarding the removal of the dam on the Grindstone River, which is located within the City of Hinckley.
The dam was constructed by the Minnesota Department of Game and Fish in 1931 to provide a water supply for the fish rearing ponds that are located by Highway 61 north of the river. Over the decades, costly repairs of varying magnitude have been made to the dam and associated structures due to damage caused by age, high water events, and occasional overtopping. Despite repeated repairs, the dam was deemed to be in "poor" condition in its most recent inspection by dam safety engineers. Unfortunately, the dam has also been the site of at least two drowning deaths since its construction.
Successful removal of the dam will improve public safety, as well as restore connectivity to the river system, improving ecosystem function, watershed health, and fish passage. Enhancement of fish passage will allow species access to currently inaccessible habitat, benefit the native mussel community, and overall increase the biodiversity and resilience of the system.
Various DNR staff will be in attendance to present information regarding dam impacts and removal benefits, discuss a conceptual design for the dam area, and hold conversations with the public. The Hinckley Community Center is located at 102 Dunn Avenue North.
Crews will be out on selected Hinckley area lakes this summer for regularly scheduled lake surveys. Lakes scheduled for survey include Little, North Center, Horseshoe, and Kroon lakes in Chisago County, and Sturgeon, Oak, Kenney, and McGowan lakes in Pine County. These lakes will be sampled by gill nets, trap nets, seining, and backpack electrofishing near shore. Boat electrofishing was done in late May on some of these lakes to sample largemouth bass. In addition to these lakes, seining and backpack electrofishing will be done on Fish Lake in Kanabec County and South Pine Lake in Aitkin County. Trap netting was done on Seventeen Lake in Isanti County in May. Results from lake surveys will be posted at the following link as they become available: http://www.dnr.state.mn.us/areas/fisheries/hinckley/lakes/index.html .
The portion of the St. Croix River between Danbury, Wisconsin and Taylors Falls, Minnesota will be sampled by electrofishing this year beginning in July. This sampling is done every 5 years to monitor fish populations in the river. Boat electrofishing is done at twelve sample stations that have been used in previous surveys, so results from this year can be compared with other years. The dates of sampling will be determined based on water levels and staff availability.
|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|