It doesn't matter how good the fishing is if anglers can't get to the water. To provide angler access to Minnesota's lakes and rivers, which are all public waters, the DNR installs and maintains fishing piers and boat ramps. To provide access to trout streams, which are also public waters, fisheries managers buy easements from willing sellers.
Half of the 3,000 public boat ramps on Minnesota lakes and streams were built and are maintained by the DNR. The rest are administered by counties or local units of government.
Boat accesses have concrete ramps where boats can be launched. They also have parking areas. Nearby road signs indicate their location. Larger access sites provide toilet facilities. Most accesses are open 24 hours a day and are regularly patrolled by DNR conservation officers.
Boaters pay for access construction and maintenance through their boat license fees and a federal tax on boat motor oil and fuel. The DNR provides free maps of boat ramp locations for most counties.
Anglers can fish from hundreds of fishing piers and shorefishing sites throughout Minnesota. And the DNR installs new piers each year. These fishing facilities are cooperative projects among DNR Fisheries, DNR trails and Waterways, local units of government, and local conservation clubs.
New piers and shorefishing sites are designed to meet the needs of anglers with disabilities. They are generally within 300 feet, via a hard wheelchair-accessible surface, of a paved parking area. See Public water access information.
Most trout streams run through private land. To give anglers easier access to those public waters, we buy easements along trout streams from willing landowners. The landowners get a onetime payment and retain ownership of the property and all right except the right to prevent fishing. The easements are permanent; they remain even if the land ownership changes hands.
Most streams easements, which are strips of land along a stream that generally run 66 feet from the stream center in either direction, have been marked with small tan signs. We provide maps of all stream easements in southeastern Minnesota in a free booklet called Trout Fishing Access in Southeastern Minnesota.
Each year we spend roughly $200,000 to $400,000 buying approximately five to 10 new stream easements. Fisheries managers put easements on stretches with the best fishing, especially those close to roads. Where a streamside easement is far from a road, we work with the landowner to buy a walk-in easement that provides access to the stream.
Almost all stream easement are located in southeastern Minnesota, which contains most of the state's trout streams that run through private land. We have purchased easements on more than 250 of the 600 miles of southeastern trout streams running through private property. Most money for easement purchases comes from the Environment and Natural Resources Trust Fund (state lottery).
First published in 1998, Trout Fishing Access in Southeastern Minnesota is a free, 100 -page color booklet stuffed with maps showing every designated trout stream in southeastern Minnesota. Each stream is color coded to show streamside easements and public land (such as state parks).
The maps also show where we have improved habitat. The easements allow DNR fisheries managers to get equipment to the stream to, for example, install underwater structures that provide hiding places for trout to grow larger.
Savvy anglers know that areas with habitat improvements often provide some of the best trout fishing.