By Nadine Meyer, Aquatic Education Specialist
The MinnAqua Program and Great Lakes Aquarium (GLA) are natural partners and have enjoyed a long-standing relationship including family fishing programs, outreach education and teacher training. The Northern Minnesota MinnAqua Education Specialist is headquartered at Great Lakes Aquarium providing added benefits for both organizations.
The highly acclaimed Duluth Lakewalk skirts GLA and offers both an excellent view of the harbor and a great place for school groups and families to fish. The Lakewalk is accessible for free by following the sidewalk around the Aquarium. (Parking is available at the Aquarium, during winter weekdays the lot is free, otherwise parking is $4/vehicle.)
Fishing in the Duluth Harbor provides an opportunity to introduce youth to invasive species. One of the easiest fish to catch is the round goby - an invasive species brought over from Europe in the ballast water on the “Salties,” the ocean-going vessels that visit the Great Lakes. Round gobies are an unwelcome, but established invader. According to the Wisconsin Sea Grant, “[r]ound gobies are bottom-dwelling fish that perch on rocks and other substrates. They are aggressive fish and voracious feeders. They will vigorously defend spawning sites in rocky or gravel habitats, thereby restricting access of other less aggressive fish to prime spawning areas. Gobies also have a well-developed sensory system that enhances their ability to detect water movement. This allows them to feed in complete darkness, and gives them another advantage over other fish in the same habitat.
Gobies also are capable of rapid population growth. They spawn repeatedly during the summer months, and each time, a female can produce up to 5,000 eggs. The males die after spawning.”
Because round gobies are so abundant, it is almost guaranteed you will catch a fish each time you cast your line from the Lakewalk (sometimes bait is optional if the gobies are really active). While the prevalence of this invasive species is a bad sign for this unique Great Lake habitat, it can provide a successful fishing experience for many first-time anglers. Lesson 3:5 - Mussel Mania provides information about invasive species and their effects on native species and habitats. For more on invasive species go to http://www.mndnr.gov/eco/pubs_invasives.html.
Don’t worry, there is still a diverse population of fish (including native species) in the harbor. This past summer young anglers fishing with MinnAqua on the Lakewalk behind the aquarium caught yellow perch, smallmouth bass, and rock bass. Other potential catches of the day are northern pike and an occasional walleye. Lake Sturgeon use the harbor for migration between the St. Louis River and Lake Superior, but fishing for this threatened fish in the St. Louis River and its outlet is prohibited.
A bonus to coming to fish at the Duluth Harbor is having easy access to Great Lakes Aquarium where you can learn about and view a great variety of Minnesota fish species and other freshwater fish from around the world. Visit GLA’s website for admission rates: http://www.glaquarium.org.
The Lakewalk behind the Aquarium has an iron railing that provides a clear and solid barrier between the pubic and the 55-degree water. The Lakewalk is wheel-chair accessible by the Aquarium and also has park benches nearby. The area isn’t shaded in the heat of the afternoon, so be sure to put on sunscreen, bring water and wear protective clothing.
Anyone 16 years and older must have a fishing license when assisting others with fishing or when fishing themselves. Most gas stations, sporting goods stores, and some general stores (especially those that sell bait) sell fishing licenses. You can also purchase a license by calling the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources license hotline at 1-888-665-4236 (1-MN-LICENSE) or go to the MN DNR online license center at http://www.dnr.state.mn.us/licenses/index.html. Stores & gas stations charge a $1 convenience fee for each license purchase and the online or phone license services charge a $3.50 convenience fee.
Great Lakes Aquarium provides a variety of aquatic resource based educational programs for schools and other groups, which can include fishing and other MinnAqua activities. For more information on the educational programming at Great Lakes Aquarium check out their website at http://www.glaquarium.org and when calling to schedule a program be sure to ask about fishing opportunities on-site!