Statewide Category Archive: Lakes
I joined two generations of the Marshall family when they opened their cabin for the summer earlier this month on Highland Lake, north of Grand Rapids.
For Peggy Marshall, the routine of opening the family cabin is something she's gone through for over four decades, since her parents bought the rustic getaway in 1968.
Photographer Steve Foss joined us at Highland Lake. Steve lives in Ely, but as it turns out, he was in the area that weekend opening up his family cabin for the summer. He spent the entire day before "fighting plumbing." His hands were still covered with PVC primer and glue.
Now, Steve lives in Ely. "God's Country," as he calls it. He's also a fishing guide. So he doesn't really NEED the hassle of maintaining the cabin on Lake Beltrami his dad bought in 1983.
When I ask him why he does it, he pauses. "It's just so hard to express."
"The thrill" of going to the cabin as a kid growing up in Grand Forks is gone now, he said. "But our kids now have kids. And we begin to see the long stretch of time, and the trickle down from generation to generation."
"When we go to the cabin, it's family time. I'm 51 now, and that means a lot more to me than it did when I was 21."
Steve also owns a small business helping others open their cabins for the summer (and winterize them in the fall).
"There are a lot of people who have a second property," he explained, "and when they come up they want to turn the key and relax. They don't want to have to fix the roof, they don't want to have to repair the dock, they're too busy. This is their downtime."
For some. For others, it's work. But that's OK. Because it's at the family cabin.(0 Comments)
The 66th annual Governor's Fishing Opener set for this weekend in Park Rapids may be one for the record books.
As of today, many lakes in the area still have lots of ice, enough so that even a couple of days of warm temperatures are unlikely to make it disappear in time for Saturday's walleye opener.
Dennis Mackedanz of Park Rapids is in charge of this year's event. He figures the ice on most lakes will shrink enough so that anglers will be able to find at least some open water.
"I've been watching it every day this past week," Mackedanz said. "We've made significant progress in the last few days. Several of the lakes look like they're going to have open water by Saturday morning. The question is, is it the whole lake? Probably not."
Fortunately, the people of Park Rapids have a "Plan B." Gov. Mark Dayton will likely spend a lot of time fishing the Fish Hook River, which enters Fish Hook Lake from the south.
Jason Durham, a Nevis kindergarten teacher, will guide the governor for the day. Durham, who's been an area fishing guide for 22 years, said visitors to the Park Rapids area won't have too much trouble finding open water for fishing.
Public access landings, however, may not have docks installed yet, as the state Department of Natural Resources and local counties couldn't get that work done while there was still ice along the shores.
"The fortunate thing for our community is that we have so many lakes situated close by, and a lot of those are smaller bodies of water, most of them under 2,000 acres," Durham said. "So we're going to have other areas to fish, because those lakes have opened up, so anglers are going to go lots of different directions and fish a lot of different lakes."
Here's what a lot of northern Minnesota lakes look like this week.
This City of Bemidji work crew is busy with spring clean-up on the shore of Lake Bemidji. But most of the lake is still covered in ice. Open water began appearing this week following several days of warm weather, but there will still likely be ice on the lake on Saturday.
That's probably going to be true for most larger lakes in northern Minnesota.
Here's a Department of Natural Resources map that pinpoints which lakes are free of ice. The DNR relies on data from the public, so it's certainly not accurate. But it does show that the state has a long way to go before all if its waters are ice free.
I had to pull over on my way into work this morning to snap a picture of the steam rising up out of the big lake in front of the lift bridge.
As Jay Austin, Professor at UMD's Large Lakes Observatory explains, "the steam is simply Lake Superior water evaporating, then condensing from gas to liquid droplets as it hits super-cold air. In general, Austin says, "evaporation is strongest when the air temperature is much lower than the water temperature."
While temperatures have barely eked above zero for the past several days, it's still been a relatively warm winter in Duluth. Austin says "the fact we're not seeing much ice cover is a testament to the enormity of the lake - the lake needs to be sufficiently cooled down at the surface for ice to form." So, Austin explains, the lake has been busy playing "catch up" the last few days.
Austin, of course, understands this from the perspective of a highly-regarded physicist and expert on large lakes. Still, he admits he's even amazed to look at the huge stretches of open water when temperatures are so cold.
"Think of the temperature difference - +32F water, -10F air - that's huge! And lots of heat is being lost to the atmosphere because of it."
With all the attention placed on destructive invasive species like Asian carp and zebra mussels, non-natives that are still completely uncontrolled - it's easy to forget about the one exotic species in the Great Lakes that scientists have largely outsmarted.
On All Things Considered Friday I reported on the sea lamprey control program, a $20 million dollar effort of the U.S. and Canadian governments. A few decades ago lake trout were nearly extinct from the Great Lakes. Now, thanks in large measure to the program that's cut 90 percent of the sea lamprey population, there's a small commercial lake trout fishery along the North Shore.
Lamprey use their many teeth to latch onto the side of lake trout and suck their body fluids until the trout die. It's estimated that each lamprey kill between 10 and 40 pounds of lake trout during their lifespan, which is estimated at 18 months. (Derek Montgomery for MPR)
The main component of the sea lamprey control program is a chemical called TFM that's applied to streams where sea lamprey swim to spawn. The chemical binds to a lamprey's oxygen uptake and suffocates the larval lamprey before they mature and go out into the Great Lakes and prey on fish. Barriers and traps in the streams also help control their population.
But scientists are also researching alternative ways to control the lamprey, in part because, as Don Schreiner, Area Fisheries Manager with the Minnesota DNR put it, "nobody likes to use pesticides" in the streams. Marc Gaden, spokesman for the Great Lakes Fisheries Commission, which oversees the lamprey control program, said biologists are on the cusp of putting lamprey pheromones and repellants into the field to basically trick lamprey into changing their behavior during spawning season.
Pheromones are natural attractants that male lamprey emit to to lure females to spawn. Scientists are experimenting with using pheromones to lure lamprey into traps or into streams that don't have suitable spawning habitat.
Similarly, last year researchers at Michigan State University observed that lamprey are repelled by the scent of their own dead. Gaden said "the scent of death," as researchers have dubbed it, could be used to keep lamprey away from good spawning habitat, like the Brule River and other streams in northern Wisconsin.
Researchers at the University of Minnesota and elsewhere are exploring using pheromones to try to control invasive carp, which are steadily migrating up the Mississippi River. The hope is to soon add more critters to the very short list of invasive species success stories.
In the rushing streams and clear cool waters found from Minnesota to the Hudson Bay, the prized smallmouth bass feeds on crayfish, insects and the occasional bait launched into the water by a hopeful angler.
They can be greedy, as freshwater scientist Gretchen Anderson Hansen found while collecting crayfish in a lake in Vilas County, Wis., when she found herself being observed by a handful of hungry smallmouth bass.
Anderson Hansen, who does her research work with the UW-Madison Center for Limnology, was able to protect her samples this time around, but she's not always so lucky. She says "opportunistic" bass "often grab her 'samples' before she gets a handle on them."
Smallmouth bass are native to the Mississippi River watershed and spread into lakes around Minnesota during the 1800s including Lake Vermillion and the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness.
An eight-pound small mouth caught in Otter Tail in 1948 is recorded as the largest catch of this fish in Minnesota.
Bemidji area fishing guide Paul Nelson says walleyes, northern pike and perch have begun their spawning runs in many northern lakes.
Fish spawning activity is heavily dependent on weather. In a recent outdoors column in the Bemidji Pioneer, Nelson said cool temperatures following ice-out on area lakes this year put most of the fish in a holding pattern. But the subsequent warm-up now has fish actively spawning in lakes and rivers.
Now is the time of year that DNR fisheries workers are out stripping eggs from walleye so the fish fry can later be stocked in area lakes.
Nelson reports that crews have begun that process on the northeastern corner of Lake Winnibigoshish. Apparently most of the walleye were not "ripe" when they were captured in the nets. Warmer temperatures will quickly change that.
MPR Photo/Dan Gunderson
Aquatic invasive species are drawing a lot of attention in Minnesota. Invasive plants like Eurasian milfoil have been common in Minnesota lakes for years. But new invasive species like zebra mussels and Asian carp are causing a higher level of anxiety about their effects on Minnesota's beloved lakes.
Many invasive species arrived via Great Lakes shipping. The U.S. Geological Survey has identified more than 136 exotic species that have established populations in the Great Lakes.
That's how the zebra mussel arrived. This animation created by the U.S. Geological Survey shows how the invasive invertebrate spread.
Geological Survey officials say once an exotic species is established, control efforts are very expensive and rarely successful. Just one invasive, the zebra mussel, is expected to cause billions of dollars in economic effects over the next decade.
Invasive species often have a variety of impacts on the ecosystem.
The zebra mussel, for example, is a filter feeder. That means each mussel filters up to a gallon of water a day, eating the plankton at the bottom of the food chain.
That means less food for some species of fish.
It also means increased water clarity in lakes. In Lake Erie for example, water clarity increased from a few inches to 30 feet as a result of zebra mussel filtering.
Light then penetrates deeper, and aquatic plants grow much larger. That's good for some species of fish like the northern pike, or bass, but all that weed growth hampers boating or swimming in lakes, and can reduce the lakes ability to support fish populations over time.
I often hear people say zebra mussels have no natural predators in Minnesota. That's not the case — Geological Survey officials say there is evidence migrating waterfowl have changed their flight patterns to feed on zebra mussel colonies.
Fish like sturgeon, catfish, freshwater drum and sunfish all eat the tiny zebra mussels.
But the mussel is so prolific, its population generally grows rapidly, despite predators.
Scientists say preventing the spread of zebra mussels is the only effective control. There are chemicals that will kill zebra mussels, but they're mostly used in small areas such as around water intake pipes.They have not successfully been used to treat an entire lake.
The state Department Natural Resources has experimented with pesticides to control an early infestation of zebra mussels. But the verdict on that approach is not in.
Minnesota officials are focusing on prevention with expanded boat inspection and decontamination. The state is also requiring workers who move equipment like docks and boat lifts to be trained to recognize aquatic invasive species.
Zebra mussels are commonly thought to hitch a ride from lake to lake on boats, but can just as easily travel on the boots of someone who goes from lake to lake installing or repairing docks, or on the gear of scuba divers or swimmers.
Listen to my report on how Minnesota lake associations hope to spur action against invasive species on today's All Things Considered.
Lakes can sound like a symphony this time of year when winter ice begins to thicken.
If you've never heard the sound before, check out this video. It was posted on YouTube a few days ago by videographer Tracey Hays, a resident of Two Inlets Lake, near Park Rapids, Minn..
Hays shot the footage in front of Bear Paw Resort, which she and her husband purchased six years ago after moving from Ohio.
"Photography is my hobby and I love sharing these kinds of unusual things," Hays said. "The sound coming off the lake that day was just awesome. I think it's because we have no snow cover, and the sound really carried and was just perfect."