Before you read this article, be forewarned that I am not a fishing expert, nor do I have any secret leads on where to find the biggest walleyes in the county. I’m just your average outdoorsy kind of gal, who occasionally likes to partake in Minnesota’s favorite summer pastime. As a child, my dad used to take me fishing all the time, with varying degrees of success. Once we came home with a bucket full of bullheads, leading my mom to gag, make faces, and refuse to eat dinner with us. Sometime in early grade school, my dad stopped taking me fishing, probably because I felt sorry for every fish we caught and begged to throw it back. Now as an adult, I am slowly learning to enjoy fishing again, especially when it results in a delicious dinner of fresh walleye or trout.
Those of you who really are fishing experts know that there are a variety of ways and places to enjoy the sport. You can cast a line from the pier down at your favorite local lake using a makeshift pole of buckthorn baited with kernels of corn to catch bluegills. You can fish from the middle of White Bear Lake, riding a $100,000 boat and using thousands of dollars worth of lures, bobbers, reels and depth-finding equipment. You can bushwhack through mosquito-infested woods to fly fish in a trout stream or watch TV and drink beer from inside your fully furnished and heated ice shanty. Chances are, however, you will not want to fish from a lake covered in a thick layer of greenish-brown algae, festering under the sweltering summer sun and complete with a shimmering trail of engine oil and grease.
There are a few things that fish like. First, they like to have clean water to swim in, unpolluted by road salt, engine oil and lawn chemicals. Any pollutant that lands on a sidewalk, driveway or road can eventually be washed away into a storm sewer or roadside ditch and wind up in our local lakes and rivers. If you don’t like the idea of bass a la glyphosate, then sweep up any spilled herbicide, pesticide, or fertilizer, repair engine leaks on your car, and dispose of used engine oil properly at a drop-off facility.
Second, fish like to have oxygen to breathe. Sure, they are aquatic animals, but they still need well-oxygenated water to survive. When algae grows out of control on a lake due to excess phosphorus in the water, it creates a chain reaction that reduces the amount of overall oxygen in the water, resulting in fewer, smaller fish and sometimes even mass fish kills. We can help reduce the amount of phosphorus that enters lakes by sweeping grass clippings and other yard waste off of sidewalks and the street in front of our homes before these phosphorus-rich materials are swept into storm sewers that connect to lakes and rivers.
Third, fish like to have shady, vegetated habitats for spawning. When we remove native grasses, sedges, flowers and trees from the water’s edge, we eliminate fish habitat. If you have shoreline property, leave at least half of it unmowed and under natural cover. You can still enjoy your view of the water without destroying its ability to support aquatic life. Better yet, work with your local Watershed District to restore shoreline property and improve habitat – grants are available!
Now, grab your hook and line, your assorted gizmos and gadgets and your favorite fishing partner and get out there to enjoy this beautiful Minnesota summer.