BWSR Targeted Watershed Demonstration Program awards $1.2 million grant for Serpent Lake

St. Paul, Minn. – Whether used as a source of hydration, recreation, or an economic driver, clean water is an important resource for the people of Minnesota. The Minnesota Board of Water and Soil Resources (BWSR) announced today $5.7 million in Clean Water Fund grants to help improve Minnesota’s waters through its Targeted Watershed Demonstration Program, a new funding approach for addressing water pollution. The program focuses on watersheds where the amount of change necessary to improve water quality is known, the actions needed to achieve results are identified, and those actions implemented within a four-year time period.

BWSR received twenty-five proposals, totaling more than $46 million in funding requests. Chosen for the program’s first year: the Cedar River Watershed District (Dobbins Creek); the Rice Creek Watershed District (Long Lake); and the Crow Wing Soil and Water Conservation District (Serpent Lake).

John Jaschke, BWSR’s Executive Director, explained, “The Targeted Watershed Demonstration Program is piloting a more holistic approach toward the State’s ongoing work to reduce water pollution. Focusing on the watershed level, the goal of the program is to demonstrate, using local priorities, that concentrated conservation practices can have a positive impact on water quality.”

Project Overviews:
•Dobbins Creek, Cedar River Watershed District (WD), $1.5 million award.
An important resource in southern Minnesota, the creek is impaired, the cloudiness of the water affecting plant and animal life. This project will install conservation practices in a systematic way to reduce sediment and nutrients, efforts which are estimated to contribute 15% of the pollutant reduction necessary to achieve Dobbins Creek’s water quality goal. “This is a historic project for our watershed, and we are very grateful for this funding which will help us make significant strides in our efforts to revive Dobbins Creek,” said Bev Nordby, Cedar River WD Administrator.

•Long Lake, Rice Creek Watershed District, $3 million award.
Work within this metro-area watershed will target Long Lake, a key destination in the most visited regional park in Ramsey County. Long Lake is an important regional resource, enjoyed by nearly half a million people annually. It’s on the State’s list of Impaired Waters due to excess nutrients, and the work on this project is estimated to achieve more than 40% of the pollutant reductions necessary to meet the Long Lake water quality goals. “The Rice Creek Watershed District has been studying Long Lake for nearly a decade to identify the most cost-effective projects to improve water quality. With support from the Clean Water Fund, the District and its partners look forward to making these projects and cleaner water in Long Lake a reality for our residents,” Phil Belfiori, Rice Creek WD Administrator, said.

•Serpent Lake Subwatershed, Crow Wing Soil and Water Conservation District (SWCD), $1.2 million award.
North-central Minnesota’s Serpent Lake, a regionally significant body of water in Crow Wing County, is at a critical turning point as water clarity continues to decline. If polluted runoff problems are not addressed, the resulting costs of water quality impacts will increase greatly, negatively affecting the quality of life and economic vitality of the region. The SWCD estimates that the conservation practices implemented through this program will prevent 139 pounds of phosphorus from entering the lake. That represents the majority of the phosphorus pollutant reductions necessary to meet the lake’s water quality goal and reverse the declining water quality trend. “This program will have a lasting impact, increasing water clarity and reducing algal blooms on Serpent Lake, and helping keep the lake clean and healthy for all to enjoy,” said Melissa Barrick, Crow Wing SWCD District Manager.

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Bt Bob Hoeft

I have a theory about fish and fishing. Not scientific, just observational and experiential. Over the many years of sport fishing the fish with the less intelligent genetics have been caught. By a form of un-natural selection the genetic stock that is remaining in the lake are those with the higher intelligence genetics. Better eyesight too. The ones that are left in the lake that you truly want to catch are too smart and have excellent eyesight; they know a fake morsel of food when they see one. Crappies, Sunfish, Walleyes, Bass – the ones remaining have high IQ’s.

My theory is that this is true for all game fish, except Northern Pike. They are stupid from top to bottom. Never had any smart genetics to start with. And, they do not learn by experience either. The big older ones bite as readily as the small younger ones. You see, that’s why you catch so many Northern Pike when you are fishing for those more desirable species mentioned above. And, when you throw it back and say “Those stupid Northern Pike” (perhaps with an expletive thrown in) you are not just insulting the fish, you are actually describing it.

It’s good to get it out of your system before you start fishing this summer, or anytime for that matter Just get it out of your system. In fact say it now out loud ”THOSE STUPID NORTHERN PIKE!”

Here’s the problem though (which I have written about many times previously): We like bragging rights about the big fish we catch so we keep the big ones and throw the small ones back. Since Northern Pike are the top of the food chain the only thing that will eat a small Northern Pike is a large one. Small Northern Pike get a pass on being devoured, but not on devouring other fish. In fact they prey on all other game fish and forage, including Crappies, Sunfish, Walleyes and Bass. Thus, what is abundant in the lake are lots of small Northern Pike and less of the other species that we view as more desirable and less forage as well. And remember, according to my theory those more desirable species are smarter too, so less likely to bite on your baited hook in the first place.

Here are some remedies for this situation:

• Release any Northern Pike you catch that are 24 inches or larger. Signs are at the landing encouraging you to do just that.
• Have your camera handy to take a picture before releasing those trophies
• Keep any Northern Pike you catch that are smaller the 24 inches.
• Learn how to fillet Northern Pike and remove all bones including y bones. There are all kinds of instructions on the internet or I, personally, would be glad to teach you.
• Some people pickle the Northern Pike and all of the bones dissolve
• Bury undesired fish in your garden, they make great fertilizer
• Fry them, try them, you’ll like them

For further documentation about the Northern Pike problem (well, all except the part about them being stupid) refer to Star Tribune articles Wednesday, January 2, 2014 by Doug Smith entitled “Small Pike, Big Problem” or February 24, 2014 by Dennis Anderson entitled “Only In Your Dreams”. Also, consider the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources solution to the recent crash of the walleye population in Milacs Lake: you can keep 10 Northern Pike under 30 inches including one over 30 inches. The longstanding limit has been only 3.

I long for the day when we could regularly pull up larger Northern Pike from our lake and , instead of saying “Those stupid Northern Pike” we would say “Beautiful Fish” and then return it to the water.

Chris Peterson responded with a different viewpoint:

I’d like to be able to voice my opinion on the fishing in Serpent Lake and particularily the Northern Pike situation. 
I have been fishing on Serpent Lake my entire life, I am 38 and we have had a place on the lake since 4 mo. before I was born. 
2 years ago was the best bass fishing I had ever seen on the lake, the entire summer in fact.
Last summer was some of the best walleye fishing (i was young during the 80′s prime time) and certainly caught numerous large northern pike. 
5 weekends in a row last summer I had days of catching a minimum of 5 walleye and a few were good size, 22-23″.  I did not keep a single walleye out of the lake for fear that they had been in such decline, at least I have been under the impression of. 
During those same weekends, I caught a 34, a 36 and my dad caught a 38″ out of our lake.  The last being 15lb+.  All 3 were records for our family. 
I have pictures I believe of all of them and can send them along.
While I do agree there is a problem with the smaller pike, I do think there is still a strong population of larger pike that I have seen, and I have also been catching walleye consistently.  The bass are also very strong and large.  Although the smallmouth were very elusive last summer.
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From the StarTribune

Smith: Legislative intervention has tipped fish balance in scores of lakes
• Article by: DOUG SMITH , Star Tribune
• Updated: January 22, 2014 – 8:15 AM
A change in ‘angler attitude’ is needed to protect the future of the walleye and perch populations.•,
Minnesota has allowed anglers to keep too many big northerns over the years, tipping the biological ¬balance in scores of lakes and leaving many teeming with small ‘‘hammer-handle’’ northerns that are hurting walleye and perch populations.
That’s according to a retired Department of Natural Resources fisheries biologist, who predicts a dim future for quality walleye and northern fishing on hundreds of Minnesota lakes unless major fishing regulation changes are made.
“We need to do something ¬drastic,’’ said Jim Lilienthal, 67, of rural Brainerd, a member of Anglers for Habitat. “It will take restrictive regulations like we’ve never dreamed of to correct the situation.’’
Such as allowing — and encouraging — anglers to take an unlimited number of northerns under 24 inches while allowing none over 24 inches to be kept. Would anglers keep and eat small northerns and release larger ones, in hopes of ¬stabilizing the fisheries population?
“It will take a change in angler attitude,’’ he acknowledged.
DNR fisheries chief Don Pereira doesn’t dismiss Lilienthal’s findings, but said “there’s a lot of political and social stress’’ involved in making major changes to fish ¬regulations and management.
“We know large pike bring ecological stability to the system; they keep pike numbers under control,’’ he said. “We’ve made some headway with special regulations. And we’ve tried to liberalize bag limits; it doesn’t appear people want them [small northerns].’’
But, he said, “We’ll take a fresh look at it.’’
‘Annihilating perch population’
For decades, anglers have kept bigger northerns and tossed back small ones, hoping they will grow into trophies. Too often, Lilienthal said, that’s not what happens. Instead, the removal of large northerns results in lakes with high densities of stunted northerns that consume small walleye, perch and sunfish — damaging the populations of all three species.
“We’re annihilating the perch population, which in turn increases the vulnerability of juvenile -walleyes,’’ Lilienthal said.
An avid angler, Lilienthal examined DNR survey data on 1,000 lakes in central and northern Minnesota that are regularly stocked with walleyes. He looked at gillnet catches of northerns and walleyes. He found lakes in Otter Tail County with high densities of small northerns had half as many walleyes as lakes with more balanced northern populations.
“It clearly shows the statewide northern pike regulation is the cause of the high density small northern pike crisis on 374 of ¬Minnesota’s 722 stocked walleye basins in central and north-central Minnesota,’’ Lilienthal said.
While Pereira acknowledges there is a growing northern pike problem, he said there’s no ¬evidence it’s causing a widespread walleye problem.
“We’re not brushing it under the carpet,’’ he said. “We’re taking what he is saying seriously.’’
The statewide regulation allows anglers to keep up to three ¬northerns, including one over 30 inches.
“That’s totally unsustainable,’’ Lilienthal says. The regulations allow too many big fish to be taken, he said, while preventing the needed removal of small northerns.
“One fish over 30 inches per year is more realistic than one over 30 inches per day,’’ Lilienthal said. “We can’t afford to lose those big fish.’’
Lilienthal suggests dramatic changes are needed on problem lakes: Perhaps allowing unlimited harvest of northerns under 24 inches, while allowing none over 24 inches to be kept.
“We need something drastic to drive home that this is a huge problem,’’ he said.
Without such changes, Lilienthal said, “I don’t see any hope for anything but more smaller pike.’’
Pereira said he sees the irony in the current regulations.
“Historically, they reduced the [northern] bag limit to three, and we have a six-fish walleye limit. It seems like the inverse would make more sense.’’
But politically, such a change would be difficult, he said.
Legislature intervened
The DNR began working with angling groups more than 20 years ago to try to boost the average size of northerns in some lakes. Experimental regulations were introduced on some lakes in the early 2000s, and the agency adopted a long-range northern plan in 2008. The DNR limited the waters with ¬special regulations to about 125.
Those special regulations, which usually involved a protected slot limit, usually succeeded in increasing the number of larger northerns.
But while many lake associations and anglers pushed for the special rules, other anglers and spearers objected to restricting their ability to take northerns.
Leaders of the Minnesota Darkhouse and Angling Association went to the Legislature in 2011 and succeeded in getting the number of lakes with special northern regulations capped at 100, forcing the DNR to remove regulations from about 19 lakes, and preventing the agency from adding any more lakes.
Lilienthal said his research clearly shows lakes with high densities of northerns have lower densities of walleyes, and he bluntly says the Legislature’s 2011 law was “a stab in the back for modern northern pike management.’’
Pereira said the law has handcuffed the DNR, preventing the agency from dropping special northern regulations on lakes where they don’t appear to be working, and preventing them from adding regulations to lakes where they might work.
Meanwhile, Vern Wagner, vice president of Anglers for Habitat, said his group plans to take the issue to the Legislature this year.
“We just feel this is something Minnesota anglers need to know about. It’s impacting our walleye-stocking efforts.’’
Doug Smith •

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By Bob Hoeft
Though friends and neighbors have gone south, away,
Some of us do choose to stay.
The snow is deep, the ice is thick,
Don’t choose a flagpole and give it a lick.
It’s cold and then it’s early dark,
Not too many stroll Serpent Park
But upon the lake there is some action,
Snowmobile and pickup have some traction.
Where they’re going no one knows,
Some to a fishhouse I suppose.
Across the lake they move with ease,
But if they’re fishing, few fish do please.
If they catch some all is well,
If some they don’t it’s colder than hell.
Occasionally some folks are seen in skis,
Moving about as well as you please.
The other day a really strange sight.
Two people went by riding their bikes.
It’s hard to beat winter right here,
On Serpent Lake which we live near;
It’s quiet and peaceful and not at all loud,
We live in contentment away from the crowd.

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We want to Know What You’re Reading!!

Avid Serpent Lake readers are already anticipating cracking open the latest book by a favorite author while sitting next to a warm lakeside fire. I can’t wait to pull the Adirondack chair out of the garage and set it near the fire pit with a good novel in hand. All I have to do is figure out my reading list.

I’ve read my share of best sellers. Nelson DeMille, David Baldacci, Carl Hiaason and the late Vince Flynn are all authors I enjoy, but the best seller list is not my main source of reading material. You never know where you’ll find your next author. Several years ago my wife and I dined at Doc Ford’s Bar & Grill on Sanibel Island and on our way out we noticed a rack full of Randy Wayne White’s Doc Ford book series. I’m reading my 14th while my wife is on number twenty.

Last summer a frequent visitor to our Serpent Lake home brought a couple books written by his neighbor, former Hennepin County District Court Judge Michael O’Rourke. So, if you’re looking for a local author you might like to read The Ordeal of Riley McReynolds and O’Banion’s Gift.

This summer I’m going to start William Kent Krueger’s Cork O’Connor series with Iron Lake. I’ll let you know how I like it.

One more thing, if fiction is not your thing you might take a look at Go If You Think It Your Duty. Professor Andrea R Foroughi transcribes the Civil War letters between Minnesotans James Madison Bowler and Lizzie Caleff Bowler. The Serpent Lake connection with this book is that the Bowlers’ great great great great grandchildren still play on the shores of Serpent Lake.

Now it’s your turn. We’d like you to share your reading list. What would you recommend for the Adirondack chair this summer? Are you currently reading a page turner? E-mail your suggestions to me at and put Serpent Lake reader on the subject line so I can post a good collection of suggestions from fellow Serpent Lakers. Tell us why you like the book and we’ll post your suggestion.

By Bruce Butler

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