Four Ways You Can Help Preserve Our Lakes and Fisheries
The fishing season has opened! So before you head out to drop a line, the Keep It Clean partners at Lake of the Woods, Red Lake and Mille Lacs Lake — three of the state’s most popular walleye fishing destinations — want to remind anglers and other outdoor enthusiasts to leave no trace.
“All Minnesota lakes, rivers and their fisheries are a beautiful and precious resource,” says Joe Henry, Executive Director, Lake of the Woods Tourism Bureau and one of the founders of Keep It Clean. “It’s up to each of us to do our part to keep them clean and healthy. During the winter, this involves the safe removal of garbage and human waste from the ice. During the summer, it involves keeping garbage fishing line, soft plastics and left over bait out of the lake or river and taking steps to help stop the spread of aquatic invasive species.”
Aquatic invasive species are non-native plants, animals or pathogens that live primarily in the water and thrive in their new environment, often to the detriment of native species. Examples include the Asian carp, curly-leaf pondweed, Eurasian watermilfoil, faucet snail, flowering rush, starry stonewort, spiny water flea and zebra mussels.
“Aquatic invasive species have become a huge issue for Minnesota’s 10,000 lakes and its rivers,” says Mike Hirst, a Resource Conservationist with Lake of the Woods Soil and Water Conservation District who worked with Henry to help establish Keep It Clean. “As more and more people become aware of how they damage the ecosystems in our lakes and rivers, they are asking how they can help stop them from spreading.”
“Planning ahead on how to contain and properly dispose of trash and allotting adequate time to properly clean your boat, trailer and other water toys — like jet skis — before you enter or exit a lake or river are two easy ways you can help to make a meaningful difference in in the health and cleanliness of our lakes and rivers,” says Ann Brucciani Lyon, Vice Chair, Mille Lacs Area Community Foundation.
To help Keep It Clean, here are four steps you can take:
· Plan ahead on how to manage your trash — When bringing food, beverages, bait and other items on the lake, allow adequate space for storing trash in your cooler or a boat compartment — or bring a garbage bag. This will make it easy to contain and properly dispose of containers, plastic bags, wrappers, disposable tableware (such as paper and plastic cups, napkins, bowls, plates, silverware), bottle tops and empty cans and bottles. Ensure these items are in a secure location so that they won’t fall off or blow out of the boat.
· Properly dispose of all fishing tackle — Torn soft plastics, fishing line, fish hooks, fishing lures and sinkers — any kind of fishing tackle —belong in the garbage, not in the lake. In addition to being garbage that takes a long time to decompose, they can be a danger to fish, wildlife, swimmers and others who recreationally use the lake.
Soft plastic baits do not dissolve or decompose in the water and if fish — or other wildlife — ingest them they can expand in their stomachs and create a blockage that hampers their ability to digest other food. Wildlife can also become tangled in fishing line, lures and hooks, which can lead to deadly outcomes. Interestingly, anglers can recycle their ripped bait plastics by making them into new plastics.
“A lot of anglers don’t know that they can create their own bait plastics from old, torn ones,” says Brucciani Lyon. “But if they Google how to recycle bait plastics, they will discover a multitude of articles and videos that will walk them through the process step by step.”
· Bring your own bait pail to the bait shop — This saves time by eliminating the need to transfer the bait later and will help reduce the number of plastic bags that wind up in the lake.
· Clean In Clean Out — “When boating or fishing, we recommend following the Minnesota DNR recommendations to Clean Drain and Dispose,” says Robyn Dwight, President of the Upper Red Lake Area Association.
“Plan to take roughly 15 minutes after you remove your boat and trailer to walk through these important steps to help deter the spread of aquatic invasive species.”
- Clean all visible aquatic plants, zebra mussels and other prohibited invasive species from watercraft, trailers and water-related equipment before leaving any access or shoreland.
- Drain water-related equipment (boat, ballast tanks, portable bait containers, motor) and drain bilge, livewell and baitwell by removing drain plugs before leaving a water access or shoreline property. Keep drain plugs out and water-draining devices open while transporting watercraft. Lower outboard and inboard motors down while on the trailer to drain water and raise up again for travel.
- Dry everything for at least five days before going to other waters or decontaminate with high-pressure water (120F or warmer).
- Dispose of unwanted bait, including minnows, leeches and worms in the trash. It is illegal to release bait into a waterbody or release aquatic animals from one body of water to another. If you want to keep your bait, refill the bait container with bottled or tap water.
· Follow Minnesota law and keep docks and boat lifts out of the water for at least 21 days before putting them into another body of water. The Minnesota DNR advises carefully inspecting everything — boats, docks, lifts, or other water-related equipment from lakes and rivers — when you remove them from the water to make sure there are no aquatic invasive species attached.
“Look on the posts, wheels, and underwater support bars of docks and lifts, as well as any parts of boats, pontoons, and rafts that may have been submerged in water for an extended period,” advises Henry.
“Keep It Clean involves all of us working together to be good stewards of the outdoors by leaving no trace at all times,” says Dwight. “The more awareness we can create about these issues and ways we can help mitigate them, the better the outcome will be for the health of our lakes, and fisheries now and for future generations.”
For more information on Keep It Clean, visit https://lakeofthewoodsmn.com/keep-it-clean/.
For information about Keep It Clean on Mille Lacs Lake, visit https://mlacf.org/keep-it-clean/.
For information about Keep It Clean on Red Lake, visit https://www.upperredlakeassn.com/.