SPICER, Minn. — A harsh winter and its heavy snowpack had anglers throughout the region worried about the potential for winterkill in some of their favorite early season waters.
“A record number” is how Dave Coahran, Spicer area fisheries supervisor with the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources, described the emails and phone calls his office received inquiring about the issue.
The good news is this: While there have been a few partial fish kills in area lakes, the damage overall has not been anything near what was feared, according to Coahran. Fisheries crews began netting some of the shallow lakes most prone to winterkill shortly after ice-out.
They found partial fish kills in some popular lakes in Kandiyohi County: Wakanda, Lillian, Minnetaga and Elizabeth. Yet all four of the lakes still hold good populations of walleye and other game fish, and are certainly worth fishing come the opener, according to Coahran.
Not surprisingly, there was a significant amount of winterkill in Kasota and Little Kandiyohi, located downstream of Minnetage. The lakes are too shallow to be managed as fisheries, and winterkill is not uncommon in them.
Two shallow lakes south of Granite Falls, Lady Slipper and School Grove, both experienced significant winterkill. It was not unexpected, Coahran said. Lady Slipper experienced a major algae bloom shortly before freeze-up. Once the heavy snow fell and turned off the lights, the algae died and decomposed, which took oxygen out of the water.
Otherwise, most lakes in the area managed by the Spicer staff seem to have fared well. Water levels were high in the lakes, and there was often flow through the winter, he said. This may have helped keep oxygen levels up in some of the shallow lakes susceptible to winterkill.
Coahran and his staff were originally the most concerned about Elizabeth, and had been monitoring oxygen levels in the lake through the winter. The lake is an important source of walleye eggs and milt for the New London hatchery.
The fisheries crew reaped one of their biggest harvests ever out of Elizabeth this spring, Coahran said. The nets they set there were filled with walleye, many of them very nice-sized, he said.
He said the crew finished up their annual egg stripping operation last week, and collected 315 quarts, making it one of their better years. Along with Elizabeth, they collected milt and eggs from Diamond, Rice and Koronis lakes. Walleye numbers in all four looked good, he added.