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Friday, February 28, 2014


Today the Minnesota DNR announced that Pelican Lake in Wright County is susceptible to winterkill and is opening it up to liberalized fishing. There are many people up in arms over this. I understand their concerns, but the truth of the matter is, long term, this is good for the lake. While there are many saying this is a great excuse for the USFWS to drain the lake for the ducks, there is no one at fault for this “potential die-off.”
            I call it a “potential die-off” because there are very few winterkills that truly kill off every fish in a lake. Some fish will always seem to find a way to survive, whether it be a random weed bed that is producing oxygen, or a spring they happened upon. And once they survive until late ice, it is like a single person at a buffet. There is food as far as the eye can see. For panfish, especially, this eliminates the need to compete for both food and breeding grounds. This is why many lakes that suffer periodic winterkills also produce some gigantic panfish.
            Before you begin to curse the idea of winterkill, do a little research. In just 5 minutes on the internet, I was able to find several documents that discuss how winterkill can be beneficial for a lake. Here are a few excerpts:

1. “A winterkill may lead to a more balanced fishery and possibly even improved water quality. Fish that survive a winterkill will have reduced competition for food for a period of time and so may grow faster and to a larger size”
2. “Fish kills indicate habitat or pollution problems that can be corrected, however fish kills can be beneficial by reducing over-populated, slow-growing panfish and actually increase growth rates and improve fishing.”
3. “Fortunately, usually enough fish survive, either in the lake or in connecting waters, to
repopulate the lake in a couple of years.”
4. “Winterkill can have some beneficial effects. In lakes with overabundant panfish, winterkill can result in increased growth rates and less competition for survivors. It also can greatly reduce carp abundance, allowing for improved water quality and increased success of subsequent fish stocking efforts.”

            While Pelican lake was a true trophy fishery, it will only be a matter of time before it is back to what it was. Mark it down on your calendar, four to five years from now, and you can beat all the guys who wait for internet reports before they try a lake. The fish will be back.
            Winterkills happen. Say it over and over to yourself. While it is an ugly truth, winterkills and partial winterkills are beneficial to lakes. Just make sure you are ready to go fish it again when the lake recovers.

            Have some concerns aboot avoiding winterkills, maybe you should rethink where you fish:

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