Mike’s Climate Story

Picture3Minnesota has a great diversity of quality fishing opportunities throughout the state but nowhere more evident than here in the north central part of the state.  Fishing is an important part of our cultural identity and a significant contributor to our local economies.  Fishing tourism in Minnesota generates over $2.8 billion in economic activity, $640 million in tax revenue and provides more than 40,000 jobs.

Picture5I’ve enjoyed fishing all my life starting as a young boy fishing in the ocean off Massachusetts, and this has clearly driven my career path into natural resources.  I have passed this passion for fishing along to my boys, shown here with a 30” Mille Lacs walleye caught from the shore.  They in turn are passing this tradition along to their children – here’s my four-year-old granddaughter with her first fish.

Picture8There is a little, cold water fish called a cisco that is especially important for growing large predator fish like walleye, lake trout, northern pike and muskellunge.  While these gamefish do well eating other prey fish like perch, they grow exceptionally well on cisco, which have a high oil content in their flesh.

Cisco are the most widespread coldwater fish in Minnesota and live in our most pristine lakes that have exceptional water quality like Big Trout Lake and Pelican Lake.  It’s important to note that coldwater fish are not limited to northeast MN lakes, but are able to live in many central and north central lakes as well.… Unfortunately this important prey species is already showing signs of decline statewide related to climate warming and in recent years has been extirpated from some lakes such as Farm Island Lake in Aitkin County.

Yet a future warmed Minnesota will still support coldwater fish like cisco in some deep, cold lakes if land disturbance in the watershed that leads to nutrient pollution remains low.  In small watersheds like Pelican Lake, this may not be a difficult outcome to achieve.  Let me leave you with this image of my grandchildren who are very dear to me.  You can seethat at least one of them is not too happy with you and me regarding the future of quality fishing in Minnesota.

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Fortunately, we can take actions today to protect our coldwater lakes and keep them resilient to the effects of climate change.

  1. Support local land conservation organizations with your time or money.
  1. If you own forested lands, seek technical advice from professional foresters on how to best manage your land for your personal goals and improved water quality.
  1. If you own lakeshore property, install buffers and capture stormwater runoff in rain gardens.
  1. Regardless of whether you own or rent, get involved in local land use decision-making to influence the character and quality of the community you live in.
  1. Talk to a friend or neighbor to broaden community understanding and support for local action.
  1. Conserve water to reduce wasteful consumption of surface and groundwater that are equally important for sustaining our local tourism economy.
  1. Be an engaged citizen!
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