Post #447 There is a place near Gallee that’s called the Dead Sea. It gets its name from the fact that it lies as one, if not the lowest places on the earth AND it’s a concentrated basin of liquid salt! It’s so salty that nothing can live in it. No fish, no vegetation, no nothing!
Here in Minnesota the locals have nick named Lake Mille Lacs the Dead Sea. I began to explain why, but it became too long for the point of this blog. As I have explained before, we summer on Leech Lake, in northern Minnesota. We prefer to avoid the heat and humidity of the middle Midwest and relax in the cool woods of Minnesota. Last winter I had these visions of cornering the “catch” this summer, after all, since I’ve fished this lake since 1978, I have gained a certain knowledge.
There are fishing seasons in Minnesota, related to ice thawing, fish spawning etc. The ability to keep game fish begins in early May and closes the last day of February. The average time for “ice out”, (truly it should be called ice off) is mid April. This year ice out occurred in May just a few days ahead of the fishing season opener. The ice out, was followed by rapidly rising temperatures such that water temperature was 70 degrees by June 1st, at least 6 six weeks ahead of schedule.
It’s important that I give you that information, because I’m now dubbing Leech Lake, the Dead Sea II. Let me give you a number of factors that I believe are the cause of this new nomenclature. As I mentioned, I’ve been fishing this lake since 1978, so I’ve noted the changing nature of the lake.
First, we have the acid rain. Truly this has been occurring for years, and though the skeptics denounce it, our air quality is not as pure as years ago and “dirty rain” does, over the long term affect water quality.
Second, invasive crayfish. Sound strange doesn’t it? But there are crayfish farms that raise crayfish for use by elementary schools here in Minnesota for science projects. At the end of the year, to get rid of them, students are allowed to “adopt” the crayfish. Parents tire of “keeping” them, so children are required to dispose or them, which through kindheartedness releases them in Minnesota lakes. The Rusty Crayfish is not indigenous to Minnesota and is more aggressive than the local crayfish. The crayfish diet includes vegetation as well as cadaverous items. The Rusty Crayfish has killed off most of the more docile local crayfish and seemingly has been devouring prime vegetation.
Thirdly, all of the prime weeds, and grasses in this 113,000 acre lake have been disappearing for the ears from the 5 to 11 foot depths. These weeds and grasses hold plankton, which hold minnows, which hold bait fish, and provides cover and cooling for predator fish. Additionally, this lake is known for it Wild Rice harvests. But we have seen its rice beds diminish by 80% in the last 4 years.
Fourthly, invasive weeds. There was a time when you came to a lake resort and were provided a boat to fish. Today, everyone likes their own boat and brings it with them on vacation. The problem is lots of boats get put in multiple lakes and they tend to pick up and spread Eurasian Milfoil. This is an invasive weed brought in by tanker bilges to the Great Lakes and eventually carried by boat and bird to many lakes. This weed also squeezes out local cover and grows so thick that even boat motors can not penetrate it.
Fifthly, carnivorous birds. The State Department of Natural Resources noted the drop in the fish population, so they began places 100’s of thousands of fry (young game fish) into the lake. As a result fishing began to improve, but besides the increase in fishermen, there has been in crease in carnivorous birds, Pelicans and Cormorants, both of whom can consume up to a 24 inch fish and eat their weight in fish daily. The Pelicans and Cormorants work together, by circling around a school of fish like a wagon train. They circle and circle, closing the circle, flapping their wings on the water until they can eliminate the fish. These are Federally protected birds.
Sixth, temperature. As I began this, I mentioned the temperature rise. Already the lake is approaching a 78 degree surface temperature, making fish lethargic. Also with the rapid temperature rise in May, the spawn may have been damaged. Usually hundred of thousands of minnows are seen all over the lake. This year almost no minnows are seen.
As I write this blog report, this seems to be the least productive fishing year I have ever seen since 1978. It’s like fishing the dead sea! Oh, well at least the sunsets are still fantastic.