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DNR surveys angling on Crow Wing

Kali Baker was all smiles as she held up a nice sunfish last summer. The Park Rapids Areas Fisheries plans to conduct work relating to catching fish like Kali's on the Crow Wing River and 5th and 6th Crow Wing lakes. (Jason Durham / For the Enterprise)

This past week Park Rapids Area Fisheries Supervisor Doug Kingsley talked about some interesting upcoming projects the DNR has on the schedule for the near future -and a few items that remain unchanged.

The most extensive project for the Park Rapids area is a survey of the Crow Wing River.

"The DNR is hoping to join with the Little Falls and Brainerd offices to do a thorough survey of the Crow Wing River," says Kingsley. "The goal is to both begin and complete the survey within one season, but it is a very large river. The DNR has received some comments regarding decreased angling success in the lower portion, though the DNR had proposed such a study long before the feedback was received. We'll do a fishery's study using equipment such as boats and trap nets, examine the physical habit of the river and also gauge the watershed and land-use."

Other notable projects for this year include a possible regulation change for northern pike on 5th and 6th Crow Wing.

The current experimental regulation requires anglers to release all northern pike 40-inches and under, with one "trophy" fish allowed over the slot per angler.

Residents and anglers who frequently fish the lake have contacted the DNR about a modification to the experimental regulation due to an apparent decrease in panfish numbers.

Though Kingsley doesn't dispute the population decline in the panfish, he adds that there was a significant increase in fishing pressure, especially on 6th Crow Wing from 2002-2007, noticeably so in the winter.

The DNR also investigated a fish kill in the summer of 2007, when a substantial number of bluegill and pumpkinseed died mid-summer. The cause was columnaris which is a bacterial infection. Kingsley says that the columnaris bacteria are always present in the lakes, but it's like catching a common cold for humans; it typically happens when there is stress to the immune system.

Fish are generally immune to the columnaris bacteria because of the protective slime covering their bodies, but stressors such as the reproductive process, poor water quality, inadequate diet or high water temperatures can cause the fish to become affected by the bacteria. In other words, the fish get sick and become sicker. High water temperatures likely played a role in causing the columnaris to become fatal on 5th and 6th Crow Wing lakes.

One project the Park Rapids Area Fisheries office won't be working on this summer is introducing muskies into additional local lakes. Though the DNR has gotten some pressure from special interest groups such as Muskies Inc. to expand the number of lakes with muskies, Kingsley says not many locals have asked for it.

"We have considered it in the past and it may still happen in the future, but not within the near future. If the DNR did decide to stock muskies in more lakes, we would probably first consider bodies of water along the Mantrap Chain, since muskies are already present in some of those locations," predicts Kingsley.