At Tuesday's Hubbard County Board meeting, Department of Natural Resources Area Fisheries Supervisor Doug Kingsley addressed the board about the possibility of the DNR declassifying Pokety Creek as a designated trout stream in the absence of suitable conditions.
The board is not required to approve it or not, but as property owners along the creek they were asked for their comments regarding the declassification of the creek.
Pokety Creek is six miles in length, located south of Guthrie, running along both Guthrie and Hart Lake Townships. Currently, over four miles of the stream is designated as a trout stream. According to Kingsley, the designation was put on the creek in 1958, but there are no records to substantiate what the conditions were like and why it was designated as a trout stream.
The DNR periodically stocked the creek with Brook Trout from 1958 to 1975. A winter reconnaissance from 1959 in the files is the first record of any surveys done.
According to Kingsley, some of the remarks in the report said there may possibly be no winter survival of trout and during a wet season the stream may support trout on a put-and-take stocking management.
"We did do a survey of Pokety Creek in 2000. We didn't sample any trout at that time," Kingsley said. "We've taken water temperatures on Pokety for two years-at one site in 2012, 2013 and three years at a second site from 2012 to 2014, and those temperatures were unsuitable for trout. We did another survey in 2014. We didn't sample any trout, and in fact, we didn't sample any cold-water fish species."
Kingsley noted the Pollution Control Agency did some sampling on Pokety Creek in 2012 as part of their watershed monitoring and they found similar results as the DNR, with no trout or cold-water fish species. The PCA has classified it as a warm-water stream.
"Based on those conditions, we don't feel that it's necessary to continue the designation of Pokety Creek," Kingsley informed the board. "We have no plans of doing any type of trout stocking. And we feel that removing that trout designation and the strict regulations that accompany it would be in the best interest."
Commissioner Cal Johannsen asked Kingsley if the warm temperatures of the stream were caused by beaver dams disturbing the flow of the water, to which Kingsley agreed that it was a contributing factor.
"We do some beaver control on some of our higher priority trout streams, but it's a pretty expensive proposition and it's temporary at best," he said. "That can warm the stream some, but we have 14 designated trout streams in Hubbard County and we have beaver in all of them. If the conditions are suitable for trout they'll be cool enough for trout."
Pokety Creek runs into the Necktie River, which according to Kingsley, is not a cold-water stream where the two adjoin. Further upstream, it is designated as a trout stream in the northeast corner of Hubbard County and managed as such by the Bemidji DNR Fisheries Office.
Commissioner Dan Stacey asked Kingsley if the trout upstream in the Necktie River would eventually work their way downstream into Pokety Creek.
"Not necessarily. They might hang in those water temperatures that are suitable for them," Kingsley said before explaining that the Necktie River flows into Hart Lake where the water warms up before it adjoins Pokety Creek.
Kingsley informed the board that the DNR Fisheries could stock the creek with trout and that they would survive during the season, but they have no reason to believe the trout would overwinter or survive long term.
Commissioner Johannsen asked, "What is the advantage to declassifying it as a trout stream?"
According to Kingsley, all of the strict regulations would be more lenient as far as replacing culverts, bridge work or any work in the stream that is regulated by the DNR or the Corps of Engineers, as well as more lenient fishing regulations.
"There's fish in the creek. There's just no trout or other cold-water species," Kingsley said in reply to whether or not Pokety Creek still provides adequate fishing conditions. He added, however, that the general public has poor accessibility to the stream. If it were undesignated as a trout stream, anglers would no longer be required to obtain a trout stamp to fish in Pokety Creek.
Commissioner Stacey said he spoke with a representative of the Minnesota Trout Unlimited Headwaters Chapter in Bemidji and they expressed concerns regarding the declassification of Pokety Creek. Their board has not passed a motion regarding collective input yet, but their process is to continue to make it viable again so that it can support the trout.
"We have 13 other designated trout streams in Hubbard County. We only actively manage four of those because they are the highest priority and the most suitable. We have better access to those and the trout populations are the best," Kingsley said. "The others would require a huge amount of money and effort to be able to support any trout and even then maybe only on a put-and-take basis. There is not enough money to actively manage all of those streams so we pick the best, not only for management purposes, but for the anglers as well."
"I would think that Fisheries and/or the DNR would be happy to have another entity, especially a private entity to assist in improving any creek or river," Commissioner Stacey implied about the Headwaters Chapter's interest in Pokety Creek.
"Correct. We work with the Headwaters Chapter considerably," Kingsley agreed, explaining that they have worked together to increase management efforts on other designated streams.
Most of the creek runs through private land, but the DNR and the county both own property along Pokety Creek.
DNR Fisheries is keeping track of comments they receive regarding the declassification of the creek. So far they have received comments both in support and opposition of declassifying the stream. After the comment period closes October 31 the DNR will compile all of the comments and make a recommendation and possibly move forward in the rule change process.
Hubbard County Commissioners passed a motion to write a letter to the DNR in opposition to declassifying Pokety Creek as a trout stream.