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About Fishing: AIS Prevention 2017 Challenges Facing Hubbard County

Hubbard County is surrounded by lakes with Aquatic Invasive Species. West of us, Big Detroit and Big Cormorant was announced last summer of having zebra mussels. To the east, Leech Lake, and to the north, Red and Turtle Lakes have starry stonewort, as does Lake Koronis to the south. These are bodies of water so familiar to Hubbard County area anglers. A need for new challenges and responses. Starry stonewort is one of those new challenges.

Pastor Chip Nielson of Riverside United Methodist Church in Park Rapids commented, "Starry Stonewort, found in both Red and Turtle lake, grows on the surface and will clog up your motor if you try to drive through it. Fishing shallow areas becomes very difficult or near impossible and could cut off fish from their spawning habitat. Imagine launching your boat and having to paddle through surface 'weeds' for 60 yards to get to deep water. Starry Stonewort! It's a disaster! I see it as a greater threat to swimming, boating, and fishing than zebra mussels. It will take a number of years to grow to that stage in Red Lake (if not contained), a popular destination for Hubbard County anglers. We don't want to see any more lakes become infested."

We all need to acknowledge and agree with the efforts to stop further AIS infestations in Hubbard County and in the state. At the base level, education of boaters with reasonable enforcement. Hubbard County, aided by COLA, has done a good job of stopping most AIS from entering our local lakes. Fishermen will take the steps necessary to slow or stop the spread of AIS but become skeptical of efforts not backed by scientific facts. Data that is hard to come by, reason yet to be determined and research information yet to be obtained and in process.

Jeff Forester of the Minnesota Lakes and Rivers Advocacy Association has this to say about angler responsibility: "It is up to anglers to clean, drain and dry every time. If we are moving quickly from one lake to another, seek out decontamination services. It is free and will significantly lower the risk that you are the cause of a new infestation."

Decontamination, power washing with 140-degree water temperature, is a service available at the Hubbard County Transfer Station.

Forester on access: "Access to our public waters is a core Minnesota value, but it means more than simply being able to put a boat in the water. Is it access if the lake is so choked with starry stonewort that your motor becomes fouled? Is it access if zebra mussels have caused a massive blue green alga bloom and the lake is unswimmable? Is it access if dense mats of weeds prevent water skiing, sailing or recreational boating? Protecting access means protecting the recreational activities that make access so valuable. Protecting access means protecting lakes from AIS spread."

Pastor Chip added, "The lakes of Minnesota are clearly public property meant to benefit and be enjoyed by all Minnesotans. The group working behind this AIS event is not advocating limited access, which seems to be a sensitive issue for many anglers. We're pushing awareness and getting people on board with taking appropriate actions including: drain, dry, and decontaminate. "

Good practices may help to change the minds and hearts of people who would want to limit access.

Are you on board, still a skeptic or just concerned? Come to Riverside United Methodist Church Monday evening March 20, 7 to 8:30 p.m., and attend the workshop. Get your questions answered on the 2017 challenges facing Hubbard County and AIS prevention.