Lake Winnie designated 'infested waters'
Lake Winnibigoshish's designation as infested waters will mean a change in habits for anglers and boaters.
Anglers and boaters must adhere to stricter rules on Lake Winnibigoshish near Deer River because the lake has been designated "infested waters" under state regulations.
The infested-waters designation was made May 7 because of an exotic species, the faucet snail, first found on the lake in 2007. The snail is a host for a trematode that has caused the die-off of hundreds of scaup and coots on Lake Winnibigoshish during the past two falls' waterfowl migrations.
Winnie's designation as an infested water will have broad implications.
"I think it's a real big deal," said Chris Kavanaugh, Department of Natural Resources area fisheries supervisor at Grand Rapids. "It's important we get the word out to folks so they comply with the laws that are intended to reduce the risk of spreading invasive species to other waters."
It remains unclear what implications may be on commercial minnow harvesting on the lake. That harvest is controlled by the Leech Lake Band of Ojibwe. Big Winnie, a popular walleye fishery, is an important source of shiner minnows that anglers use in walleye fishing.
Once a lake is designated "infested waters," a new set of rules apply. Anglers may not transport infested waters, including water from boats, livewells and bait containers. Those rules are now in effect on Lake Winnibigoshish, and signs were posted at landings earlier this week, said Luke Skinner, who supervises the invasive species program for the Minnesota DNR.
"I think it's going to be a big deal with the draining of the livewells and stuff," said Ben Kellin of Ben's Bait in Grand Rapids.
In addition, anglers may no longer trap minnows for personal use on Big Winnie.
Kellin is concerned about possible changes in minnow trapping on Winnie.
"This is a major source of bait for us," he said. "For the next three weeks, every shiner we get will come out of Winnie. My bait man is all up in arms about it."
The DNR's Skinner and the Leech Lake Band's Susan Kedzie, invasive species program coordinator, both said the agencies will work together to determine how commercial minnow harvest can continue on Big Winnie. No immediate changes are planned, each said.
The faucet snail, about ¼- to 3/8-inch in size, is native to Europe. It has caused the die-off of waterfowl on the Mississippi River near LaCrosse, Wis., since 2002.
Sam Cook is a staff writer for the Duluth News Tribune. The News Tribune and the Bemidji Pioneer are both owned by Forum Communications Co.