“The biggest dividend for High Island Lake is cleaning the watershed.”
Those are the comments of Lee Sundmark, of the Department of Natural Resources’ fisheries division. Sundmark was among the speakers Thursday night at a public meeting in the New Auburn City Hall, to provide an update on the High Island Lake project. More than 50 area residents attended the meeting, that was sponsored by the High Island Lake Association and the Friends of High Island Lake.
The drawdown of High Island Lake will be continuing this year because of the unusual winter, there was not as significant of a kill as was hoped.
Sundmark said that several reasons the drawdown may not have been as successful as hoped is that this area did not have the typical March weather, which may have provided an additional two or three weeks to have a significant fish kill. This area also didn’t have a significant frost, and many tiles flowed all winter.
Sundmark said he and the DNR Fisheries are still committed to stocking more than four million walleye fry in the lake, but it is being postponed a year. The stocking is expected to cost $21,000, and Sundmark said he was concerned that too many of the fry would get eaten.
Another incident that affected the drawdown is that this spring, the Friends of High Island helped pay for reconstruction of an outlet of the lake. Water from the creek pushed in the new construction. The DNR has agreed to help rebuild it.
Data from 15 trap nets set by the DNR April 7 showed that some bullheads have been reduced, and the carp may have been reduced but moved back in when the new construction of the outlet was pushed in by the creek.
Data shared by Sundmark showed the change in black bullheads. In the first trap, they were reduced from 450 to 150. In the second trap, whey were reduced from 500 to 160. In the third trap, they were reduced from 400 to 350. In the fourth trap, they dropped from 500 to 180, and in the fifth trap, they increased from 200 pounds to 275 pounds.
Carp numbers increased from 212 to 281, and black crappies increased from 15 to 41. There were very few sunfish, which Sundmark explained indicates a partial winter kill.
Plans are for the Friends of High Island to construct a rain garden in the park the end of May. The barley straw project of last year, in which bales were placed in the culvert near the lake, will be continuing this year. Joel Wurscher of the High Island Creek Implementation Project said that tests showed a trend of decreasing phosphorous.
When asked if it would be feasible to use a pump for the drawdown, Sundmark didn’t think so because it would be too labor intensive.
The DNR’s plan for the management of High Island Lake was shared at the meeting. Management objectives, as stated in the plan, are to continue current water quality monitoring program utilizing local citizens to collect data, increase utilization of conservation best management practices and programs and reduce nutrient loading, increase the abundance of submerged vegetation to improve water clarity, fish, waterfowl, aquatic invertebrate, and aquatic plant habitat, utilize the lake as a walleye-rearing pond and harvest fall fingerlings and spring yearlings for stocking other waters, allow an opportunistic boom and bust fishery of carry-over walleyes.
Six members of the High Island Lake Association will be forming a committee to meet with the DNR, in hopes to incorporate some of their plans for the lake, into an even larger long term plan.
Because of cost-sharing opportunities, area residents can install rock tile inlets for free. Cost sharing for the program is available through Wurscher and County Water Planner Ron Otto. The Friends of High Island are willing to pay the remaining cost, not covered by cost share, for property owners.