By James Schugel, WCCO-TV
ONAMIA, Minn. (WCCO) — One of Minnesota’s premier lakes looks more like a dump.
It’s a real mess on Lake Mille Lacs up and down its northeast coast. Some estimate the mess stretches up to four miles.
“Look at that 6×6 block down there,” said Art Howard, a local resident and fisherman, as he pointed into lake. “And you can see all the other 4×4 and 6×6 blocking down there.”
Everywhere he looks, he doesn’t like what he sees. The wood blocks and even some trash are sitting within a stretch of ice. There are also empty beer cans and bottles. But the second the ice starts melting, what’s left of the ice-fishing season starts washing ashore. It’s like clock-work, Howard said.
“It’s disgusting! It makes me mad! It makes me mad people can’t respect the resource,” Howard said.
It’s what those fishermen forgot or intentionally left behind. It’s littering, and it’s also illegal.
“Oh, it’s the ice fishermen! It’s ice fishermen,” he said. “This is all backing under their houses.”
“It’s kind of atrocious,” said Conservation Officer Scott Fitzgerald.
He doesn’t know of a state program that will clean it all up. That responsibility, he said, rests with those who left the junk behind.
“It’s the responsibility of the ice shack owner. When they’re on the ice, anything left around there, the blocking, they need to chip it out. It’s their responsibility to do that,” he said.
State conservation officers say they’ll fine anyone they catch littering on a state lake. That fine is about $200, depending on what county it’s given in.
But Howard said he wants tougher penalties, like taking fish house licenses away, for anyone caught leaving litter. He supports anything that will make Mille Lacs look better.
“I just enjoy getting out here, walking along the lake,” he said.
Walking along the lake is a spring time tradition for Howard, but he can only see the full beauty of the lake when the garbage is gone. He’s already helping the shoreline look a lot better. He’s picked up two loads of the big blocks, and he’s hauled them away.