Trash Building Up On The Shores Of Lake Mille Lacs

By James Schugel, WCCO-TV

— 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.

  • Arthur Howard

    I want to thank WCCO for meeting with me and reporting thius situation.
    I however was not pleased with the fact that I repeatedly emphasized the fact that it is a very small percentage of people that created the mess. The way it was reported made it sound like ice fisherman in general were to blame and quite frankly it made me look bad.
    It would be nice if WCCO took 10 seconds tomorrow night to clarify this. It is enough that there are a few that take my concern in a negative light and now you can bet that there will be a lot of negative comment toward me and I suspect on the news piece in general

    • Arthur Howard

      I also emphasized that my main concern was the hazard to boaters but you completely omitted anything about that

      • Arthur Howard

        I also said that I like to fish too, but always remeber to pick up my trash. Sometimes the news makes me super mad, but I am glad I had the chance to talk to them.

        • Arthur Howard

          This person is using my name… I did not post this

      • Dave L

        They kind of pick and choose what they want to. They think they know better.

        • Mike

          Arthur, you have now learned your lesson – Never talk with supposed “reporters”.

      • Jason

        They also like to censore if you make sense. So be careful what you say.

    • Steve Fellegy

      Shame on wcco for not telling the WHOLE story and that this is a “normal” sight within days of ice out and and locals clean it up EVERY year without fail asap. Talk to more veteran, in the know people on the story next time!! Very poorly and unfairly conveyed on the true facts. Shame on Howard for not insisting the other side of the story be in his report. We asked Howard to get it right but he refused.

      Steve Fellegy
      Lake Mille Lacs

      • Arthur Howard

        Steve..I repeatedly told the facts. about cleanup, small percentage causeing the problem and my main concern of safety ..I cannot help what they edited..and yes I have learned my lesson with CCO…Hopefully KARE 11 will do a better job tonight at 10

    • BadMedia

      This is typical of any news story written or spoken. The media is trying to sell advertising through falsely exciting readers and watchers. The media and advertisers have taught society to exaggerate, and lie, lie, lie for the sake of the almighty dollar bill. Pathetic.

  • Michael Clark

    Hmmm….I’d like to hear a comment from James Schugel on this one; as the reporter doing this story, how would you respond to Art Howard’s comments, Mr Schugel? I can agree that the media does NOT always do their reporting accurately.
    Wat do you want to bet I’ll not get a response on this?

    • Arthur Howard

      I se3nt an email to MR Schugel last night and to this point have no reply about How I felt that he did a poor job with his interview with me…I am really sorry I ever called them

    • Arthur Howard

      YOU are right…as of this evening still no response from MR Schugel from the email I sent last night

  • karl

    Maybe the DNR should step up their enforcement of any and all regulations having to do with Ice fishing and throw in littering into the mix. Better yet, take the sum cost of removing winter debris from the lake that is a consequence of these fisherman and assess every registered shack owner on the lake equally. There is a record or a registration process of shacks on the lake aren’t there? Then maybe that type of pressure would force those losers who can’t take the small amount of time to dispose of their garbage to either cut themselves off after the tenth beer or the 2nd pint in order to function well enough to remember that it is a resource that ought not to be spoiled. With this realization, who knows, those offenders might not use an excuse to ice fish to avoid their families or become even bigger drunks than they already are. Littering is expected to an extent among the city dwellers in the Twin Dumps of Minneapolis and St. Paul. Being a dweller in the capital dump, I always thought the smaller communities north of the Twin Dumps had a higher standard for themselves and their communities. Don’t lower your standards and embrace the lowest common denominator that is so prevalent in the Twin Dumps. As usual it is the fifteen percent who wreck it for the remaining eight five percent.

  • Adam

    Since you were on ML for this story, why not report on the tribal netting going on just beyond the wood? That’s the real story! All the lost nets in the ice, and waste of resources. The wood gets picked up by the locals and used for firewood, but that must be the better story.

  • Steve Fellegy

    WCCO owes the Lake Mille Lace people the other side of this story! The WHOLE story!!

    • yesssirrrreeeee Steve

      Stevey baby – you are about to experience one hell of a headache as you nurse this one away …..
      tequila shots again? Ouch

    • Lacking a brain some are

      not hardly junior, not hardly

  • radovich

    Hire more officers and shoot to kill boys.

  • reality

    This is not just ignorance of ice fisherman. Take a look at any road ditch.

  • Steve Fellegy

    The FACT is that this is a NORMAL site as the ice goes out on EVERY heavily ice fished lake and that, in fact, it is an annual event for the locals to quickly gather it all up. If the right person would have been interviewed, the WHOLE story could have been told and easily understood! There NEVER are blocks of wood or trash on the lakes surface within a few days of ice out!!! Shame on Howard and WCCO for NOT allowing the true facts out on this subject.

    • Arthur Howard

      So you choose to repeatedly beat up oin me rather than the fact that they did not air the facts that I told them that I thought were inmortant…They in fact edited out what I thought was important

  • Sam

    Steve; I think you’ve made your point.

  • Jay

    The point of the whole story is that the locals shouldn’t have to deal with this every year… People should take care of their own crap…

  • Tony Zahradka

    Art Howard is totally ignorant of this subject. We are talking about WOOD, a biodegradable substance that occurs naturally in the ecosystem. The locals pick it up every year and reuse it or use it as firewood. The REAL story on Mille Lacs in the spring is the pillaging of the resource by gill nets! This REAl story is ignored by the news? What a waste of time, WCCO has nothing better to do than follow the rant of a lunatic, to a non-issue?

    • JG is not a spin doctor

      Aaaah Tony – much of this “wood” is of the treated variety so it doesn’t rot over the season. Now if that is something you want floating around as it breaks down please come up and load up and take it home to your swimming pool or bathtub eh

  • Wake up people

    Naaaaa – honkys and drunks and human trash that call themselves sportsman.
    They sure do frick up a lot for many of us.

    I don’t give a rats arse how much of a hurry you are in, what the weather is like, whatever excuse you use – this is pathetic to see, there is no fricken excuse for it and if you typing and attempting to “defend” or explain the issue YOU are part of the problem.

  • Oldstar

    The wood is always picked up! Burned or re-used depending on what type it is. Of course so is left behind but come on it is wood! 1000’s of man hours are put in cleaning up the ice in the spring by resorts and citizens. Some blocks get froze in too far, this is unavoidable. It happens to some extent on every lake in the state that has fish houses. This area of debris was from the entire lake 100.000+ acre lake due to high winds. Non-story…..

    • Jan weighs in

      Me has to wonder why, if it’s a non-story, it became a story?
      To get to that point someone had to make a call or many and then the process begins
      I used to live in Garrison. I’d be inclined to say there was more litter tossed on the the land in the water. Truckloads and truckloads. People, especially those who don’t live in the area, don’t really care what they leave behind
      I’m now up in Ely area — the people who come through are totally different in the respect they show to land and water. For all I know it may be the same people but they act in a different way when here?? Whatver the reason – it is very different in this area and I love it

    • Arthur Howard

      REALLY ?? Lets see how much gets picked up in this 3+ ,mile stretch where there are no houses or cabins …..

  • Monkey

    I am with Steve on this, this is a joke, the reporter and Howard and the natives are all in cahoots.

    • kidding me primate

      go spank your monkey dude – the bottles, cans, and litter become my problem. Obviously you don’t give a chit who has to clean up do you

  • Kent

    I am glad the story came out. I hate polluters. The fines should be much larger.
    People conveniently forget to pick up their crap because they know there is little consequences if they don’t.

  • Beddie0507

    After I read this article, my impression was that you have a few negligent people who trash our beautiful state–I pick up trash as I walk along the Minnesota River in Bloomington. I commended Mr. Howard for bringing this to everyone’s attention, for all of us who pick up trash. I wish I had stopped at the end of the article. When I read Mr. Howard’s comments, I read small-town, right-wing Republican that was upset that he was not able to write the article instead of the liberal left-wing media guy. Mr. Howard, your biases ruined the article turning it into something it wasn’t, rather than a helpful and enlightening article it was.

    • Arthur Howard

      LOL got your reporter/reportee mixed up do you LMAO

  • successNOT

    The trash increased when Casino was built, the indians are probably mad because it might hinder their fishing, lol i said fishing, i mean netting, go drink some whiskey shut it

    • Purple brandy

      you a funny drunkydude there, ol’ unsuccessfull one. Pretty fitting name ya got too ;-)
      Bet ya a wad of panty liners the vast majority of that trash comes from the users and abusers who frequent the lake and the casino. That would put them a about 95% caucasion…..but that fact likely would be above your head to digest I suppose.
      It’s probably only 5% of the people who are human pigs but that number is disgusting enough. Actually – even a pig somewhat picks up after itself by eating it all.
      I love these boards – Minnesota is truly the state of racists. Black – Hispanic – Native American – Asian – you panty wadders hate them all.
      cya click

      • successNOT

        Glad u didnt retort the netting comment, dirty fake fishing indians, i dont go to the casino so i could careless, ok chief unemployed

      • Jason

        Wow, someone has a bad attitude. Wrap your arms around your pillow and bite hard, fall asleep its just a bad dream. Also try not to wet the bed this time.

  • Manny M

    I was just up in area yesterday and did my traditional drive around the big old saucer. lol
    Nice day and indeed the shorleines have a large amount of debris and litter on them which is disgusting. The picture above represents what I saw in several areas very well.
    What can be done to stop this is not something I can venture a guess on. One would think if they called themselves an outdoor enthusiast and fisherman it would not be an annual event but it seems to be > and gets worse as the years go by. Leech Lake had similar issues years ago but today I do not see it as much as previously.
    I’m not about to say this is traffic/car generated litter. It’s from those that use the water/ice.
    Is it that hard to just clean up after yourself when you leave? It can’t be or this whole country would look like this shoreline and it doesn’t.
    It’s a shame is what it is

  • jmeyer

    The article is only written with an a agenda. If not an agenda it is written with pure incompetence. Sportsmen in general are not pigs. Howard I hope you learned your lesson with our ultra liberal media. I have been fishing this lake for 30+ years and have a fish shack out of the Reddoor on the North Shore. I can tell you Fred and his staff work very hard at retrieving debris such as blocks or trash. I can also tell people I never have seen nor hit a block with my boat. I have logged alot of hours on this lake so I must be very lucky. The resorts and shoreline owners retreive these in the spring. Sometimes these blocks freeze in due to thawing and refreezing for those of you not educated on the topic. So I will venture to say those blocks you are seeing are ones that froze in and could not be retreived before spring. Guess what spring is upon us and there are some blocks. The moral of the story is there are bad apples in any activity. On another note I would like to know where wcco’s cameras are when native nets are reported stuck in ice. What about those nets in the past that are not retreived or are but with dead fish. Sad to begin with knowing these fish willl never spawn. How about the native tents, campfires and fish cleaning operations setup on Mille Lacs public accesses. Where are the camera’s??? Mr. Shugel please take your camera to the annual netting event. If you don’t knowwhen this occurs it usually happens from ice out until quota met. Mr. Shugel please take note of the signs on every access. They state it is unlawful to camp, have fires, drink alcohol. Why is there not enforcement action taken on the natives? Are those rules only for non-natives? Nets have a much larger effect than a few blocks of wood. So for you so-called tree huggers go check out the slaughter. The slaughter of fish in there spawning grounds. If you have not seen what goes on I think you will be very disappointed that such a small group gets to consume so much at the most vital time of year spawning season. Thats why us non-natives have a season to protect fish in there most vulnerable state. Also a protected slot to protect those most successful spawning females. The sportsmen of Mille Lacs in large part are very concerned about this resource and are not the pigs portrayed by WCCO.

    • Report it

      I for one would like to see an article on the net fishing so the word get out to all on the netting problem

  • David M

    Steve, I know you make much of you living off this lake but the shame is on you for your comment!! “Shame on Howard for not insisting the other side of the story be in his report. We asked Howard to get it right but he refused.”

    If Mr. Howard reported on the trash, and that it was left by those using the lake, as supposed sportsmen or partiers… whatever, it doesn’t matter, and it is not his fault if the media edited or slanted the report. If he told the truth, related to the junk washing up on the shores of any lake, it is not his responsibility if others misrepresent or misreport that truth. It is also not his responsibility to discuss items of interest to others even if there are other truths to be told as well. As a lakeshore owner, one should not have to annually be burdened with the responsibility of cleaning up for the irresponsibility of others PERIOD!! Of all people, you should know that.

    Some people need a kick in the but either because their parents never told them to be responsible and take their trash out if they take it in (or they are not smart enough to understand that on their own), or they make a conscious, or other decision to do otherwise.. It really doesn’t lessen the problem just because a wood block may degrade in the environment over 10 years; it still creates an eye sore for years. Much of the other trash ends up on the bottom of the lake and never makes it to shore. You wouldn’t like it if strangers threw trash in your back yard would you?

    I have hunted and fished for over 40 years and each year am exposed to things left in the woods and waters, or roadways that are left by irresponsible people. I don’t know why people just can’t bring out what they bring in with them.

    People don’t get after someone for mentioning the annual problem left by irresponsible people. Don’t expect others to baby-sit your kids or look the other way when they misbehave in public. Don’t just let your dogs go to the bathroom in your neighbor’s yard, be responsible and be a good citizen of this state and the planet we live on.

    Thank you.

  • ml laker

    hahahaha the tables have turned on Mr Fellegeedy, go cry to someone who cares

  • angelnord

    could someone tell me if the ice glaciers are gone from st albans shoreline?

  • angelnord

    can someone tell me if the glaciers are gone from the shoreline on saint albans bay, so i can go clean up my beach.

  • swerver

    Oops i mis-interpreted this article, i thought trash building up on shores of mille lacs meant indians were builing homes on the shore. I didn’t realize they meant the other trash.

    • Hate Haters

      Really swerver???, your too stupid to insult!!

  • Arthur Howard


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