Reporting Gordy Leach
WACONIA, Minn. (WCCO) — While there is a lot of disagreement in Washington D.C. over many issues, it seems fishing in Minnesota has the power to unite political parties.
Republican Rep. John Kline and Dem. Collin Peterson are supporting a measure to better control cormorants on Lake Waconia, one of the best fishing lakes in the metro area.
For the past several summers, the cormorants have roosted on this 32-acre island in the west end of Lake Waconia. The problem is that the bird population has grown so much they are decimating the fish population in the lake.
Bad fishing for people means a reduction in Waconia’s income. The cormorants have left a certain Lake Waconia island for the winter, but they will be back in the spring. Their numbers have grown in recent years, to the point where people feel they need to save the lake’s fish population.
“They are putting pressure on the fish in Waconia, they are taking out large numbers of fish and making it very, very difficult for fish to continue growing until they can be caught, so they are a pest,” said Waconia Mayor Jim Nash.
Leech Lake had a similar cormorant problem in 2005. In that case, the island where the birds roosted was owned by Native Americans, who worked with state and federal authorities to reduce the flock from 5,000 cormorants to 1,000.
The law change proposed by Congressman Kline would allow more state management of the birds. Right now, federal permits must be obtained to shoot the birds.
“We want to thin the herds, we want to put it back in balance, and because that balance is what is necessary to keep our fish growing, our economy growing,” Nash said.
While there may be people who want to leave the cormorants alone, it’s hard to find those folks in a town where even the Halloween decorations include a fishing theme.
“We continue to have phenomenal fishing, but it’s all in sizes of fish that didn’t fit into a cormorant. We’re missing a lot of those that cormorants like to eat,” said Cindy Mase with In Town Marina.
One reason the cormorant numbers continue to grow is that they feed all winter long at fish farms in the southern states.