The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources’ (DNR) growing emphasis on maintaining and improving fish habitat provides a broad framework to guide policies and practices. But where the rubber really meets the road is where the water meets the land – and most of that is private property.
That means much of the responsibility for maintaining healthy fisheries falls to lakeshore owners and the guidance of the DNR’s Aquatic Plant Management program (APM).
The APM program sets standards for the management of aquatic vegetation and establishes permit requirements for removing plants growing below the ordinary high water line. It works to strike a balance between preserving aquatic vegetation and allowing lakeshore property owners reasonable access to and use of the water.
“Some folks wonder what’s the fuss over all those weeds along their shoreline,” said Sean Sisler, DNR metro area APM specialist. “But a weed to one person is, to a fish, a home, a nursery and a grocery store. Get rid of all the ‘weeds’ and you’re also eliminating what the fish need to survive and thrive.”
Many of Minnesota’s most sought-after fish species depend heavily on aquatic vegetation throughout their life histories. Yellow perch, northern pike, muskellunge, panfish, and bass all depend on aquatic vegetation to provide food, spawning habitat, and nursery areas. Juvenile fish of most species feed on small crustaceans and insects that are abundant in stands of aquatic vegetation. Waterfowl, frogs, muskrats and numerous other critters also rely on shoreline plants for habitat.