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Cormorants on Pelican Lake

The Minnesota DNR does a good job of managing the states resources. I have friends who work for them and they try to do their best but they agree that at times they do not take action when needed.

On Pelican Lake, north of Brainerd and the site of Breezy Point, there is a beautiful island, well it once was a beautiful island, which is now the home of a colony of 1,000-2,000 cormorants. The cormorant is basically an invasive species to our Minnesota Lakes as are zebra mussel, spiny water flea and Eurasian milfoil. The big difference is that the cormorants can be controlled and stopped from spreading with some planning.

The DNR knows how much damage cormorants do to area lakes where they gather in numbers. Much has been written and understood about them since the issues on Leech Lake and the DNR have had excellent success in controlling that cormorant colony and helping the fish populations on Leech Lake recover.

I knew first-hand the issues at Leech as I fished it often every spring, summer, fall and winter

since about 1990. The walleyes and large perch were abundant until about the year 2000, when it became more difficult to find walleyes and the perch slowly disappeared. Coincidentally the cormorants appeared in flocks of hundreds as you drove across the lake. Soon it became difficult to find numbers of perch and I, as many other fisherman, moved to Cass Lake and other area lakes for our fishing.

Now the same problem is appearing on Pelican Lake and in this case it is impacting the other small surrounding lakes all of which have fairly clear water and provide perfect fishing conditions for the cormorants.

On a foggy morning the first week of June this year I was on Pelican Lake at sunrise fishing walleyes and for the first hour watched as a steady stream of cormorants left the island and headed for area lakes and Pelican itself. I stopped counting at 1,000 birds.

If you ask Pelican Lake area local guides and fisherman they will tell you the same story, "Very few small walleyes are caught and few perch and cormorants are on the lake all day long.

Now compare Leech to Pelican: Leech is 110,000 acres with water clarity of 8.8 and Pelican is 8,367 acres with 16.5 clarity. Leech is 13 times larger than Pelican with half the water clarity, meaning the cormorants have an easier time in the Brainerd lakes area. And because of the small size of Pelican and large cormorant population, that is why nearby Lake Edward is being invaded daily by 100s of cormorants and are taking a toll on that lake also.

The DNR must decide.

Do they become reactive as the case was with Leech Lake? Where we eventually started to control the invasive cormorants and then also had to restock the lake. Or do we become pro active, as most good businesses are, and control the cormorants before Pelican and other area lakes fish populations become decimated.