Boaters flocking to one west-metro lake on the busy holiday weekend found hundreds of dead pan fish washing ashore.
An estimated 500 to 1,000 dead crappies were reported at the boat access on Lake Independence in Maple Plain over the long Memorial Day weekend.
And while fisheries experts from the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources will investigate the issue on Tuesday, DNR leaders say boaters shouldn’t be alarmed.
“Every spring we get this,” said DNR Lt. Jackie Glaser, who supervises conservation officers who patrol west-metro lakes. “We’re not concerned at this point.”
She said it’s likely that the small pan fish were affected by the rising temperatures in the past week. Every spring, fish in area lakes are affected by the quick increase in water temperature, and about 50 to 100 fish die in every lake, Glaser said.
This year, with the significant fish kill in Lake Independence affecting a larger than usual number of fish, Glaser said the DNR will take a closer look at the issue this week.
The lake is located next to Baker Park Reserve and the boat access is owned by the Three Rivers Park District. Glaser said the park district and DNR would work together to clean up the dead fish as soon as possible.
Busy boating weekend
As for boating on the busy holiday weekend — considered the unofficial kickoff to Minnesota’s boating season — no major incidents or boating-related deaths were reported by law enforcement authorities in the metro area or the state.
It’s one of the busiest boating weekends of the year, next to July 4th and Labor Day, and this year was no exception, with authorities reporting heavy traffic on area lakes — especially on the west metro’s popular Lake Minnetonka.
The Hennepin County Sheriff’s Office issued a warning before the holiday weekend, urging boaters to wear life jackets and to have a sober driver. On Lake Minnetonka, boaters can borrow free life jackets for the day on Grays Bay, Spring Park Bay and Maxwell Bay as part of the Kids Don’t Float program.
According to the DNR, 30 percent of boating deaths in Minnesota involve alcohol, while nearly 90 percent of boating-related drowning victims weren’t wearing a life jacket.
Last year, 18 people died in boating-related incidents in Minnesota — the highest number of boating fatalities in a decade. The DNR said 10 of the 18 deaths last year were men ages 20 to 60 who weren’t wearing life jackets; alcohol, excessive speed or weather conditions all were contributing factors.