In the name of hooking more kids on fishing, a 60-foot fishing pier will be built on McDonough Lake at Lebanon Hills Regional Park.
And to keep fish stocked in the lake alive through the winter, an aerator will be installed in the lake this fall.
Both improvements -- financed jointly by the Department of Natural Resources and Dakota County Parks -- are part of a metrowide strategy known as FIN, or Fishing in Neighborhoods. By stocking more than 60 small lakes and ponds in the metro area, the DNR's goal is to get fishing poles in the hands of children.
"As the state's population has become increasingly urbanized, it has become evident that there is a growing need for easily accessible fishing opportunities close to where people live," the DNR explains on its website. FIN's objective is to promote and continue what has been one of Minnesota's most popular family-oriented pastimes.
"We're hoping to give people their first experience where it's real simple and easy to do," said Jim Levitt, senior fisheries specialist for the FIN program. By stocking the lakes, "we are getting people out fishing in areas where they wouldn't have fished before because there wasn't anything to fish for."
Lebanon Hills loans fishing poles to park visitors, and people fish at McDonough Lake -- which is directly in front of the visitor's center off Cliff Road -- five or six days a week in the summer. By adding the pier and the aeration, "we are trying to generate more use at that site," Levitt said.
Since the program started in 2001, the DNR has built fishing piers on about 20 of the lakes. It's easier and safer for children to fish from a pier, Levitt said.
About 20 of the lakes have aerators. McDonough will be added to the list because many of the fish the DNR stocks in the lake in the spring die the following winter from lack of oxygen in the water. The lake is surrounded by trees that inhibit natural aeration by wind and waves. Then when the lake freezes and is covered by snow, oxygen levels drop, killing the fish.
The park will install the electrical outlet for the aerator at the edge of the lake. When DNR readings find the oxygen level dropping, park officials will cut a hole in the ice with a chainsaw and plug the aerator in, he said.
Typically the DNR stocks the lake annually with a few hundred bluegill and crappie and will add smallmouth bass when the aerator is in, Levitt said. The idea is that the aeration will keep some of the bigger fish alive so it won't have to be stocked as often, said Steve Hart, parks facility specialist in Lebanon Hills.
Children can fish for free and adults who are not fishing can accompany children (but not fish) without a license, Levitt said. Anyone 16 or older must have a license to fish either on a pier or from a boat, although some state parks now allow fishing without a license in another attempt to introduce people to fishing, he said.
Nationally the purchase of fishing licenses has been declining over the past decade. In Minnesota, the number is holding steady.
Laurie Blake 952-746-3287