Fisheries habitat on agenda at annual 'roundtable'

  • Updated: January 8, 2014 - 12:01 AM

For Don Pereira, the key to maintaining Minnesota’s fishing quality is habitat.

“The reason why fishing is so good in Minnesota is because we have a large, diverse suite of robust native fisheries, and those come from healthy habitat,’’ said Pereira, a 30-year fisheries research and management veteran who was recently named Department of Natural Resources fisheries chief.

Restoring and protecting fish habitats will be a major goal, said Pereira, 55, of Cottage Grove. Pereira will be among the speakers at the DNR’s annual roundtable meetings Friday and Saturday in Bloomington.

The annual two-day invitation-only event will be attended by about 300 citizens and 100 DNR employees.

The agency’s wildlife, fisheries and ecological and water resources leaders will hold sessions with citizens. Topics range from deer and moose management to updates on the Lake Mille Lacs and Upper Red Lake fisheries to issues involving invasive species and clean water.

Pereira, who had been the DNR’s fisheries research and policy manager since 2007, oversees a $30 million fisheries budget and a staff of nearly 300. He plans to tell those at the roundtable the importance of diversity in fishing and fisheries management.

“We have 4,200 lakes that we manage for sport fishing, and thousands of miles of streams; there’s plenty of room for specialized management while also providing the opportunity for people to harvest fish,” he said. “Let’s not pass judgment on another person because they fish differently than we do.’’

Pereira said the state’s fishery is in excellent shape. “Obviously we have some problems,’’ he said, citing Lake Mille Lacs as one example. But he said he’s a glass-half-full person.

“We’re seeing some fantastic fish productions in some systems. Red Lake is over the top. At Leech Lake, we think there are too many fish in the lake. Lake of the Woods harvest is off the charts.

“The muskie guys will say they are too crowded, but compared to 20 years ago, there’s far more bigger muskies in the state. The sturgeon recovery has been a huge success. Trout fishing in southeast Minnesota hasn’t been this good in a long time. Lake trout in Lake Superior is close to being fully restored.’’

Many questions remain. A statewide survey revealed that 40 percent of trout anglers fish trout on lakes in northern Minnesota.

“We didn’t anticipate that. We’re doing a follow-up survey to learn who those customers are and what drives them to the northern trout lakes,’’ Pereira said.

DOUG SMITH

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