Recent underwater footage shed more light on the complexity of invasive species in Minnesota.
Ron and Al Lindner, along with Ron's son, Bill, and other employees of Lindner Media Productions in Baxter, near Brainerd, produced a Department of Natural Resources video released last week titled "Aquatic Invasive Species: Minnesota Waters at Risk." Featured in each of three versions of the video (1 minute, 11 minutes and 24 minutes) is underwater footage showing infestations of zebra mussels in Mille Lacs and other lakes, underscoring the threat these and other problem plants and animals pose.
In an interview, Ron Lindner -- who with Al in the 1960s sparked the fishing-information revolution that continues today when they founded In-Fisherman magazine -- discussed how production of the video highlighted for him the size and complexity of the invasive species problem.
Q You and Al have known about aquatic invasive species a long time. But after filming and producing the new DNR video on the subject, has your opinion changed about zebra mussels and other invasive plants and animals?
A When you watch the video, you'll come to appreciate, as I did while making it, that there are critters of every shape and form in our waters now. And they're not going away.
Q Which critters especially impressed you?
A Zebra mussels and rusty crayfish. It amazed us when we found out how fast these mussels can proliferate. And the speed with which rusty crayfish can eat themselves out of vegetation! They mow it down like a combine.
Q You live on Gull Lake near Brainerd, which was first discovered to be infested with zebra mussels in October 2010. What changes, if any, have you seen in the lake since then?
A I've lived on Gull 45 years, and I've never seen the lake so clear. Zebra mussels do that to a lake, increase its clarity, which can change the lake in many ways, including increasing vegetation growth. Keep in mind, they were only discovered there a year and a half ago. Before that, nothing was attached to our docks and lifts when we pulled them from the lake in the fall. But last fall, the guy who does that for many residents along the lake said he had to clean zebra mussels off every dock and lift he pulled. I shutter to think what will happen in five years, or 10. They say the water will be so clear we'll only be fishing walleyes at night.
Q How do you think other fish and fishing might be affected?
A In the short term, it might be better for some species, a little better in some lakes. But what's going to happen after that, I don't know. It's a new game.
Q The DNR opened the invasive species video project to bids, and your company, Lindner Media Productions, in association with your son's company, Bill Lindner Photography, was selected. It's ironic, in a way, that you and Al were at the forefront of the fishing-education craze in the 1960s, showing and telling anglers where to find fish and how to catch them, and now you're educating anglers about major threats to fish and the sport of fishing.
A Forty years ago Al and I jumped from lake to lake, going wherever we wanted, looking for fish. Things won't be so easy now. Boats and trailers, obviously, are the top spreaders of zebra mussels, for instance. Minnetonka. Mille Lacs. Gull. The Mississippi River. They've all got zebra mussels now. These are the bodies of water that see a lot of traffic, and a lot of movement of fishermen in and out. You don't have to be a genius to see what might happen from here.
Q Can the spread of invasives be stopped?
A I don't really see how, not based on today's available technology. You can slow it by being careful and inspecting your boats and trailers. But milfoil can be spread by birds and animals. I think the answer is that if we're careful we can slow it down, until nature ultimately takes its course or there's some scientific breakthrough that changes things in our favor.
Q The photography in the video is outstanding, as is the production. Did your son, Bill, shoot the underwater footage?
A He did. Of course, we had some of that video already on file. But the stuff we shot new just amazed us, particularly from Mille Lacs. The zebra mussel explosion there is unreal.
Q How much editorial freedom were you given in the project?
A Originally, we submitted a script. But this was the DNR's project, and ultimately they had control. The script was rewritten, and rewritten again. We might have made a little different video than the one that ultimately was produced, had it been our project alone. Still, I think it turned out well. It's educational and informative. It gets you thinking about the problem and what you can do to help. It did me.
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Poll: Should the lake where the albino muskie was caught remain a mystery?