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kelly-p

Zebra Mussels

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kelly-p

Red Lake Nation confronts a new invader: zebra mussels

Written By: John Enger / Minnesota Public Radio | Sep 4th 2019 - 7am.

LOWER RED LAKE, Minn. — Surrounded by Red Lake Nation and open only to tribal members, Lower Red Lake has stayed largely insulated from the world — the only big walleye lake left in Minnesota still free of invasive species.

 

That’s why the discovery of zebra mussel larvae earlier this year in Upper Red Lake put tribal scientists and reservation leaders into crisis mode. The destructive creatures are on the reservation’s doorstep. The worry is they’ll spread quickly to Lower Red Lake, threatening the reservation’s economic and spiritual core.

 

It’s a reality that’s left some Red Lakers frustrated and angry that they are about to pay for what they see as the poor environmental vigilance of Minnesotans outside the reservation’s borders, not cleaning boats and letting the pests spread to waterways across the state.

 

They’re looking for answers, but there is no solution for a lake so huge.

 

“The tribe trusts us to care for their lake,” said Shane Bowe, the tribe’s water resources director, as he and tribal biologist Tyler Orgon boated across the widest part of the lake earlier this summer, collecting water samples. “We take that very seriously. I wish there was more we could do.”

There’s some debate over just how much zebra mussels might affect Red Lake. Different water bodies react in different ways, and specific outcomes are hard to predict.

 

Whatever happens, it will not be good. Zebra mussels can crowd out native mussels and filter out massive amounts of algae — the food that drives the walleye fishery.

 

“A lake can only support so much biomass,” Bowe said. “If the zebra mussels start at the bottom of the food chain and replace a million pounds of biomass with themselves, that’s our whole walleye harvest.”

 

‘We all feel the pain’

Zebra mussels have infested hundreds of Minnesota lakes and rivers in the 20 years since they first turned up in Duluth harbor in the ballast waters of an oceangoing ship. With their razor-sharp edges and ability to crowd out native species, they’re equal parts nuisance and pernicious force.

 

But the damage they could deliver to Lower Red Lake could be especially bad.

 

Lower Red is the largest body of water in Minnesota and the most prolific walleye fishery in the state — producing 1 million pounds of walleye every year.

 

Tribal elders believe it’s sacred. Only tribal members are allowed to fish it, which is why it has stayed so pristine. Researchers use it as a control group to understand how infestations of zebra mussels and spiny water flea hurt other fisheries.

 

While completely contained within the reservation, it’s connected by a mile-wide strip of water to Upper Red Lake, which the tribe only partially controls. The treaty that created the Red Lake Reservation was supposed to give the tribe all of Upper Red, but a little less than half of the lake was never turned over.

 

Now, the east side of Upper Red is lined with cabins and resorts, owned by people who are not part of the tribe. Based on where the young zebra mussels were found, it was most likely one of those white anglers who brought them to the lake.

 

Tribal secretary Sam Strong is still furious at the discovery. Zebra mussels could put 500 fishery jobs at risk, but the anguish lies deeper.

 

“This is our storehouse,” he said. “It’s woven into our way of life. The lake is like one of our relatives. It’s hard to watch your brother or sister or mother getting poisoned. That’s how I see it. That’s how a lot of us see it. When the lake comes under attack we all feel the pain.”

 

Strong blames the fishery managers in charge of Upper Red Lake. He says there weren’t enough invasive species inspectors to keep boats from bringing in the zebra mussels.

 

“It’s just the same story we’ve heard for centuries,” Strong said. “The neglect of our resources.”

 

‘How am I supposed to battle that?’

The fates of Upper Red and Lower Red lakes are connected, Strong said. The tribe has put a huge amount of work into keeping their lake clean, and he believes the state didn’t match the tribe’s effort.

 

On paper, that’s true. There are three public boat launches on Upper Red Lake. Only two are ever staffed by boat inspectors, and only for a few days a week during the busiest time of the year.

 

Fewer than 1 in 10 boats entering the lake are inspected for invasive species.

 

The state pays out $10 million a year to counties to build their own boat inspection programs. In Beltrami County, Minn., which includes the nontribal part of Upper Red, there are 19 inspectors divided among 49 public boat launches.

 

“It would be impossible for us to do what the tribe does,” said Bruce Anspach, who runs Beltrami County’s boat inspection program.

 

Anspach said he sends as many inspectors as he can to Upper Red — and any more would leave other lakes totally unprotected. He doesn’t have enough money or people to watch every lake all the time.

 

Neither does the tribe. The reason Lower Red Lake is so healthy, he said, isn’t because of any massive boat inspection program. It’s because of tribal values.

 

“The tribe sees their lake as a relative,” Anspach said. “So do I, but I’m working with a lot of different people groups. Sometimes I run into anglers who think invasive species are inevitable. And they see my inspections as a violation of their freedoms. How am I supposed to battle that?”

 

Testing, and waiting

When zebra mussels were first confirmed in Upper Red, the Minnesota DNR announced that they’d be working with the tribal DNR to find a solution. It turns out, there aren’t any solutions to be had.

 

Fisheries managers have had some success killing zebra mussels with copper sulfate treatments, but everyone agrees that wouldn’t work on Red Lake.

 

Copper dioxide only works in small ponds or shallow bays.

 

Upper Red alone is almost 200 square miles — more than three times the size of Minneapolis. There’d be no way to pinpoint the treatments.

 

The Minnesota DNR also announced that they’d increase watercraft inspections on Upper Red, which Anspach said they’ve done, slightly. The county bought a line of TV and local radio ads to educate anglers on the prevention of invasive species.

 

For now, however, there isn’t much more to do but collect data and wait.

 

On a calm, sunny morning, as Bowe navigated the Red Lake DNR boat, the lake was totally empty — a strange sight in a state obsessed with walleye. If it were any other lake, the water would be swarming with anglers.

 

Bowe stopped the boat every few miles to take water samples. He and Orgon checked for clarity, pH levels and a whole subset of temperature, chlorophyll and phosphorous data.

 

Though they work for the Red Lake DNR, a tribal entity, their samples are sent to the state for analysis.

 

Orgon collected zooplankton in a big cone of filtration cloth resembling a windsock. It’s these plankton samples that are important right now. If zebra mussels spread to Lower Red Lake, this is where they’ll show up.

 

This story originally appeared at: https://www.mprnews.org/story/2019/09/03/red-lake-nation-confronts-a-new-invader-zebra-mussels of story Questions or requests? Contact MPR News editor Meg Martin at [email protected] © 2019 Minnesota Public Radio. All rights reserved.

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leech~~

So, no one from the Tribe fish other off Rez lakes in the area with their boats.  Only Lower Red? 🤔

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kelly-p

Nope, the tribal anglers don't lake hop like the State anglers.

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leech~~
1 hour ago, kelly-p said:

Nope, the tribal anglers don't lake hop like the State anglers.

 

Really, not for rice or nutten? 🤔

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PRO-V

Instead of blaming the white man and state they should blame the Federal government for allowing the overseas bilgewater to enter our country. We all hollered about this for years but the shipping industry won out due to our politicians bending over. Now they've finally changed the rules, but too late. And now it's the common man paying for all the destruction. I think the industries that caused it should pay for and clean it up. I can't imagine how you can clean your boat good enough to kill ALL larvae unless you only go once a year or only one lake.

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Kettle

There was a lake this past year on the iron range found to have zebra mussels in it. I do believe it was a pit, with no structures on it, no access and never a history of boat traffic yet still had zebra mussels which leads one to believe they could be transported via birds. I think it's only something we can keep at bay but do think it will unfortunately continue to grow.

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leech~~
1 hour ago, Kettle said:

There was a lake this past year on the iron range found to have zebra mussels in it. I do believe it was a pit, with no structures on it, no access and never a history of boat traffic yet still had zebra mussels which leads one to believe they could be transported via birds. I think it's only something we can keep at bay but do think it will unfortunately continue to grow.

 

I still say Waterfowl is bring it to one lake from another.  It can take them minutes to hop from one lake to another without their under feathers even drying! 

Edited by leech~~
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bowhuntingboy1

Not to offend anyone, but since when do native care about the walleye population??

 

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DonkeyHodey

Statewide, I believe a vast majority of damage to water quality is a result of land usage (which falls on the shoulders of landowners/people calling it "home"--not necessarily lake utilizers).  (i.e. --Overdeveloping shorelines, fertilizer usage, waste management, farming practices, etc...)

 

I'm not a lake land owner, but the vast majority of "intervention" (in the name of invasive species) is all directed towards those who utilize a public access...

 

(oh, and by the way, I'll agree that a significant number of anglers, frankly, are slobs--littering line/bottles/trash and leaving rainbow stains on the water surface...  As a counter point though, I'm aware of anglers that specifically as part of their fishing gear carry a trash bag with them; the intent being to clean up other slobs' mess.  Sadly though, they are the minority, I know...)

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PRO-V

We have a very small lake on the edge of town that almost nobody fishes in the summer and very few in winter. A number of years ago they found purple loostrief (sp?) And the closest lake that had it was a hundred miles away. But a pharmacist with a floatplane lived on the lake. Hmmmm...... this is a lake I doubt a boat brought it from another location.

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bowhuntingboy1
23 hours ago, kelly-p said:

WOW! Well, you've offended me. The Red Lake Band members care more about URL and LRL then sport anglers. For the Band members URL and LRL are home. For the sport anglers URL is just a destination that they will fish hard when the bite is good then just move on to a different lake when the bite slows down. Many sport anglers only care about a lake the day they are fishing on it.  More and more sport anglers have this vision of themselves that they are great knights in shining armor sitting on their mighty steed and that the world revolves around them. The garbage they leave behind and the  dangerous driving habits because they are in a hurry to get to the lake or get home tell a different story.

Let me rephrase this. I'd argue that they care, but dont show it. I personally dont find methods such as spearing and netting mass numbers of fish very good for the population. I dont think it's a coincidence that for the few years netting stopped at mille lacs, the walleye population rebounded drastically. Nor is it a coincidence that for recent memory up until the last few years, when sport anglers were allowed to keep a very limited number of fish at a limited size, as it still is, but the population continued to struggle compared to how it was in the past. I'd attribute this to tribal netting, now obviously sport fishers are large contributors as well, but I think if everybody used rod and reel under the same regs, these lakes would be able to maintain their heavy populations for everybody to enjoy.

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bowhuntingboy1
4 minutes ago, bowhuntingboy1 said:

Let me rephrase this. I'd argue that they care, but dont show it. I personally dont find methods such as spearing and netting mass numbers of fish very good for the population. I dont think it's a coincidence that for the few years netting stopped at mille lacs, the walleye population rebounded drastically. Nor is it a coincidence that for recent memory up until the last few years, when sport anglers were allowed to keep a very limited number of fish at a limited size, as it still is, but the population continued to struggle compared to how it was in the past. I'd attribute this to tribal netting, now obviously sport fishers are large contributors as well, but I think if everybody used rod and reel under the same regs, these lakes would be able to maintain their heavy populations for everybody to enjoy.

After a bit more research, I now see that red lake band members haven't been able to net for a while. I wasnt aware of this and I am sorry I made the previous comment, as it applies more to the mille lacs tribe than anyone else. But one thing to note is ever since natives were allowed hook and line only, the red lake population has sustained a solid walleye fishery for everyone, even with relatively loose limits.

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bowhuntingboy1
2 hours ago, kelly-p said:

In case you missed it this about URL and LRL not Mille Lacs. This about the Red Lake Band not Mille Lacs Band and a number of other Bands including some from Wisconsin. my view is the biggest problem with Mille Lacs is that people will not quit fighting and throwing rocks at each other. Here we left the past behind and sat down and talked. There were a lot of differences but we all found middle ground. The results speak for itself.

  I've worked with a lot of the Band members from the Ponemah. They are some of the  hardest working and honest people you will ever meet. Many of them are trying to raise their families on less money then some sport fishermen spend on fishing equipment.

You will not come on this forum throwing rocks at the Red Lake Band without a response from me. Other forums and Facebook pages will welcome comments like yours with open arms, not this one.

I see you added more. The Red Lake Fisheries still has net teams working the Lakes when hook and line fishing slows down but it is tightly regulated and the Band is still harvesting less pounds per acre then sport fishermen fishing the State waters.

A few years back when I was driving across the Reservation a young person was fishing off the Sandy Creek bridge and I stopped to see how he was doing. He was fishing with rods and reels like we threw away 20 years ago. He was using all plastics because he could not afford live bait. Seeing as he had no vehicle he walked miles with his gear and Fisheries cooler everyday to get there. It was a could rainy Spring day but there he was fishing without a rain coat in the rain.  As we talked I learned that he was hoping to catch enough fish to turn into the Fisheries that he could make enough money to buy his Mom a TV. It had been a long time since they had a TV at home. If fishing went really good he might buy himself a raincoat too.  THESE ARE THE PEOPLE YOU WANT TO THROW ROCKS AT?

  I spent my entire life working with sport fishermen until I quit about 5 years ago.  I quit because the attitude and demeanor of sport fishermen was changing dramatically.  They were becoming more angry and rude and more of the "It's all about me!" attitude. Seeing comments like yours reminds me we made the right choice walking away. We don't miss it.

I am not trying to be rude and I dont have a selfish mentality. We have seen red lake nearly depleted of walleyes and mille lacs struggling, and I attributed this to netting. I noticed the red lake band had far more strict regs on this and stepped back and apologized. I am not looking to throw stones at anyone, I just think netting shouldn't be allowed in any scenario, no matter who it is, and that you cant have 2 sets of rules for 2 sets of people in the same area, it just doesnt work in my eyes. We share the lake, we share the rules, just my opinion. And on the issue of sport fisherman vs natives harvest, of course sport fisherman are gonna harvest more, because there is far more sport fisherman. 

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bowhuntingboy1
1 minute ago, bowhuntingboy1 said:

I am not trying to be rude and I dont have a selfish mentality. We have seen red lake nearly depleted of walleyes and mille lacs struggling, and I attributed this to netting. I noticed the red lake band had far more strict regs on this and stepped back and apologized. I am not looking to throw stones at anyone, I just think netting shouldn't be allowed in any scenario, no matter who it is, and that you cant have 2 sets of rules for 2 sets of people in the same area, it just doesnt work in my eyes. We share the lake, we share the rules, just my opinion. And on the issue of sport fisherman vs natives harvest, of course sport fisherman are gonna harvest more, because there is far more sport fisherman. 

All I am attacking is netting is essentially what I am saying.

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FowlSki
4 hours ago, bowhuntingboy1 said:

We share the lake, we share the rules, 

 

Except we don’t share the lake.  Whitey is only allowed on a small portion of red.  If the lake has a walleye problem in the future, nets will be the primary contributor just like they were in the past.

 

I think the red lake Indians care very much about zebs.  They create clearer water pushing the fish deeper which means they’d have to set their nets deeper which creates more work and more gear.  No one likes more work when they are looking for an easy meal.

 

Fortunately red doesn’t have great habitat to support a big zeb explosion but only time will tell.

 

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mulefarm

I’m not sure Mille lacs is struggling? Maybe the dnr wants people to think so, but go fish it and report back.

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bowhuntingboy1
3 hours ago, mulefarm said:

I’m not sure Mille lacs is struggling? Maybe the dnr wants people to think so, but go fish it and report back.

It's not now, but it was for a while

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kelly-p
3 hours ago, FowlSki said:

Except we don’t share the lake.  Whitey is only allowed on a small portion of red.

Be happy we fish the part of URL we do. The Reservation Boundary has been in dispute since right after the signing.  The Red Lake Band wanted the eastern boundary 1mile east of the Red Lakes meaning 1 mile east of Waskish. The US Government put the east boundary 1 mile east of LRL. The Band has always called the eastern part of URL the "stolen part of the lake". The dispute has never been resolved and I imagine it will be in court someday.

 

3 hours ago, FowlSki said:

They create clearer water pushing the fish deeper

Remember that LRL is more then twice as deep as URL. What if the walleyes all move to LRL? The zebras will not remove the tannin from the water so that should help with the water clearing but the food chain could really take a hit. URL is mainly a sand mud bottom, maybe they can not attach? Also I understand that sheepshead eat them.

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halad

Stand on the shore of my place in January and look to the NW and you will see where the fish go and where the garbage comes from in the summer you can walk the shore line and every 20ft. find a white plastic bag partially buried in the sand.

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ozzie

Tension sure ran high at times for them that is for sure!  We have some interesting stories from encounters on the ice also...with that being said, that is in the past and now they are stories of Red Lake lore!  I hold no ill will and wish everyone the best for sure...people can change can't they 401TE?

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401TE

Sure they can.  As I said, I moved on but I do not forget things like that.  When someone shows you their true character you don't ignore it, or forget it.  If you want to, go for it, but it's done at your own peril.  

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Rick
1 hour ago, 401TE said:

Sure they can.  As I said, I moved on but I do not forget things like that.  When someone shows you their true character you don't ignore it, or forget it.  If you want to, go for it, but it's done at your own peril.  

I removed your post. You've moved on from it so let's leave it in your memory. Please.

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