Access questions: Where can I access a stream? Who owns the stream? Explain the trout special regulations and where they are in effect.
Access is controlled by the owner. Much of the Whitewater streams is in public ownership. Most private landowners will allow access if you ask for permission. In the Whitewater watershed there are numerous special regulations to be aware of. There is also a special winter season on some of the Whitewater trout streams. All of this information and more is now available in the new DNR publication called "Trout Angling Opportunities in Southern Minnesota". This new booklet is available at local DNR offices such as Whitewater State Park, Whitewater Wildlife Headquarters, and Crystal Springs Trout Hatchery. It is also available from the fisheries management stations at Rochester, Lake City, and Lanesboro. These booklets are free!
Where is the best place to fish trout in the Whitewater area?
The trout fishing is good to excellent in all designated trout waters in the area. We do not like to recommend specific locations as it tends to overcrowd these areas. We suggest you obtain a copy of the booklet "Trout Angling Opportunities in Southern Minnesota" and set off on your own to discover the diverse trout angling opportunities that await you.
Where is the best place to fish in Whitewater State Park?
We suggest that beginners fish upstream of Trout Run Creek and that experts fish downstream of Trout Run Creek. When you fish in Whitewater Park is probably more important than where you fish. The park can have a lot of human activity at times so it is important to find a quiet spot. On weekends we would suggest that you fish an hour before sunrise till around 8:00AM. By that time campers will be up and active. On weekdays however, you can find quiet spots in the group camp area, in the picnic area, behind the swimming pool and up Trout Run.
Are there any brook trout in the Whitewater area?
Yes. There are natural populations in Trout Valley Creek and Trout Run, and also in a number of tributaries to the Whitewater.
I was going to go trout fishing, but the stream was muddy. Can you catch trout in muddy water?
Yes, if the current is not too swift. Some anglers have their best luck in waters that are just starting to get cloudy or are just starting to clear up. Some anglers like to fish for "the big ones" in muddy water. Generally, you will catch fewer fish in muddy waters but you may catch some larger sized fish.
Who needs a trout stamp?
Anyone in possession of trout or salmon and anyone fishing in designated trout lakes, designated trout streams, and Lake Superior must have a trout stamp EXCEPT children under 16 years old, resident adults 65 years or older, people with a 24-hour license, or people exempt from licenses or who receive a license at no charge.
How is my trout stamp money spent?
Habitat improvement, stream easements and trout/salmon hatcheries.
I heard that the rainbow trout you stock migrate to the Mississippi River. Is that true?
Rarely. Migration is a genetic trait which has been bred out of the fall-spawning rainbows. However, all species of stream trout may move as far as one mile upstream or downstream seeking suitable habitat. Stocked rainbow trout disappear from the streams more quickly than brown trout mainly because they are more vulnerable to angling pressure.
I saw a group working along the stream banks putting in logs and wooden crib structures. What are they doing and why?
They are doing stream habitat improvement. It provides homes for larger-sized trout and helps to stabilize stream banks.
Why do you sample stream trout populations with electro-fishing gear?
Because it is the most effective means to gather census information on fish in these areas. Nets are not as effective on trout.
Where do trout go during floods or high-water events? Are they washed downstream?
During bank-high water events, adult-sized fish are affected very little, but young-of-the-year trout may be adversely affected. Catastrophic floods are more likely to impact fish populations but the effects on habitat are more critical. During an occurrence of high flood waters, trout will seek out cleaner and less turbulent water, up or downstream. They may even end up in a spring or be stranded in a puddle.
I saw a lamprey. Do they kill trout?
No, brook lampreys are the most common lamprey in the Whitewater streams. They are native, non-parasitic filter feeders which actually help to clean up the streams. They are the good guys. Do not confuse them with the destructive sea lamprey in Lake Superior. You may also see some 2"- 5" sculpin in the shallow rocky areas of the stream. Sculpin look like a pre-historic bullhead and like to hide in the rocks. Sculpin are native to Whitewater and are an important food source for large brown trout.
Are there any other fishing opportunities in the Whitewater besides trout fishing?
Yes. There is good angling for cool and warm water species in the Mississippi River and the Weaver Bottoms located at the junction of State Highway 74 and US Highway 61. There are also some coolwater species that frequent the lower end of the Main Branch Whitewater and in some of the pools managed for wildlife in the Whitewater Wildlife Management Area.
Is the fish hatchery open for tours on weekends?
No. Due to budget constraints it is not possible to staff the hatchery on weekends.
Fishing the Whitewater after the Flood
Fall electro-fishing coupled with past history indicate that there are still fishable populations of trout out there. Remember that numbers were at the low end of the cycle before the flood. What you will see is that the streambeds have been re-arranged and that the stream bottoms are cleaner in many places. Probably the most dramatic is the widening of the streambed and flood plain. You are going to have to re-discover your favorite stream as if it were your first time fishing it.
Note that the road (County #112) past Crystal Springs which takes you to the snowmobile bridge on the South Branch, is open. There is a new snowmobile bridge in place now so you can walk across the stream there.
DNR QUESTION OF THE WEEK - (from OCTOBER 30, 2007)
Q: It's been about two months since the devastating floods in southeastern Minnesota. Now that DNR fisheries experts have regrouped and evaluated conditions, what's needed to return the Whitewater River and it's tributaries to quality trout fishing conditions?
A: I have been asked this question many times since the flood and I think the answer is very simple, "water quality." Floods and the resulting changes in stream appearance don't make or break the stream. If the watershed was in good shape before the flood then the streams will recover quickly. Although rocks and pools got moved around, the fish will be back. In a sense, the streams merely threw back at us the silt we have smothered them in, and in places now resemble mountain streams. How long will it take before the silt smothers them again? That is the real question here. With the changes and trends in cropping practices in the southeast the future doesn't look good. We have passed the peak of water quality and are now looking at the result of a region that has changed from dairy farming and the associated rotation of oats, alfalfa, pasture and corn, to corn/soybean row cropping. The flood has little to do with it but it will make a good excuse for those that don't want to acknowledge the slower less dramatic destruction that is happening on the landscape day to day.
- John Huber, hatchery supervisor, DNR Crystal Springs Hatchery