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Case Study: International Falls Area Fisheries

Clearing the Rat Root River.
Clearing the Rat Root River.

When walleye spawning habitat degraded in an important tributary to Rainy Lake, a collaborative effort between conservation groups, and local and state governments is what was needed to start making positive changes.

It's that type of collaboration that International Falls Area Fisheries Supervisor Kevin Peterson is most concerned about losing if the Game and Fish Fund is not adequately funded.

The number of walleye returning to the Rat Root River to spawn each spring has been steadily declining since the 1950s. What was once an important tributary to Rainy Lake had been deteriorating due to land use changes, soil erosion and log jams that prevented fish from thriving in what was once a productive spawning area.

The Rainy Lake Sportfishing Club and DNR fisheries staff worked closely with local governments to collaborate on a restoration project to begin the work of restoring this once healthy tributary.

To support the group's application for a Legacy Fund grant, DNR fisheries staff increased their monitoring efforts in the Rat Root River, including a walleye tagging study. The tagging study has shown the importance of this spawning run to all of Rainy Lake by documenting dispersal back to the North Arm basin, which lies entirely in Ontario.

With technical support provided by DNR staff, the Rainy Lake Sportfishing Club and the Soil & Water Conservation District were able to secure $277,500 to begin the work of restoring 15 miles of river spawning habitat.

The DNR plans to maintain its walleye tagging and monitoring as it has in previous years and hopes to increase survey work to locate erosion sites for future repair projects and further improve walleye spawning habitat.

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The bottom line?

Collaborations are important to the work of the DNR. Without adequate dollars in the Game and Fish Fund, DNR fisheries will not have enough people to provide the technical support needed to service the many good projects being proposed for Legacy funding.


What We Do: Highlights

International Falls fisheries work area map
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The Minnesota DNR International Falls Fisheries Area covers Koochiching and northern St. Louis counties. This area provides excellent and diverse angling for most of Minnesota's popular game fish species, and it offers the opportunity to catch lake sturgeon, the largest freshwater fish in North America.