Restoring and enhancing stream habitat

Image of a trout stream

Streams support a rich variety of life and provide excellent fishing opportunities for smallmouth bass, walleye, brown and brook trout and lake sturgeon.

People in the past altered some streams by straightening them, building dams, adding ditches nearby that increased flow, and by removing streamside vegetation which caused stream banks to erode. DNR and partner organizations work to protect and repair streams so that they provide quality fish habitat.

Dam removals or modifications

Fish can once again return to critical habitats after DNR removes or modifies dams.

Fish use a variety of habitats in different seasons and at different stages of their lives. Many fish spawn over gravel riffles that may be miles from deeper pools where they stay over winter. Dams can block fish from reaching high-quality habitat. In some cases, critical habitat may be completely lacking and sensitive fish species do not survive.

Project highlight

Before removal

Free flowing river

On the Pomme de Terre River in Appleton, a dam built in the 1930s prevented fish from accessing habitat above the stream.

In 2018, DNR removed the dam with the help from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. Following removal, 10 fish species including walleye and channel catfish returned to 42 miles of river upstream of the dam.

Stream channel restoration

From eroded stream banks to straightened streams, attempts to make streams move water more quickly often have harmed fish populations. DNR restores these streams in a variety of ways including planting trees along the shore, and building a meandering stream channel to replace a straight one.

Project highlight

Better river bank on the Vermillion

Along the Vermillion River near the town of Vermillion just south of the Twin Cities, DNR partnered with Trout Unlimited and used Outdoor Heritage Fund grant money to protect a failing and eroding river bank and improve trout habitat.

The project added a 25-foot wide bench of rootwads and woody material along 150 feet of the eroding bank. New riffles in the stream also created enhanced trout habitat and protected the stream from erosion. Nearby areas that were part of the project are now seeded to crops and native wetland grasses and forbs. DNR placed large boulders – 16 to 24 feet wide – in the area to benefit turtles and other nongame species.

The project provided more diverse and deeper fisheries habitat; shaded the stream better so there is less potential for water to warm; reduced erosion; improved angling access; and benefited habitat for deer, pheasant, turkeys, doves, waterfowl, and other wildlife.

Before, a steep and eroded river bank.

After, a protected bank and improved habitat.

Partnering for habitat

Image of a trout stream
Image of a trout stream

Cities, counties, watershed districts and the federal government are all partners with the DNR to improve stream habitat. Funding can come from:

  • The Outdoor Heritage Fund
  • The Clean Water Fund
  • The DNR Game and Fish Fund
  • Federal sport fish restoration money
  • Proceeds from trout stamps purchased by anglers.

Beyond the stream itself, the DNR partners with other agencies and groups to improve
land management practices surrounding trout streams.