by Roland Sigurdson
Use Fishing in Minnesota's State Parks as a Way to Study Habitat
Minnesota has a long history of preserving special wilderness places in our State Park system. Throughout the state, most of us can travel to a state park facility in less than an hour and almost all of them have fishing opportunities. Here we highlight just four of the 69 state parks located throughout Minnesota. The four listed here have lake systems that offer fishing piers that are readily usable by youth groups and classrooms. By law, fishing piers must be accessible to all citizens and conform to ADA guidelines.
A number of the parks offer stream fishing, especially in the Southeast and Northeast, along Lake Superior. While streams can be a challenging location to take your group fishing, they do offer wonderful educational opportunities for habitat site studies. Streams often have the greatest diversity of aquatic life. These are prefect places to try Lesson 1:4 – Water Habitat Site Study from MinnAqua's Leader's Guide Fishing: Get in the Habitat.
One of the wonderful things about bringing your group to a state park location is that they will be able to see and understand how the local landscape looked before European settlement. Viewing the undeveloped shores of lakes andrivers in our State Parks provide a great opportunity to open a discussion about how natural shorelines can enhance and help preserve the water quality and species diversity in our aquatic resources. Consider using Lesson 3:3 – Wonderful Watersheds from the Leader's Guide Fishing: Get in the Habitat before heading out to the park to get your students thinking about how a landscape comprised of natural vegetation might differ from one that has been altered for other uses
Four Parks To Fish
Hayes Lake presents the opportunity to fish surrounded by an undeveloped shoreline, while listening to the splash of a paddle or the hum of an electric motor. Outboard motor use is not allowed on the lake; so bring a canoe or boat with an electric motor. If you don’t have a boat, you can use the fishing pier or pick a place on the bank near one of the picnic areas or campground. Located within Hayes Lake State Park, this 180-acre reservoir presents the opportunity to catch largemouth bass, panfish, and northern pike.
Located just 45 miles west of the Twin Cities, Lake Maria State Park offers a chance to do some quiet fishing and picnicking in a one of the few remaining stands of the “Big Woods,” a maple, oak, and basswood forest that once covered part of southern Minnesota. The fishing pier is a very short walk from the picnic area and parking lot. Some of the species available to anglers that visit the park are yellow perch, northern pike, black bullhead, bluegill, largemouth bass, and carp.
674 acres of pure water wilderness! Located just south of the Boundary Waters Canoe Area, Bead Head Lake offers anglers a chance for a BWCA style experience without having to leave some of the modern conveniences behind…unless you want to do that, of course.
Explore miles of shoreline by canoe or boat. Boat and canoe rental is available from the fishing opener (second Saturday of May) through the end of September. Also, try the fishing pier, accessible to all park visitors.The more popular species to fish for at Bear Head Lake are walleye, bass, crappies, yellow perch and bluegill.
Sakatah Lake, a natural widening of the Cannon River, lures canoeists to paddle the calm waters, and anglers to catch walleye, large mouth and white bass, northern pike, freshwater drum, bluegill, yellow perch and crappie. Anglers can access Sakatah Lake by boat at the public launch or from the accessible fishing pier.
Our Minnesota State Park System
Minnesota’s State Park System is the second oldest State Park System in the United States (after New York’s). In 1861, the Minnesota State Legislature established Itasca State Park to "maintain intact, forever, a limited quantity of the domain of this commonwealth...in a state of nature."
Currently, the Minnesota State Park System includes 66 state parks and 6 recreation areas, 8 waysides, 11 state trails, and 56 state forest campgrounds and day-use areas that comprising a total of 267,251 acres. Minnesota’s diverse state parks provide peaceful havens where visitors can enjoy wildlife, scenic beauty, tranquility and year-round outdoor recreation. The MN DNR is the state agency entrusted with the maintenance and management of this public trust.
Minnesota State Parks are a natural legacy set aside for future generations, and you!
Why wait? Make plans now to visit a Minnesota State Park and remember to bring your fishing gear!