Low water conditions await duck hunters

August 30, 2021

Waterfowl hunters need to be aware of low water on Minnesota’s wetlands, lakes and waterways when hunting seasons begin, starting with the experimental early teal season from Saturday. Sept. 4, through Wednesday, Sept. 8, and the early goose season from Sept. 4 through Sept. 19.

“With the low water conditions, scouting or checking ahead could make the difference between a disappointing hunt and a successful one,” said Steve Cordts, waterfowl specialist with the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources. “Hunters may also experience significant issues with launching at boats ramps on waterbodies that are shallow well beyond the ramp.”

Most of Minnesota’s wetlands, lakes and waterways have lower water, and in many places, the water level is drastically lower. Many shallow wetlands or temporary waterways are dry. Hunters are encouraged to scout areas ahead of time for water levels, vegetation densities and bird use. Hunter crowding could be an issue, especially on waterfowl opener, because hunters may choose to move to new locations if their traditional opener hunting locations are too dry.

The DNR also reminds waterfowl hunters to review the Minnesota waterfowl hunting regulations for new hunting opportunities and regulation changes.

Periodic droughts are natural occurrences. While droughts have real impacts on businesses, landowners, and natural resources, periods of low water also encourage aquatic vegetation growth important for food and protective cover for waterfowl and other species of wildlife.

These waterfowl areas are among others that may be difficult to access:

Marshall County
Thief Lake – The lake is currently 24 inches below target and water is well away from all of the boat launches. Hunters may not drive trucks into the wetland but are allowed to hand-back trailers to the water’s edge at the Maanum’s boat launch. Access will be very difficult with a boat and motor. The best access may be via a canoe or small boat that can be carried to the water’s edge. The Moose River access has sufficient water for boats, but the delta where the river enters the lake is very shallow and overgrown with vegetation.

Roseau County
Nereson WMA – The south impoundment and main pool at Nereson are both more than a foot below what is normal this time of year. Both areas have enough water for canoe accessibility.

Roseau Lake – Roseau Lake is completely dry.

Roseau River WMA – All pools are 6-24 inches below normal. At this time, access will be extremely difficult as a result of shallow water conditions, dense wild rice and submergent plant growth. Vegetative grow is thick outside of the main access channels, and outboard motor use will be nearly impossible beyond the main channels. Non-motorized watercraft and mud motors will make navigation more manageable but certain portions of the pools may be inaccessible this year without significant rainfall. The Roseau River is nearly dry but knee boots can be used for wading. All watercraft use on the river will be exceptionally challenging. Please check the Roseau River WMA webpage or contact the office at 218-452-7610 for updated conditions.

Grant and Douglas counties
Wetland basins fewer than five acres are largely dry. Larger basins are much lower than last year and will be harder to access as a result of extensive mud flats between upland and open water. Dense submerged vegetation will make it difficult to paddle across many of the basins. If hunters can reach open water, duck hunting could be good, as bird numbers look respectable and there will be fewer wetlands with water than in most years.

Becker, Norman and Mahnomen counties
All temporary and seasonal wetlands are completely dry, semi-permeant wetlands are low with exposed mudflats along the shores, and most small streams and ditches are dry or nearly so. Hunters will find larger wetlands and lakes 1-2 feet lower than last year, and access at boat ramps will be difficult. Low water levels have been great for aquatic vegetation growth and wild rice in particular is very abundant, which is great for ducks; however, thick rice and low water levels will make access into the rice stands extremely difficult.

Polk County
Shallow wetlands are extremely low-to-dry, and most small rivers and streams are dry. Lake levels and deeper wetlands, along with flows of major rivers, are down significantly. Exposed mudflats may make reaching open water problematic. Deeper lakes in the eastern part of the county will be the draw for most waterfowl. Dry conditions are not deterring sandhill cranes that are staging in the county and Canada geese are feeding in harvested wheat fields.  

Lac Qui Parle/Big Stone counties
Marsh Lake—Drought is keeping water levels low on Marsh Lake in west-central Minnesota near Appleton. The basin, scheduled to be refilled in late summer and fall, has not received sufficient rainfall to raise water levels that can ensure boat traffic for waterfowl hunters. The lake is slowly filling, but has a long way to go before reaching its goal elevation of 938.00 feet. DNR wildlife managers lowered water levels to allow vegetation to become established. They kept water levels low through the spring and early summer to protect and strengthen that new vegetation.

The new conditions are expected to create great hunting, but even experienced hunters may have some challenges finding their way around the lake. Hunters should be ready for more than 3,000 acres of new emergent vegetation, which has not been seen in more than 75 years. Scouting ahead of time will be important for this entirely new experience on Marsh Lake. For now, the only way to access the lake is either by foot or on the Minnesota River off the Louisburg Grade.

More information on waterfowl hunting is available on the DNR website.