Common carp, degraded habitat and water quality to be addressed
Area wildlife managers with the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources have begun the drawdown process on Cottonwood County’s Long Lake, located south of Westbrook. The temporary lowering of water levels on this 211-acre lake is taking place to improve fish and wildlife habitat as well as water quality.
Habitat in Long Lake has been impacted by large populations of common carp that degrade water quality and impede healthy growth of aquatic plants. Historically, Long Lake was an important resting spot for migratory waterfowl.
“Long Lake once attracted migrating waterfowl each spring and fall,” said Maggie Gross, shallow lakes specialist. “However, the turbid water doesn’t support the habitat and food needs of migratory waterfowl, so the birds are going elsewhere.”
Plans call for lowering water levels this fall to help induce a winterkill of undesirable fish such as common carp that uproot native plants and disturb bottom sediments through their feeding habits. The drawdown also aims to promote a greater density and diversity of aquatic vegetation. Lowered water levels mimic a drought, which can act as a natural “reset” to an ecosystem.
Minnesota DNR wildlife managers, in coordination with technicians from Ducks Unlimited, also hope to use low water levels to remove excessive sediment near the lake outlet. Sediment removal will help the current water control structure function more effectively.
Long Lake is a designated wildlife lake. This designation allows Minnesota DNR managers to help mitigate factors that affect water and habitat quality and quantity with tools that include temporary drawdowns. Information on designating wildlife lakes is available on the Minnesota DNR website.