Social issues on agenda at ’02 Fishing Roundtable

Field Editor

St. Cloud, Minn. Fishing remains a top recreational activity for
Minnesota residents and tourists, but the pressures of population
growth and development will challenge efforts to maintain quality
fishing in the state.

That was the message delivered to participants on the second day
of the 2002 Minnesota Fishing Roundtable. Three presenters, state
demographer Barbara Ronningen, state tourism representative Carol
Altpeter, and DNR fisheries biologist John Hiebert talked about
social and environmental trends that are changing Minnesota and its
fisheries.

Using data from the 2000 Census, Ronningen reported that
Minnesota is experiencing strong population growth, driven in part
by immigration. The state is becoming more racially diverse and,
although the overall population is aging, minorities have a much
younger population.

One in five Minnesota children lives with a single parent, a
factor that may affect recruitment into activities such as hunting
and fishing. Statewide, 74 percent of children live in married
couple families. Nearly one-third of Minnesota households are
comprised of married couples with no children.

Tourism is a growth industry in Minnesota and shopping is the
number one tourist activity, said Altpeter. The Cabela’s store in
Owatonna was the state’s number two tourist attraction in 1999,
drawing 3.9 million visitors. However, visitation was dwarfed by
the number one attraction, the Mall of America, which had 43
million visitors.

While Minnesota tourists are shopping until they drop, a
sizeable number also find time to wet a line. In a 1999 survey, 19
percent of non-Minnesotans and 25 percent of Minnesotans said
fishing was one of the reasons they planned spring and summer
excursions in Minnesota. One third of Minnesota travelers
participate in outdoor recreation.

Roundtable participants seemed less than satisfied with
Altpeter’s response to questions about marketing fishing
opportunities. In addition to hosting the Governor’s Fishing
Opener, the Office of Tourism does some advertising and has a
fishing brochure. However, the state agency does not aggressively
market fishing or communities that are dependent on fishing
tourism.

Lakes with heavily developed lake shores may be less attractive
to anglers and offer fewer fish to catch, reported Hiebert.
Shoreline and shallow-water vegetation vital spawning habitat for
some fish species disappears with development, often removed by
property owners seeking “clean” beach areas. Studies have found
that in some Minnesota lakes, virtually all largemouth bass and
crappie spawning occurs along remnant, undeveloped shorelines.

As development increases, both along the lakeshore and
throughout the lake watershed, water quality decreases. Clean,
clear water generally supports desirable fish communities that
include game fish. Lakes with poor water quality have fish
populations dominated by bottom-feeders such as carp and
bullheads.

The presenters did not draw overall conclusions about how trends
converged to affect Minnesota fish and fishing. DNR facilitator
Brian Stenquist said addressing the trends could be a topic of a
future roundtable.

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