young girl fishing

Fishing is at the heart of what it means to be Minnesotan – and we can protect it for generations

By Team ULLU

In the Land of 10,000 Lakes, it’s not exactly a surprise that so many people love fishing. Jason Dworshak, a third-generation Minnesota fisherman counts himself among them.

Fishing from the shores of our Minnesota lakes and streams as a kid, he spent plenty of lazy summer days reeling in bullheads and—ah, the excitement!—the occasional sunny. The abundance of bullheads was a clear signal that the water quality wasn’t so hot, but he was a kid and the thrill of a fish on the line was hard to beat.

Things have changed.

Today, as he returns to his favorite childhood fishing holes, he bumps into families introducing their children to the thrill of fishing. He watches as kids haul in sunnies left and right. They tell him excitedly that they sometimes catch bass in these spots. Bass! He simply couldn’t have imagined that when he was younger.

Thanks to the work of lots of committed people, the water quality has improved all across the State of Minnesota, and along with that, fish habit. It’s pretty exciting.

Unfortunately today, Minnesota’s fish are facing a new challenge.

Our warming waters are threatening Minnesota’s most iconic fish

A recent article in the Star Tribune had Jason—and those of us at ULLU HQ—thinking about our state’s lakes and streams, about the fishing traditions so many of us Minnesotans love.

The story highlighted the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR)’s project to save cisco.

While you may not have heard of cisco before, some of your favorite species of fish depend on them—as do your future fishing memories. Why? Cisco are an important food source for our most iconic Minnesota fish—muskie, northern pike, and our beloved state fish, the walleye.

As a cold-water fish, cisco have a hard time surviving in water above the mid-70s.

So, as our planet warms—and our lakes warm right along with it—cisco can find themselves trapped between the warm water above and the low-oxygen water below. At times, the survivable water in the middle of the lake disappears.

That’s why the DNR is now taking action to preserve our cisco by protecting “refuge lakes.” These are particularly deep lakes surrounded by lots of natural vegetation—conditions that help maintain the cold, oxygen-rich water cisco need to survive.

For those of us that love to cast out a line hoping to hook a good fish story, these refuge lakes will be essential to ensuring our iconic Minnesota fish species are around for generations to come.

Jason Dworshak with a largemouth bass (Micropterus salmoides)

Jason Dworshak loves fishing in Minnesota and hopes to protect fish, so his children can enjoy Minnesota’s wild spaces. Seen here with a largemouth bass (Micropterus salmoides)

How Jason ensures future fishing enthusiasts can trade big fish stories of their own

ULLU asked Jason if he’s made climate-conscious decisions to protect the bass and walleye that have been a fixture in his life. His answer: A resounding yes.

Here’s how Jason does his part:

  • Packs his food and drinks using reusable and recyclable containers—reducing waste and helping keep our lakes garbage-free (Jason always packs cans of Grain Belt Beers)
  • Trolls less, and drifts and anchor fishes more, cutting down on his fossil fuel use
  • Puts his electric motor to work as much as possible–he enjoys the serene lake travel, and his fellow fisherman and women nod their thanks for not scaring away their next big catch
  • Eats his catch—reducing his impact by eating as local as it gets
  • Turned his compost pile into a nightcrawler bed, and harvests his own live bait
  • Prefers to fish with minnows or leeches, reducing his plastic lure use
  • Replaced his beloved, old silver Johnson with a quieter and more efficient 4-stroke motor—reducing his carbon emissions and keeping oil slicks off our lakes

ULLU tips its faded Bass Pro Shops cap to Jason. Thanks for helping protect Minnesota’s proud fishing heritage!

Is fishing an important part of your life? ULLU would love to hear all about it. Tell us about your favorite Minnesota lakes to fish, and share your biggest fish story.