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Winter kill on Atwater, Minn., lake means no fishing

The DNR fishing pier on Tadd Lake, a popular fishing spot for kids in Atwater, was empty this week and will likely be empty this summer after a total winter kill of everything except turtles. The DNR is now using Tadd Lake and Upper Tadd Lake as walleye rearing ponds and will stock it with a variety of adult fish next year. Tribune photo by Carolyn Lange

ATWATER — The fishing pier on Tadd Lake in Atwater, which usually attracts kids with fishing poles all summer long, has been empty this year.

It’s because the only thing they’re likely to catch is a turtle.

The combination of a long, tough winter and an aeration system that wasn’t working well resulted in a total fish kill on the tiny, shallow Tadd Lake and adjoining Upper Tadd Lake.

When the Department of Natural Resources went on the lakes early this spring they didn’t pull up one single fish, said Brad Carlson, assistant supervisor of the DNR Fisheries office in Spicer.

That information surprised the city council when the DNR gave them the news.

“We didn’t think we’d lost them all,” said City Clerk Goldie Smith, who said the lake is usually a “hot spot” for kids who bike there in the summer with a fishing pole perched on their handle bars.

Kids on bikes, “fish pole on their handlebars”

Smith has now been trying to let kids know they shouldn’t get their hopes up if they go fishing in town.

Her blunt advice is, “Don’t bother trying.”

But the winter kill and one-year hiatus should end up being a good thing for the future of fishing in Atwater because the lakes are now a clean slate, said Carlson.

Although some good pan fish were casualties of the winter, so were all the bullheads and carp that had gotten into the lakes in recent years through a drainage system during a high water incident, said Carlson.

All those rough fish were also victims.

In an agreement with the city, the DNR stocked Tadd Lake with tiny walleye fry about the size of a mosquito this spring and will use it as a rearing pond this summer.

This fall the DNR will remove the walleye fingerlings, which should be about six inches long by then.

Because it’s impossible to net out every fish, some of those walleye will be there next year, when they could be 13 inches long.

“They’re going to grow fairly rapidly,” said Carlson. “A productive lake like this where there’s winter kill – it’s a good thing.”

  The DNR will also stock Tadd Lake with adult crappies, blue gill and perch next spring.

“Hopefully they’ll have some good fishing next year,” said Carlson, adding that the DNR intends to manage the lake as a “kids’ fishing pond” with ample shoreline fishing options, like the DNR pier that was installed years ago.

Having a lake right in town close to the city park is a great opportunity for kids to “have fun and learn how to fish,” said Carlson. “It’s a nice opportunity for kids.”

But they’ll have to wait until next year for that opportunity, unless they’re hungry for turtle soup.

Carolyn Lange

A reporter for more than 30 years, Carolyn Lange covers regional news with the West Central Tribune.

(320) 894-9750