Location: Cook County, MN
Contact: Gitche Gumee Chapter
Implementation: Substantially completed in 2013 with final wrap-up in 2014.
Partners: Trout Unlimited and MNDNR.
Habitat for native brook trout will be enhanced in a 1,500 foot reach of stream in the heart of Minnesota’s storied brook trout country. Over the past 50 years and more, numerous streams in Cook County have had habitat improvement projects completed, primarily aimed at increasing the wild brook trout cover which had been stripped away during the settlement era. Many of these improvements have been very effective and these streams are popular fishing destinations for Cook County residents, fishermen and women from across Minnesota, and tourists drawn to the angling from outside the state. These streams are what most people think of when brook trout fishing is mentioned. They include streams such as the Cascade River, Irish Creek, Little Devil Track River, Junco Creek, Kadunce Creek, Kimball Creek, Poplar River, and many others. Many old habitat structures are now in very poor condition and no longer functioning properly, if at all. In addition, habitat enhancement practices have evolved over the past 20 years, and old improvement sites can in many cases be enhanced or modified to provide much greater resource benefits.
In 2011 MNDNR fisheries personnel conducted field inspections of past habitat improvement sites in Cook County and began developing a catalogue describing the present condition and further enhancement needs of dozens of stream reaches in Cook County. More than 100 separate stream segments have been assessed. Minnesota Trout Unlimited will use the final catalogue as the basis for identifying a top priority stream segment for enhancement work in summer 2013. We will identify a stream segment with the highest natural resource impact for the dollar.
The project will use significant volunteer labor provided by Gitche Gumee Chapter members, other Minnesota TU members, and members of other local angling and conservation groups interested in joining us. Using hand labor we will likely revitalize and replace failing wood or wood & rock habitat structures originally installed as long as 60 years ago. Using improved understanding of how such structures function in these streams, new structures will be placed so as to provide the deep water cover that the brook trout need. Rock located on and near the site may be added to structures to ensure that they direct both high and low stream flows appropriately.
Project planning and initial survey work will begin in summer 2012, with fieldwork in summer 2013. Planning and permitting steps include working with MNDNR to identify the most appropriate, highest priority stream reach, walking prospective sites and scoping work, working with land managers or owners, and securing additional partners. The MNDNR Fisheries office in Grand Marais, MN is our primary project partner, and its most experienced habitat installer will provide supervision to volunteers eager to donate their labor to improve fish habitat for all anglers. Additional partners may include local conservation and sporting groups, local residents, the US Forest Service, the USFWS, and others.
The project will improve degraded habitat on existing public lands (State Forest or National Forest land) in Cook County, or on an existing AMA easement. No acquisition will be involved.