Walleye, pike face uncertain future

To the editor:

Envision a news clip of a future governor at the fishing opener landing a bullhead. Recent studies done by the DNR and the University of Minnesota point to a troubling future for Minnesota’s signature cold water fish, the walleye and northern pike.

With atmospheric carbon doubling by the end of the century, the baby boomers will leave their children with a North American atmosphere 4 to 11 degrees warmer across winter and summer seasons, according to the International Panel on Climate Change. Evaporation will lead to at least 8 to 12 inches lower lake levels with average stream and lake temperatures rising 3 to 4 degrees. Again, these are the averages. It’s the seasonal swings that do most of the damage.

While the causes of Mille Lacs Lake’s current lowered walleye population is not clear, some of it is already being attributed to higher rates of disease and hooking mortality by fish stressed by higher peak temperatures.

The Mississippi River and southern lakes, particularly Lake Pepin, will likely reach high summer temperatures above 84 degrees. Walleye and pike at these temperatures would stop feeding and experience loss in body mass. Warming northern lakes will see a loss of their main prey, the tullibee. Long term, these cold water fish will suffer a losing competition with warm water friendly blue gill, sunfish and bass. Farther south, bullheads may thrive. All of the above pose a major threat to Minnesota’s fishing and tourist industries.

With current emissions, Minnesota’s climate and fishing environment will be more like Nebraska. If we continue to ignore climate change nationally and locally, we could be talking Missouri. This is not inevitable. There are proven renewable energy technologies with a fraction of the subsidies now invested in coal and oil. They offer unlimited opportunities to our state in manufacturing, construction and engineering. Besides, do we really want to trade our rod and reels for noodling?

Member of the Minnesota Climate Change Lobby