Drought conditions in southern Minnesota have created extremely low water conditions in many shallow lakes and wetland basins that are popular for waterfowl hunting, according to the Minnesota Department of Natural Resource (DNR).
Duck hunters in the southern region may find conditions much different than they have in recent years. Some seasonal basins are completely dry and other, more permanent basins are 1.5 feet or more below normal levels for this time of year.
"Duck numbers are very good right now and duck hunters can have great success during dry years such as this," said Ken Varland, southern region wildlife manager. "Dabbling ducks prefer shallow water and may stick around longer than usual."
Varland added, "Hunters simply need to take into account the drier conditions, do some scouting and not be surprised on opening morning if conditions on their favorite lake are significantly different from past year."
Periodic droughts are natural occurrences for wetlands. Some wetlands will also be dry this fall due to intentional drawdowns by the DNR.
Periods of low water encourage vegetation growth important for food and protective cover for waterfowl and other species of wildlife. They also induce winter kill and help eliminate certain rough fish such as carp, black bullheads and fathead minnows. High populations of these fish can contribute to poor water clarity.
"These wet and dry cycles are a natural part of wetland health," said Tom Carlson, Fergus Falls waterfowl habitat specialist. "They can, however, make access a challenge in the interim."
DNR expects that significant rainfall in the southern region between now and the regular season opener for waterfowl will be needed to measurably improve access in the basins listed above, as well as in many other areas. Hunters should plan accordingly and visit areas they wish to hunt prior to opening weekend.
Find an area wildlife office at www.dnr.state.mn.us/areas/index.html to get more information about local conditions.
The following is a breakdown of the southern region by county of key waterfowl areas that may be difficult to access.
Big Stone County
Steen Wildlife Management Area (WMA) – drawdown, completely dry.
Blue Earth County
Gilfillan Lake on Gilfillan WMA.
Minnesota Lake, Rice Lake.
Manchester Marsh WMA – lots of mud flat.
Upper and Lower Twin lakes - Ann and Leo Donahue WMA, Upper Twin WMA and Twin lakes. WPA – Upper Twin is mostly mud flat, Lower Twin as a little water, but not enough to float most boats for some distance out.
Bear Lake (and WMA) - public access is dry, but the lake still has some water.
Page 2 of 2 - Magaksica WMA – Mud Lake is mostly mud.
Carex WMA – dry.
Panicum Prairie – dry except the ditches.
Heron Lake – mudflats between vegetation, but water around most of the main lakes.
Anderson Lake (Anderson Lake WMA), Rost WMA – in drawdown.
Welsand's Slough (Coon Creek WMA) – in drawdown.
Lac Qui Parle County
Hamlin WMA (Cory Lake), Haydenville WMA – in drawdown, dry.
Fritsche Creek WMA.
Moonan Marsh WMA – dry.
Buffalo Lake - public access is dry, but the lake still has some water.
Teal Marsh WMA – mostly mud flat.
Goose Lake – state access is mud, but the lake has water.
Yellow Medicine County
Curtis Lake – in drawdown.