Timely rains help Kandiyohi County lakes escape stress on aquatic life


— Just like last summer, the summer of 2023 in west central Minnesota began with high water conditions and is ending with low water conditions.

Low enough that Colin Wright, parks and trails supervisor with the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources, has already fielded a handful of calls from boaters complaining about their difficulties launching boats at the public accesses on some area lakes in Kandiyohi and neighboring counties.

But unlike last year, the abnormally dry conditions and record number of days with temperatures in the 90s do not appear to have adversely affected fish populations in most Kandiyohi County area lakes.

"Not really," said Dave Coahran, area fisheries supervisor with the DNR in Spicer, when asked if he's received reports of fish kills due to the conditions this summer. It has not been as bad as last summer, when Coahran and his staff responded to some fish kills in area lakes.

There have been some low oxygen readings, mainly in small, shallow ponds used for rearing fish to be stocked, he said.

There have been no significant fish disease outbreaks reported either, he added.

Meeker County has not escaped the summer without a fish kill, however. There have been recent reports of large numbers of dead panfish in Clear Lake. The cause is under investigation.

Kyle Anderson, with the DNR fisheries office in Ortonville, said his office has not had to respond to any significant fish die-off reports in that area. There were a couple of reports of very small fish dies-offs in Big Stone Lake. There were a couple of more significant fish die-offs experienced in the large border lake last year.

This year's dry and warm conditions seem to be responsible for a fair number of lakes experiencing increases in algal filaments amid the aquatic vegetation, according to Coahran.

Timely rains have helped Kandiyohi County escape the low water conditions that can stress aquatic systems. The Aug. 14 storms dropped more than an inch of rain in the Willmar area, and as much as 3.10 inches of rain on the north side of Green Lake, according to records by the

Community Collaborative Rain, Hail, and Snow Network


Emily Javens, area hydrologist with the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources in Spicer, said Kandiyohi County was essentially an island of "normal" on the drought monitor map produced by the United States Department of Agriculture and other agencies. You didn't have to go far to find "abnormally dry" and "moderate drought" conditions outside of the county, Javens pointed out.

Unfortunately, Kandiyohi County's lone status as an island of "normal" ended with the release of the latest Drought Monitor on Thursday. The county is now added to the area listed as "abnormally dry." The latest U.S. Drought Monitor report issued Aug. 31 can be viewed online at


Records kept by Javens' office show that water levels in Green Lake have only fluctuated by about one-half foot since early summer. On the other hand, flows in the Middle Fork of the Crow River have been at their minimal level for weeks. The gate has been adjusted to keep a minimum flow of one cubic foot per second at New London, she said.

Other rivers in the area also reflect the dry conditions. The

river level in Montevideo

dropped from a flood stage of 18 feet in April to 2.18 feet earlier this week.

The dry conditions do have their benefits for water bodies and wildlife, not to mention hunters. Josh Kavanagh, a wildlife lake specialist with the Minnesota DNR in New London, said earlier this week that he was optimistic for the early teal season that opens Saturday, Sept. 2.

His surveys of wetlands in the area prior to the opener has revealed good numbers of teal in the area, he told the West Central Tribune. There has been no cool weather to push them southward.

The dry conditions have a big benefit for wetlands. The lowered water and receding shoreline opens the way for the aquatic vegetation that provides feed for waterfowl and other wildlife.

Dry conditions are good for stimulating beneficial plant growth in wetlands, Kavanagh explained. He's seen flushes of vegetation in area wetlands due to the dry conditions.

It's also possible that if these conditions persist, more of the area's shallow waters will experience winterkill and the loss of undesirable fish such as carp.

Yet without a question, the drop in water levels has made it a challenge at some boat accesses. At this point in the year, there has also been a lot of prior use at those accesses.

Wright said there are accesses where "blow holes" caused by the thrust of boat motors used to power-load boats on trailers has occurred. The thrust scours away the sand beyond the concrete ramps. Some unfortunate access users have discovered the blow holes as they back their trailers beyond the concrete ramps, and find their wheels are no longer on the bottom.

"We do not encourage power loading," said Wright. As for the calls about challenges at accesses, he can only recommend using accesses where there is deeper water, such as on the north side of Green Lake.

As they did last year, the parks and trails crew fought high waters to install docks and ready the public accesses for the 2023 boating season. Wright said they hope to take advantage of this late season's low water to add concrete ramps to extend those in shallow waters.