Steady and sometimes pounding rains in June made the vast majority of southeast Minnesota trout streams unfishable at times for anyone packing a fly rod, but the state’s fisheries supervisor in Lanesboro said Tuesday conditions have improved.
“Streams have cleared up throughout the southeast,” said Ron Benjamin of the Department of Natural Resources (DNR). “Thankfully there’s no permanent damage to any of the region’s rivers.”
He said virtually all cold-water streams were at zero visibility 10 days or so ago. But a dry period over the long July 4th weekend helped clear things up.
“The good news is we’ve got loads of trout,” Benjamin said.
Vaughn Snook, assistant fisheries supervisor in Lanesboro, said Fillmore County was hit the hardest this spring and summer. Some spots received 5 to 7 inches of rainfall starting about 1 p.m. June 27 and moving into the next day.
Snook said Winona County is “in the middle somewhere” in terms of getting hit by rain, while streams in Houston County were the first to recover.
Areas around Chatfield and Spring Valley were swamped by the early summer rains. Trout Run Creek, Little Jordan Creek, Mill Creek and Lost Creek have taken a beating, Snook said.
Trout stocking operations and stream restoration projects have been delayed by the high water. But Snook said anglers shouldn’t be concerned about stocking delays. A full 90% of trout in the Driftless Area are wild.
“We don’t have a trout population problem,” he said.
Melvin Hayner, owner of The Driftless Fly Fishing Co. in Preston, said this is the second year in a row that southeast rains undermined fishing in the spring and early summer.
“It’s water, water, water,” he said.
Hayner specializes as a guide on the Root River and its tributaries. He said the area’s trout fishing has been excellent in between rains, but the frequency of rainfall and major rain events have made it difficult for outsiders to plan or follow through on trips.
His shop rents canoes and kayaks, but stream currents until lately were too strong to make them available.
Roger Roraff, a lifelong trout angler who lives near Winona, said the ground was saturated at times in June.
“I [was] starting to grow webbed feet,” Roraff joked.
The good news, he said, is that when conditions are good, southeastern Minnesota trout fishing is the best he’s seen it.