Zebra mussels have invaded Bald Eagle Lake in the northeast metro in what is expected to be a long-term blow to muskie anglers.
The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources describes Bald Eagle as the east metro’s most popular muskie lake, located just north of the city of White Bear Lake. The boat access parking lot is often full on weekends and the DNR regularly stocks the lake with muskellunge fingerlings and walleye fingerlings. In winter, the lake is heavily targeted for panfish.
Keegan Lund, an aquatic invasive species expert for DNR, said the recent discovery of a single, juvenile zebra mussel away from Bald Eagle’s public access suggests the presence of an actively breeding population. There’s no way to stop them from spreading unless the lake defies the odds and is somehow unsuitable to them, he said.
“We have to wait and see, but there’s no potential control measures,’’ he said.
Zebra mussels can drastically change a lake’s plant community and food supply. The tiny mussels multiply into the millions and sometimes billions, filtering out nutrients until the water becomes “gin clear.’’ Their sharp shells cut the feet of swimmers, foul boat motors and damage water pipes.
John Underhill, co-chair of the Minnesota Muskie and Pike Alliance, said that as Bald Eagle clears, anglers can expect increased difficulty in catching fish.
“It’s not a good thing by any means,’’ Underhill said. “It changes the way you fish.’’
Two special fishing regulations protect Bald Eagle’s muskie population: Harvest is limited to fish larger than 54 inches and winter spearing is not allowed. But as the lake changes, muskies won’t be as easily fooled by artificial lures, Underhill said. Live bait could become more of a trend and anglers might have to sharpen their presentations for reactive strikes, he said.
White Bear Lake has long been contaminated by zebra mussels, but local watershed officials were surprised this month when Bald Eagle Lake and Lake Johanna were added to the state’s rising inventory of infected waterways. All three lakes are in the Rice Creek Watershed District and Ramsey County has been paying for enhanced watercraft inspections at Lake Johanna’s public access to prevent the spread of invasive species.