The unofficial kickoff to the ice fishing season at Upper Red Lake is just one month away — long enough for civic organizers to assemble the pieces they've put together for their fight against incoming rubbish.
The local Keep it Clean Committee will stage large dumpsters at four major resorts, plaster signs around the lake and provide 15,000 red toilet bags for anglers who are ill-equipped to properly dispose of human waste.
Since last season's ice-out, the group has raised more than $76,000 to combat a growing volume of trash and biowaste discarded on the ice. The trend, also prominent at Lake of the Woods and Mille Lacs, has coincided with the state's boom in wheelhouse trailers.
The camper-like shelters enable prolonged, independent stays on the ice. Illegal dumping of holding tanks on the ice is one of the problems.
Robyn Dwight, who has spearheaded the campaign, said visitors will be urged to discard bagged biowaste in dumpsters. Any waste that isn't contained indoors on the ice should be placed in a hard-sided, covered container outdoors. Boxes and bags left on the ice have a tendency to blow away or freeze in place, causing water pollution in the spring.
Dwight said lake guardians throughout the "ice belt" of winter walleye destinations also have been seeking political support for new legislation to crack down on polluters. She's hopeful for action by the 2023 Legislature.
"We don't really have a good plan for lakes in the winter," Dwight said. "We're trying to change that."
It's hard to overstate the appreciation Minnesotans have for walleyes, the official state fish since 1965.
But did you know a recent data study by the Washington Post declared the fish "the most Midwestern thing on earth?"
In Andrew Van Dam's Department of Data column, he analyzed Airbnb listings that mention "Midwest" to an unusual degree. Within those listings, no other cultural touchstone ranked higher in usage than "walleye," which he described playfully as a "toothy, googly-eyed game fish."
In the review of more than half a million Airbnb listings, 12 states were deemed to make up the region. Of those, Iowa was judged to be the most Midwestern. Minnesota was ninth. In addition, three of the top 10 "most Midwestern things on the planet" were fish. Besides walleye, "bluegill" ranked sixth and "smallmouth" ranked ninth, just ahead of No. 10: "supper."