2004 Newsletter

January 2004

Your neighbors are generously contributing their time and experience working on one of three important Focus Groups. The Fisheries & Wildlife Group and the Aquatic Vegetation & Exotic Species Group will provide articles in the upcoming issues of this newsletter. Below is an article from our Water Quality Group:

The Water Quality Group of Big Fish Lake Association has had a long series of meetings in order to determine a course of action that will result in clear, clean water for Big Fish Lake. In all the publications and resources that have been studied, certain facts stand out as basic to our progress.

  1. Clearing shoreline vegetation accelerates the rate of water quality decline.
  2. The quality of lake water is directly affected by the watershed, the land surrounding the lake.
  3. Natural ground cover and uncompacted soils allow water to filter into the ground and keep soil and pollutants from washing into the lake.
  4. The less we disturb land around our lake, the better our water quality and the quality of habitat for wildlife.

Increased development around the lake puts increased loads on the lake, leading to increased nutrients such as phosphorus entering the waters. Phosphorus and other nutrients accelerate plant and algae growth, deteriorating lake water quality.

A clean lake is the responsibility of all lake shore owners, all who use a lake, and anyone living within the watershed. All the people living within the watershed need to be mindful of their impact on our lake.

What can you do to help keep Big Fish Lake clean and healthy? -JHB, for the Group

Thanks to the students! from the Graphic Arts and Advertising Departments at the St. Cloud Technical College for the design and printing of our newsletter masters. Their creative energies and production time, paper and custom blue ink were provided at no cost. The BFL Association provided $40 in gift certificates for the Bonanza restaurant at the students’ suggestion. Tx!

From the Minnesota Lakes Association Bulletin, November/December 2003

Obituary Memorializes the Death of Lake Patricia. Recently a strange obituary ran in two Twin Cities papers listing an unusual cause of death and a call to action. The obituary read:

Patricia, Lake

Lake Patricia, age 12,830, after a long and grueling battle with contaminated runoff. Patricia is survived by 9,999 lakes and hundreds of rivers and streams. An active member in the aquatic community, Patricia contracted damaging amounts of algae due to high phosphorus levels given off by leaves and grass clippings that entered her system. In lieu of flowers, loved ones are asked to rake or sweep leaves from nearby streets and storm water drains, and to mulch or compost this fall. For more details, visit www.cleanwatermn.org.

Items from the BFL Almanac

Frozen Over Open Water12/9/944/21/9511/24/954/25/9611/21/964/22/9711/24/974/5/9812/21/984/7/9912/16/993/24/0012/2/004/22/0112/20/014/16/0212/3/024/13/03

News You Can Use

Tips on how to care for your septic system

Have your holding tank pumped on a regular basis. Depending on use, families of five and more should be pumped twice a year. Seasonal-use dwellings may find a need to pump only once every two years, depending on occupancy. Pump as needed. Set a schedule.

Your garbage disposal can cause your septic system to function far less efficiently. Undigested and raw food can take 10 to 20 times longer to break down than sewage with it’s natural bacteria. Also, chunks of raw food can float from your tank into the drain field, plugging the leach system causing early, costly replacement. It’s far better to bury or landfill your kitchen waste.

Adding a septic system chemical treatment only causes more pollution and doesn’t remedy the problem. The best solution is to compost, bury or landfill kitchen waste.

Wash only large loads of laundry. Frequent, small loads use more water, unnecessarily taxing your septic system. Use phosphorus-free laundry and dish washing soaps.

Big Fish Lake Association Officers and Board Members.

President Mark Wreisner markmarksw@aol.comVice President Bob Killmer fishonbigfish@aol.comTreasurer Matt Peters mpeters998@aol.comBobbi Eich eich1@charter.netDagny Christiansen dagnychris@aol.comJahn Vosika jjvosika@worldnet.att.netBarb Lahr lahrb@msn.comMike Hansen 320.293.4265Peter Fandel typeset@cloudnet.com

March 2004

The Water Quality Group submitted the feature article for the last newsletter. The Aquatic Vegetation Group will be featured in the May issue. You are asked to return the enclosed postcard to the Fisheries and Wildlife Group regarding a plan to increase our walleye pike fish population. Please read on:

The Big Fish Lake Association Fisheries and Wildlife Group has worked on several important projects to improve the lake. Deb Killmer is building wooden platforms for loons. We will put them at various locations on the lake with the hope that we will have some nesting loons this year. We have talked with many fishermen and women on the lake. The consensus seems to be that we have very few walleye. I don’t know if you realize that the DNR puts walleye into the lake every two years. I have asked them why we don’t see more fish after all the stocking that’s been done. They say that the simple answer is that we have way too many northerns. The walleye like to eat perch. The northerns are eating the perch and the young walleyes are left without their preferred food. Then the northerns eat the young walleye and any other small fish including sunfish and bass.

We are told there are two solutions:

  1. Whenever anyone catches any small northern, the fish should be kept out of the lake. Eat it, bury it, do whatever you wish, but don’t throw it back.
  2. We need to establish a slot size for the very large northerns. If we don’t leave the large fish in the lake, the small northerns will take over the lake. Large fish control the northern pike population.

There is only one legal way to establish a slot size for this lake. We must get a majority of the people on the lake to agree to it. Then a notice must be displayed at the public landing for three months during open water. In the fall, a notice of a special meeting will be published and anyone interested should come.

Please return the postcard today. If we get a majority we can call the DNR. We hope you will respond so we can try to bring back the walleye. BL-for the Group

New Study Links Water Quality to Property Value

An article from the Secchi Reader MPCA Winter 2003 finds a direct correlation between property values and water quality. Let’s apply their formula to Big Fish Lake. If our 185 properties average 100 front feet each, we have 18,500 feet of taxable lake shore. Using the MPCA example of a forty foot lake lot decreasing in value by $23,760 if water clarity is reduced by three feet, this would correlate to a combined property value loss of $10,989,000. What if this happens, or worsens? More: info.bemidjistate.edu/news/currentnews/lakestudy

In the News

The Big Fish Lake Association Water Quality Group is distributing a series of eight articles to regional newspapers to inform residents and those who use area lakes about a variety of important environmental topics. This ongoing initiative focuses on the e?ects of agriculture on water quality, runo? and erosion, protecting the shore line, responsible lawn care, phosphorus & phosphates and the harm they cause to lake water, the function of a wetland and why we need to protect and restore them, among other timely subjects. Look for these articles in your local newspaper and use the practical tips presented by your members.

Lakes and Rivers Conference

The Lakes and Rivers Conference will be held April 29-May 1, 2004 at Ruttgers Bay Lake Lodge at Deerwood, MN. The conference will cover technical and organizational issues, threats and solutions to water resource management, and a special track of sessions on volunteer water quality monitoring. Learn more at www.mnlakes.org and www.riversmn.org

Permits? Who says?

A recent letter from Dave Nett, County Shoreland Specialist regarding lake shore alterations reads: “It’s becoming very apparent that property owners residing in the Shoreland Overlay District are not aware they need permits for such activities as rock rip-rap and sand blankets on the shore, grading and filling, and most importantly, construction of retaining walls.

The boundary of the Shoreland Overlay District is defined as 1,000 feet from the ordinary high water level of classified lakes as listed in Stearns County Zoning Ordinance #209.

It’s our hope that property owners will consult us on whether or not a permit is required before starting any projects so that we can greatly reduce after-the-fact considerations.”

Are you up-to-date?

Minnesota Chapter 6105.0390 Sanitary Standards and Criteria, Subp. 3(c) Location and installation of a septic tank and soil absorption system shall be such that, with reasonable maintenance, it will function in a sanitary manner and will not create a nuisance, endanger the quality of any domestic water supply, nor pollute or contaminate any waters of the state.

In an effort to help bring septic systems into compliance, our association has conducted a door-to-door survey of lake property owners and obtained septic system permit information from the County Environmental Services Department. Using this information, we have created a map of Big Fish Lake showing lake shore properties, their identification number, and have color coded each lot indicating compliance with current septic system building code. This poster sized map is posted at our Association meetings to inform members and their neighbors of the status of septic system compliance.

Loony Tunes

Many residents and visitors alike feel that they are o?cially in the Northwoods when they hear the calls of the Common Loon. These territorial, cautious birds have many vocalizations to communicate with each other and with us. The HOOT is a soft, short contact call between birds. Adults hoot at each other, and parents hoot to chicks. It is their way of saying, “Hey, I’m over here.” Loons WAIL in situations when loons want to move closer to each other. It is a long, one, two, or three note vocalization. Parents use it when they want their chicks to approach the parents for food, emerge from a hiding place, or follow them when they leave the nest. The TREMOLO is a loud call that brings to mind a loon laughing. It is, however, an alarm call in threatening situations. A loon might use the tremolo to tell a person that his boat is too close. Loons in ?ight will use this call, and sometimes you can hear a pair calling the tremolo song as a duet. Only male loons produce a YODEL. This call is used in territorial situations and aggressive encounters with other birds. A yodeling loon extends his head and neck and ?attens his body so his lower bill is just above the water. Even chicks have various sounds for different situations. Hungry chicks will peep to their parents and peck on their bills. Getting separated from parents is a scary situation for a chick, so it will peep, yelp, and wail. The parents respond by moving closer, and may hoot to comfort the chick or wail to have the chick move closer. For more information on loons and their tunes, check out the following websites: Sigurd Olson Environmental Institute-Loonwatch:http://www.northland.edu  soei/loonwatch.html and Adirondack Cooperative Loon Program:http://www.adkscience.org/loons

Through the years we have held our meetings at the Blue Heron, The American Legion Club, Rocori High School auditorium, and at members’ homes. Do you have a preference for a location, and ideas to increase attendance at our meetings? Please contact an officer or board member listed here and offer your suggestions. Our members make the Association work and participation is critical to our united success with the important challenges facing us. Our next regular meeting is June 11. Official notice will be posted in the May issue of this newsletter.

Big Fish Lake Association Officers and Board Members.

President Mark Wreisner markmarksw@aol.comVice President Bob Killmer fishonbigfish@aol.comTreasurer Matt Peters mpeters998@aol.com Secretary Nancy Fandel Fandeln@aol.comDagny Christiansen dagnychris@aol.comFr. Jack Brunner jhbwmn@cloudnet.comBarb Lahr lahrb@msn.comMike Hansen 320.293.4265Larry Brutger lbrutger@brutgerequities.comPeter Fandel typeset@cloudnet.com


A Letter From Association President Mark Wreisner

Summer activities may be slowing down, but your Association certainly isn’t. Please take the time to read the articles in this newsletter and find out what’s going on and how this affects you. The message from Professor Matt Julius provides compelling information about the state of our lake. The data he has collected and analyzed shows that we are tipping towards a eutrophic state. This has obvious ramifications for all of us-murky water, poor fishing habitat, increased algae blooms and even the possibility of decreased property values. Make a point to attend our September meeting and hear what Matt Julius has to say firsthand.

Our County-sponsored septic inspection program is underway. Overall, the rate of cooperation has been very good, but we really need 100% participation to remove this potential source of contaminants. If you have concerns or questions about this program, please contact me. I’ll do what I can to get you the right information or assistance.

Shoreland buffer strips are becoming increasingly popular and can be a very effective means of protecting our water quality. The enclosed article by Susan Eich and Jim Pohle explains their experience with re-vegetating their shoreline. You may be interested in doing the same thing after reading the article-your Association can provide you with information on how to go about it.

No single activity that we are involved in is a “cure all” for what ails our lake. Many factors play a part in the degradation of water quality, and we are trying to address these factors in a comprehensive way. Each project that we undertake and complete plays a part in the overall goal of protecting our lake. None of this will happen without the active participation of our residents, so please communicate your concerns with the Association members, attend the meetings, and get and stay involved. Thank you. -MSW

An Update on the Septic System Inspection Project from Tim Haeg:

So far, so good. We’re about half finished with the inspections in terms of parcel count. Some of the more challenging properties still remain, however. The level of cooperation is very good. Most of the residents are happy to see us, many expressing that they want to do whatever they can to protect the lake. We do meet, from time to time, people who are less than enthusiastic about the project. We understand their concerns, which range from government involvement to economics. We simply explain the project, its reasons, and our methods, and do the best job that we can. Our biggest challenge has been to find people at home, especially the seasonal properties. In some cases, we’ve received consent forms from property owners by mail. We always prefer that the owner be present during the inspection, so that we can completely explain our procedures and findings. However, if an owner cannot be present, we will conduct the inspection, as long as we have their consent. If any property owners wish to submit their consent forms by mail, they may call our office at (320) 363-1300. And to all of the people whose septics we have already inspected, THANK YOU! -TH


In an effort to help improve walleye fishing at Big Fish Lake, your Association has been working with the Department of Natural Resources to establish a slot limit-a kind of catch and release order-for Northern Pike measuring between 24 and 36 inches. This order would remain in effect for 10 years. An overwhelming number (over 90%) of you returned the postcard in March and April voting your approval of establishing the slot limit. Required notification of slot limit planning has been posted at the public landing for the past three months. A MEETING TO ENACT IMPLEMENTATION OF THE SLOT LIMIT WILL BE HELD WEDNESDAY, SEPTEMBER 22, 2004, 7 O’CLOCK P.M. AT THE COLLEGEVILLE TOWN HALL.

A Visit with the Sheriff:

article by Matt Peters:

I went out on the lake mid-August with my friend Lisa to take a secchi disk reading, and saw the Sheriff Patrol. We went to say hi. When we got close to them Lisa asked them, “can’t you guys take your shirts off and suntan?” They said a nice “no they can’t.” I asked them if they wanted anything in our lake newsletter. They said yes they do, tell the people on Big Fish that citations or fines are down from previous years. They also said the people on water bikes are on the most part operating their water bikes OK. The only thing that a lot of water bike operators don’t understand is how far 150 feet is from any other boat, and the quitting time before sundown. If you see the water patrol on the lake please go over to them and say hi and feel free to ask questions about the water lake rules. We left the two water patrol Sheriffs smiling. I think Lisa had something to do with that! –


December 2004
Letter from Association President Mark Wreisner

Our lake’s Phase 1 Diagnostic Study, published in August of 2003, recommended that several activities be undertaken to protect our water quality. As the study states, “Preventing additional sediment and phosphorus concentrations delivered to Big Fish and Long Lakes will protect and/or maintain the current water quality of these lakes, as well as enhance fish and aquatic habitats. Upgrading substandard septic systems, stabilizing eroding lakeshore areas, restoring lakeshore to a more natural state and maintaining, or improving, the current land use within the watershed will help prevent increased phosphorus and sediment loading to these lakes and protect habitat.”

Our Association is working diligently to implement these recommendations. The septic system compliance inspections are nearly complete-you can read more about that in this newsletter. This is an important element in our overall game plan, and should be completed next summer. Our next areas of emphasis will be shoreland revegetation and wetland preservation. We have applied for funds to re-vegetate several lots on the lake to serve as demonstration projects for this type of activity. These buffer strips can serve as effective barriers to absorb and minimize harmful run-off. I understand that for many homeowners, the æsthetics of this type of landscaping are not particularly appealing. These demonstrations may change your mind. We will keep you posted as these plans are finalized and if we can secure financial assistance for those of you that are interested.

The activities that I have highlighted above are just part of our on-going efforts to preserve and protect our lake’s reputation as one of the cleanest in central Minnesota. None of this happens by itself. If each of us decides to do nothing, then the water quality will continue to decline. That’s a fact, not conjecture or hype. If we continue to work together for the common good, water quality, we may be able to hold off any further decline. Decide for yourself how important the lake is to you and act accordingly. Thank you. -MSW

Governor Signs Bills Relating to Snowmobiling

On May 29, 2004, Gov. Pawlenty signed MnUSA’s bill which modifies snowmobile use of highway right-of-way provisions. The change allows the Commissioner of Transportation to allow two-way operation of snowmobiles on either side of the trunk highway right-of-way where the Commissioner determines that two-way operation will not endanger users of the trunk highway or riders of the snowmobiles using the trail.

Another bill (HF 2212) recently signed by the Governor contains changes in snowmobile regulations relating to youth operation of snowmobiles. The bill provides that no person under the age of 14 years shall operate a snowmobile unless supervised by or accompanied by the person’s parent, legal guardian, or other person 18 years of age or older designated by the parent or guardian. However, a person 12 years of age or older but under 14 years may operate a snowmobile if the person has in immediate possession a valid snowmobile safety certificate. The snowmobile safety certificate exemption does not allow a person under the age of 14 years to make a direct crossing or to operate a snowmobile upon a street or highway.

The same bill changes the wetlands operation restrictions for off-highway vehicles. The law removes the prohibition of off-highway vehicles in certain wetlands and will now read that a person may not operate an off- highway vehicle in a manner to:

  1. indicate a willful, wanton, or reckless disregard for the safety of persons or property;
  2. carelessly upset the natural and ecological balance of a wetland or public waters wetland;
  3. impact a wetland or public waters wetland in excess of the amounts specifically authorized in other statutes.

Another Update on the Septic System Inspection Project from Tim Haeg:

The inspections are nearly finished, with only four remaining to do. We are awaiting permission to complete these four, and we will then submit the inspection results to Stearns County Environmental Services. Thank you to all who cooperated with us on the project. We understand that there are a lot of issues with a project like this, and we appreciate everyone’s willingness to participate. THANK YOU! -TH

Dues are Payable

It’s time to renew your membership by paying dues when you find a red X next to your name on the mailing label. Please remit a check to the Big Fish Lake Association at Post Office Box 458, Cold Spring, MN 56320. Dues are $15/annum, $12.50/annum for seniors. Thank you!


  1. Septic systems should comply with local ordinances and be properly operated and maintained.
    • Do not put household cleaners, paint, solvents and pesticides down the drain.
    • Practice water conservation in the home.
    • Use only phosphorus-free soap in the dishwasher, laundry and bathrooms.
    • Limit the use of antibacterial products.
    • Pump your septic systems at least every three years, and more often depending on use & occupancy.
    • Do not use a garbage disposal. Raw, undigested food can ?oat to your drain field and plug the system.
  2. Practice good lawn maintenance.
    • Limit fertilizing. Use only zero-phosphorus fertilizer unless a soil test indicates a need for phosphorus.
    • Do not fertilize within 50 feet of the lake shore. Do not fertilize your drain field. Set your mower high.
    • Keep grass clippings, leaves, ash, charcoal, and pet waste out of the lake and away from the lakeshore.
    • Reduce or eliminate pesticide use on the lawn and garden. Pump lake water instead of applying fertilizer.
  3. Maintain or establish a shoreland buffer zone of natural vegetation.
    • Buffers prevent erosion and infiltration of nutrients into the lake.
    • Buffers should be a minimum of 30 feet.
    • Encourage woody vegetation and tall grasses to stabilize the shoreland.
    • Minimize the disturbance of aquatic plants as they help to stabilize shorelines.
    • All shore line alterations require a Stearns County permit. Call (320) 656-3613 before disturbing soils.
  4. Work with local officials
    • Be part of the local water planning process; ensure that the county comprehensive water plan contains protective and rehabilitative management for Big Fish Lake, Long Lake, our wetlands and tributaries.
    • Get to know your county commissioners. Share your concerns with them.
  5. Become part of the local decision making process.
    • Support the work and projects of the Big Fish Lake Association.
    • Become part of the decision-making process for local land use ordinances-serve on the township board, soil and water conservation district board, water planning board, or other local government committees.

Your contributions to this newsletter are always welcome.
Big Fish Lake Association
Post Office Box 458
Cold Spring, Minnesota 56320

President Mark Wreisner markmarksw@aol.comVice President Bob Killmer fishonbigfish@aol.comTreasurer Matt Peters  mpeters998@aol.comSecretary Nancy Fandel Fandeln@aol.comDagny Christiansen dagnychris@aol.comFr. Jack Brunner jhbwmn@cloudnet.comBarb Lahr lahrb@msn.comMike Hansen 320.293.4265Larry Brutger lbrutger@brutgerequities.comPeter Fandel typeset@cloudnet.com