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Winterkill conditions open up Gilbert Lake in Douglas County to liberalized fishing through February 23

The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR) sent out a release on Thursday announcing that snow and frigid temperatures have combined to make Gilbert Lake in Douglas County susceptible to winterkill conditions, prompting the DNR to open the basin to liberalized fishing.

Lakes are opened to liberalized fishing when a fish population is endangered due to the lack of oxygen available in the water. These lakes are opened so that the public can take fish before they die. 

Liberalized fishing regulations allow a resident with a valid angling license to take fish of any species in any amount by spear, gillnet or angling. Fish cannot be taken with seines, hoop nets, fyke nets or explosives. Any rough fish taken may be sold. Liberalized fishing opportunities on Gilbert Lake will extend to February 23.  

“Lack of sunlight limits oxygen production in some aquatic plants and at the same time, decomposing plant matter causes a drop in oxygen,” Glenwood area fisheries supervisor Dean Beck said in the release. “When this process occurs under ice cover it can cause fish to become stressed, and if severe enough, to suffocate.”

Gilbert is a small, 201.66-acre Lake between Brandon and Holmes City. The last survey done by the DNR in 2007 found black crappie, bluegill, largemouth bass, pumpkinseed, walleye and yellow perch in the lake, along with other rough fish.

It is not unusual for lakes in southern and west-central Minnesota to experience some winterkill on an annual basis. Most often, winterkill events on these shallow basins are partial and rarely do all fish in a lake die. 

“Fish can become trapped in an area of the lake with low oxygen, causing a partial winterkill,” Beck said. “This doesn’t mean the entire lake has winterkilled.”

Many times, schools of fish find refuge in other areas of a lake with sufficient oxygen levels to survive.

Anyone observing dead or struggling fish should report their findings to a local DNR fisheries office. Note the species and approximate numbers and sizes of each kind of fish. For more information, contact a DNR area fisheries office.

For the latest information on lakes that are open to liberalized fishing and for detailed information about those lakes, go to

Eric Morken

Eric Morken is the sports and outdoor editor at the Echo Press and Osakis Review newspapers in Douglas County, MN. Follow him on Twitter at echo_sports.

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