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What We Can Do and How To Do It

Keep Burntside AIS Out of Boundary Waters and Area Lakes
All those who care about Burntside Lake need to know that we have multiple AIS here now and the effect on the lake has been devastating. In particular, the introduction of Rainbow Smelt from Lake Superior has ended some natural reproduction of game fish and the existence of Spiny Water Fleas (SWF) throughout the Burntside water column has been shown to reduce the number and size of fish like Walleye by some 20%. And the most recent arrival is the Rusty Crayfish, now cheerfully munching on our already scarce aquatic vegetation, i.e. weeds. We who care about Burntside have a responsibility to slow or stop the spread of Burntside AIS into other area lakes and across local portages into adjacent lakes in the Boundary Waters. Here are ways we can meet this responsibility.

AIS Boater Education. First, we all need to play a role in educating our friends, family and neighbors in the Ely Area about the AIS that is already in Burntside and the effect it is having. I know for a fact that very few people in the area know that the introduction of Rainbow Smelt in Burntside ended natural reproduction of 4 important game fish including Walleyes. We need to caution folks about how they handle Smelt netted on Lake Superior, how and where they are cleaned, and how some people net both Lake Superior and Burntside Smelt to use for fishing bait. Such Smelt should never be used for fishing in any other lake than where they are netted. Want an explicit goal? Keep Smelt out of Snowbank! Keep Smelt out of Basswood and Knife! Protect natural reproduction of game fish in those lakes.

Next, we need to let people know how really difficult it is to effectively decontaminate a boat and trailer that has spent time in Burntside, especially for those who come here to fish. In high summer folks fishing on Burntside will inevitably pick up Spiny Water Fleas on their fishing line, anchor lines, downrigger equipment, and in live wells and even in water cooling lines in the boat motor. Spiny Water Fleas also get transported on boat trailers, especially those with carpeted bunks that stay wet and keep AIS alive for many days in wet weather.

The DNR Decontamination unit stationed at VanVac Landing does a good job decontaminating all this equipment but it is not always 100% effective, it is only staffed on weekends, and there are many other public and private landings on Burntside where folks take their boats in and out of the lake, relying on their own efforts to “Clean, Drain and Dry” their boats, trailers and equipment. This approach is helpful; it is better than nothing, but it has already failed almost a thousand times as AIS marches across the state.

Make Responsible, Voluntary Boating Choices. In my role as Burntside AIS Coordinator I am reaching out to folks who come to understand these inherent risks to encourage them to make new choices about how they handle their own boating. If you are someone who keeps a boat on Burntside and regularly fishes this lake, you need to take extraordinary care in cleaning your boat, trailer and equipment before splashing it in another local lake. Better yet, leave your boat here, go fishing with a friend in their boat, or rent a boat where you plan to go. By the same token, be open to inviting local folks to leave their boat at home, go out with you on Burntside, or encourage them to rent a boat from one of our resorts. Want a tangible goal? Keep Burntside Spiny Water Fleas out of White Iron and Birch! Keep our Spiny Water Fleas out of Eagles Nest!
Still determined to Decontaminate your boat yourself and splash it anywhere? Here is a link to the DNR website describing the Decontamination process in detail. It starts with using high pressure, 140 degree water on the boat itself and different temperature water on live wells, bilges and so on. And can you run hot water through your outboard or inboard using rabbit ears, etc? Well … good luck.

Link: Watercraft Inspection Manual (
Link: Watercraft Decontamination Manual (

Keep Any More AIS Out of Burntside. These same boater choices are important in preventing any more new forms of AIS reaching Burntside. One of the worst forms of AIS, Zebra Mussels, have now been found in local mine lakes, and in Lake of the Woods and Rainy Lake. Something called Starry Stonewort is slowly spreading across the state. If it gets here, we won’t like it. These all will be brought to Burntside sooner or later unless we can convince friends, neighbors and family not to bring their own boats to Burntside if those boats live all summer on some heavily AIS infested lake such as the St Louis River estuary in Duluth, Lake Minnetonka in Minneapolis, and 800 more. We collectively need to convince these folks to voluntarily leave those boats at home, boat with us on Burntside or rent a boat from one of our resorts. Is that really too much to ask? For a complete list of AIS infested waters in Minnesota you can access the following DNR sites to know if some visitor of yours is coming from one of these lakes. Please become familiar with this important resource.
Link: infested-waters.xlsx (
Link: Minnesota Department of Natural Resources Infested Waters -EDDMapS

Keep Burntside AIS out of the Boundary Waters. We also need to better educate Boundary Waters visitors to the inherent risks of transporting AIS across portages and spreading AIS deep in the Boundary Waters and Quetico. That AIS infestation is already happening. Spiny Water Fleas are already in Basswood, Fall and Snowbank, and they may very well have originated from Spinys here in Burntside. We need to stop further spread of our AIS. It is a fundamental responsibility.
The single most important action individual BWCAW visitors can take right now is to voluntarily stop using live bait of any kind while fishing in the Boundary Waters. The use of live bait for fishing has already been formally banned in Quetico for the simple reason that fishing folks transport their live bait over portages using bait buckets, leech lockers, and other means to keep their bait alive. Canoists fishing Burntside, Basswood, Snowbank, ect. using live bait, take an inherent risk in carrying a minnow bucket over portages to any adjacent lake lying at a higher elevation and dumping contaminated water into the new lake. That live bait water may contain larva and other forms of AIS reproduction. The continued practice of using live fishing bait will pretty much guarantee the spread of AIS deep into the Boundary Waters and Quetico.

Still reluctant to give up live bait? Here is an option to consider. Have an Entry Permit to go into the Boundary Waters through Snowbank next summer?Do not fish in Snowbank, now hosting Spiny Water Fleas, on your way in. Wait to start fishing until you get to Disappointment or Ensign. Same idea here; do not fish Burntside today and portage to Crab or Slim tomorrow carrying fishing equipment or bait buckets loaded with Spiny Water Fleas. The interior lakes will thank you.

Cleanup for Spiny Water Fleas. If you fish Burntside regularly in high summer, and troll long lines for Trout you are no doubt familiar with globs of Spiny Water Fleas accumulating on your line and piling up at the tip of your rod. You will also see them on anchor lines and down rigger lines. They also sometimes are seen on scum lines at the waterline on boats and even canoes. They need to be washed off. We are handing out boaters at VanVac Landing and to Burntside Resorts a special towel that is good at cleaning Spinys off this fishing equipment. It is helpful but not 100% effective. It is highly recommended to also let that equipment completely dry for at least a week before you take it on a canoe trip in the Boundary Waters or any other local lake. Our neighbors will appreciate it.
If you have any questions or comments on these AIS recommendations please give me a call or drop me an email. I will respond. Thanks. Hans

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