Ducks Unlimited and the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources are partnering to give waterfowl a buffet of aquatic food at Mud Lake.
Mud Lake borders Erlandson State Wildlife Management Area, south of Fergus Falls in Otter Tail County in the Prairie Pothole Region of western Minnesota.
The 253-acre lake has a long history of heavy waterfowl use in spring and fall. It's managed by the DNR as a state waterfowl feeding and resting area, which prohibits motorized boat use during hunting season to limit bird disturbance.
About 2,000 redhead and canvasbacks were observed on the lake in early October 2015. However, those early ducks quickly depleted the lake's limited aquatic food resources and by mid-October, the lake held very few birds.
DU and the state are in the midst of a project that will improve the ecology of the lake that will result in heavier, longer duck use during spring and fall migration, and during the summer waterfowl brood-rearing season.
In December, DU engineered and hired a contractor to install a water control structure that temporarily lowered the water level of the lake two feet and will allow the DNR to pump down much of the remaining water next summer. Reducing the amount of water in the lake will allow it to freeze in the winter, creating a natural way to kill the heavy population of invasive fish, primarily black bullheads and fathead minnows.
DU also installed a fish barrier at the site, which will prevent new fish, especially large carp intent on breeding, from re-entering the lake. Invasive fish disrupt the aquatic ecology of shallow prairie lakes and wetlands, reducing waterfowl food sources.
Construction of the structures is complete and enhancement of the lake will be completed by spring 2017. The DNR will restore water levels to the lake soon after.
This project is funded by a 2014 state appropriation to Ducks Unlimited for shallow lake and wetland enhancements in Minnesota from the Outdoor Heritage Fund as recommended by the Lessard-Sams Outdoor Heritage Council. Also supporting the project is Otter Tail County and philanthropic contributions to Ducks Unlimited's Living Lakes Initiative from Flint Hills Resources, Unimin Corporation and individual DU Major Sponsors.