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Paynesville Press - July 11, 2001


View from the Lake

Koronis was once fished for export

By Linda Lorentzen

Fishing for export and fishing to excess are not what I would associate with Lake Koronis. Over one hundred years ago, from 1890 to 1893, some people were fishing for export or were fishing in excess. Many in the community were concerned; knowing that the lake's supply of fish was being dramatically depleted.

In Nov. 27, 1890, issue of the New Paynesville Press the following appeared: "A fellow was seen selling fish west of here last week which, it was learned, he caught with a net in Lake Koronis. He is one of these people who has no regard for law at all, and cares only for his own selfish and narrow interests. In defiance of law he lurks around when honest men are asleep and despoils the lake of its fish, by wholesale."

The New Paynesville Press reported in June 1891, "Large hauls of fish are made from the lakes here every day. One party took 102 last Monday. Another got 73 on Tuesday in Lake Koronis. A party of Germans got about a hundred the fore part of the week in Rice Lake, and so it goes. Notwithstanding the fearful slaughter winter and summer, the fishing seems better than ever."

A year later in June 1892, an additional complaint was registered in the Press. "Another party is on the lake fishing for export. It is clearly unlawful and our people are silly to permit it. We unite in welcoming those who want to come and camp for an outing, and who catch only such fish as they want for their own use, but those fellows who make it a business must not be tolerated. They ship hundreds of pounds every day, and we hope by next week's issue to see them warned away, or arrested."

"Everybody who goes to the lake gets a big string of fish now, including the city fellows. It seems that no attempt has been made to arrest the party mentioned last week. They ship a big box every morning and no one molests them, yet all are of the opinion that it is clearly illegal to ship fish," summarized one person in the Press.

While the practice of illegal commercial fishing was a part of the lake scene at that time, other fishermen and women were taking hundreds of pounds of fish out of the lake as recreational pursuits. In July 1893, three men returned to the Hotel Lafayette (in Minneapolis) after a successful fishing trip. Arthur Shearer of Detroit, James Tallman of St. Paul, and A. L. Nevis of Minneapolis made up the fishing party. Shearer was interviewed for the daily newspaper and his recounting of the trip included the following:

"I have seen a good many beautiful places in this country and others but of all the delightful spots I believe Koronis is entitled to be called the most beautiful. We went up there on a fishing excursion and I may add that we caught a great many good ones. Lake Koronis lake of the cedars they call it up there is broken up with deep bays all along its coast line, which makes its length 36 miles or thereabouts. There are wooded hills in the background and sandy beaches in the foreground. Some of the hills are 100 feet high. The effect of the entire surroundings is one of intense solitude, for we hardly saw a living creature there except a few Indians. Everything looks, I should think, just as it did a century ago. After we left the village of Koronis we camped on the very spot where the Sioux made their last night of it before they captured the village in 1862We found an old fellow named Brown, who went fishing with us two days. He was there at the time of the massacre and remembers every detail of the affair clearly. We found the best fishing near the cluster of islands in the center of the lake. The old fisherman showed us where the bass lay, and we had great luck. We caught nearly 300 pounds of bass, pickerel, pike, and white-fish in three days and then went shooting rabbits, which are thick in the forest."

The effects of over a hundred years of settlement on Lake Koronis have caused fishing laws to change many times through the century. Now, instead of proudly displaying hundreds of fish caught, many fisherpersons use the "catch and release" method or limit their take to the amount that they will actually eat. These trends in fishing should guarantee future generations to carry on with fishing while enjoying a view from the lake.



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