by Bob Luck
The Little Cannon River in the Sogn Valley southwest of Cannon Falls occupies a special place in my heart. A friend has a farm on the river, and he lets me fish it if I promise to lock the gate behind me and release any trout I catch. It was there, on a spring day two years ago, that I caught my first and only 20” trout in Minnesota. I was retrieving a black woolly bugger through a tongue of current, saw a flash, kept retrieving and the fish smacked it. The fight was a bit anticlimactic—the fish made one spectacular jump and then sort of gave up, but it was a beautiful wild brown, with shoulders like a linebacker.
I was thrilled to hear that the Trust for Public Land (TPL), using funds from the Outdoor Heritage Fund, purchased 77 acres along the Little Cannon upstream from my friend’s farm, and turned it over to the Minnesota DNR as the Little Cannon Aquatic Management Area.
Last Wednesday, I attended the dedication event for the AMA. A crowd of 50+ neighbors and conservation group representatives (including several TU members) listened to landowner Cara McCutchan Rodriguez talk movingly of how her family had worked to conserve the land in the Sogn Valley, and how thrilled they were to have the land permanently protected. The Little Cannon is plagued by sediment and high eroding banks that prevent it from connecting with the floodplain, and the AMA stretch is no exception. But there is the possibility of a habitat improvement project in the future, and meanwhile, you can fish here! The trout population is not high, but I can testify that there are some big ones. Kevin Stauffer of the Lake City DNR office told us that brown trout reproduction has been on the increase, and they may be able to stop stocking in the near future.
There is much work remaining to protect our streams in the heavily farmed country of Southeast Minnesota and Western Wisconsin, but we are blessed with good conservation partners such as TPL, engaged citizens who actually voted themselves a tax increase to create the Outdoor Heritage Fund, and, especially, enlightened landowners who are interested in conservation and willing to work with TU and its partners. At the dedication event, I had a chance to meet TPL’s acting director Bob McGillivray. Bob told me that funding is currently available to purchase and protect heritage brook trout habitat in Southeast Minnesota—both in the riparian corridor and the surrounding uplands. If you know a landowner who may be interested, please get in touch with Bob at Bob.McGillivray@tpl.org. And, next time you encounter a landowner, let them know how much you appreciate them!
The Little Cannon AMA is just south of Goodhue County 49 Blvd in Warsaw Township. A map is here.
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